The Right to Refuse Work

The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act), gives employees the right to refuse work that puts them or others in a dangerous position. With the right to refuse work, employers must know the following:

  • The employee has to continue being paid while a work refusal is being investigated.
  • The employer is responsible for ensuring all workers understand the hazards in the workplace, know what to report and are given the support to exercise their right.
  • Should a work refusal investigation take place, employers must cooperate with the joint work site health and safety committee or health and safety representative in.
  • The employer cannot threaten or take discriminatory action against a worker for exercising their rights and duties under the legislation.
  • The employer can assign other workers to the task, if they are made aware of the refusal, why it took place and that they have the right to refuse unsafe work.

How should employers handle danger in the workplace?

If an employee refuses work, due to unsafe working conditions, the employer has a responsibility to investigate the situation and work to remove the danger in the workplace.

Below, are practical steps to follow if an employee exercises their right to refuse work:

  1. Investigate the workplace hazard and take appropriate action to remove the danger.
  1. Do not assign another worker to the task or equipment, unless:
    • The danger has been eliminated
    • The worker assigned to the task will not be exposed to the danger
    • The worker assigned to the task is aware of the previous refusal, the reasons for the refusal, and that they have the right to refuse work that presents danger.
  1. The employer can be temporarily assigned to another position, but at no loss of pay.
  1. Document relevant information in writing:
    • The worker’s notification
    • Your investigation findings
    • What actions you took to remedy the situation
  1. Include the joint work site health and safety committee or health and safety representative, if there is one present in the workplace investigation.
  1. For answers on how to handle a worker’s refusal to do unsafe work, call the OHS Contact Centre.

Do you have an employee exercising their right to refuse work? Give us a call!

Our employer helpline gives you access to health and safety experts, ready to offer professional advice for your needs. For more information on the right to refuse work, call us at 1 (306) 955-0658.