New Amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation
The Board of Directors at WorkSafeBC recently approved amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, coming into affect on August 22, 2022. These changes provide additional insight on what limitations are in place for reassigning work that has been refused by a worker due to safety concerns.
What every employer should already know is that workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. If an employee has reason to believe that a hazard to the health and safety of any person may result from a work process or the operation of equipment, they should refuse the work and report the unsafe condition to their employer.
What exists already in the Regulation are the steps to be taken by the employer and worker in order to resolve the matter. This includes either rectifying the unsafe condition as quickly as possible, prior to any further work to be completed, or – should the employer disagree with the refusal – investigating the matter with the involvement of additional health & safety stakeholders (joint committee member, a colleague chosen by a union representative, officer, etc.) and resolving as directed.
The new additions to the Regulation address the reassignment of any work that has been refused due to health and safety concerns. If a task has been refused for safety reasons, and the issue has not been resolved via the aforementioned steps, the work cannot simply be assigned to another worker; in fact, an employer cannot even allow the work to be completed voluntarily by another worker until certain conditions have been met.
In order for the refused work to be completed by another worker, the following must be communicated in writing:
- The employer must advise the other worker that the task in question has been refused by another employee
- The employer must advise the other worker what conditions, specifically, were reported as unsafe
- The employer must provide the other worker the reasons why the task does not create an undue hazard to the health and safety of any person
- The employer must advise the other worker of their right to refuse unsafe work
The additional party – a joint committee member, a colleague chosen by a union representative, or in the case there is no joint committee or trade union, a colleague chosen by the worker – must also be made aware in writing of the notice.
The purpose of these changes is to ensure the subsequent worker is fully aware of the situation, and is able to make an informed decision about whether or not the task is safe for them to perform.
Know Your Responsibilities
It is vital that businesses are aware of not only their own rights, but also those of their employees. Employers are legally obligated to make all reasonable efforts to maintain a safe working environment. There may be occasions, however, that workers and employers do not agree on what constitutes an undue hazard in the workplace; it is at such times that it is important to know your responsibilities as an employer in order to avoid potential missteps.
Click here to read section 3.12 and the new section 13.12.1 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.