The workplace is supposed to be a safe place where employees can work hard and earn a living. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many workplaces are dangerous traps where injuries often occur. Sometimes, employees can be injured in safe workplaces as a result of an accident.
When injuries occur, employers and employees need to understand how the law protects them. Failure to understand the law in this area may expose employers to punitive damages. Employees who do not take steps to learn their rights in this area often lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care, lost income and general damages.
We have addressed some areas of concern for employers and employees in the article below as an educational tool for our clients. These rights do not apply to all employers and employees. Some workplaces are exempt from these laws which are set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
Each employee or employer should seek a formal legal opinion from Gary Bennett prior to implementing a strategy based on the information below.
Employer obligations under the OHSA
The OHSA assigns some general and specific duties to employers. It also provides for other duties to be given to employers in regulations.
The general duties require an employer to:
- Take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers;
- Ensure that equipment, materials and protective equipment are maintained in good condition;
- Provide information, instruction and supervision to protect worker health and safety; and
- Co-operate with the Joint Health and Safety Committee.
The specific duties require an employer to:
- Comply with all regulations made under OHSA;
- Develop and implement a health and safety program and policy;
- Post a copy of the OHSA in the workplace; and
- Provide health and safety reports to the Joint Health and Safety Committee.
The OHSA explains a number of other areas where additional duties for an employer may be required by a regulation. Regulations give specific directions on how to comply with the general requirements of OHSA.
Corporate Officer and Director obligations under the OHSA
The OHSA says that every officer and director of a corporation must take all reasonable care to ensure that the corporation complies with the OHSA and its regulations as well as with any orders and requirements of Ministry of Labour inspectors, directors and the minister.
Employee obligations under the OHSA
Employees have a general duty to take responsibility for their personal health and safety. This means that employees should not behave or operate equipment in a way that would endanger themselves or others. Section 28 of OHSA lists specific duties that employees must comply with in order to avoid discipline or even termination of their employment:
- Work in compliance with the OHSA and regulations;
- Use any equipment, protective devices or clothing required by the employer;
- Tell the employer or supervisor about any known missing or defective equipment or protective device that may be dangerous;
- Report any known workplace hazard or violation of the OHSA to the employer or supervisor;
- Not remove or make ineffective any protective device required by the employer or by the regulations.
If employees are concerned about a violation of any of the above duties, they should contact Gary Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to taking any steps with their employers.
Employee rights under the OHSA
Generally, employees who are covered by the OHSA have the following rights:
- The right to participate and be part of the process of identifying and resolving health and safety concerns.
- The right to know about any hazards in the workplace.
- The right to refuse work that they believe is dangerous
Under certain circumstances, certified Joint Health and Safety Committee members can stop work that is dangerous in order to protect employees.
The OHSA says that employers cannot retaliate against employees who exercise these rights. When this happens, it is called a reprisal.
Exercising employee rights under the OHSA
The main way that employees can participate in workplace health and safety is through exercising their rights and duties in a responsible manner and by supporting their Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). The JHSC is made up of worker and management representatives. This committee has the power to:
- Recommend work refusals
- Investigate serious accidents
- Obtain information from the employer
- Identify hazards
- Investigate work refusals
- Make recommendations to the employer
Correcting unsafe conditions at work
Health and safety concerns should first be brought to the attention of the employer or supervisor. If nothing is done, it can be taken to the employee’s health and safety representative or Joint Health and Safety Committee. If the situation is not corrected, it can be reported to the nearest office of the Ministry of Labour.
Workers also have the right to refuse unsafe work. Section 43 of the OHSA outlines the procedure that must be followed. Do not attempt a work refusal unless you full understand this process. Failure to follow the process correctly could lead to discipline and termination of employment. For more information contact Gary Bennett at email@example.com.
How to handle a workplace injury
Obviously, an injured employee’s first priority should be to get proper medical attention. The employer must ensure that necessary medical treatment is provided to the employee. Sometimes, first aid from a trained co-worker is necessary. At other times, transportation to and treatment at a hospital may be required.
Any incident which causes a workplace injury must be reported to the employee’s supervisor or employer, so that the employer's responsibilities under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act can be met. One of these responsibilities is completion of a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board form (WSIB Form 7), which must be submitted to the WSIB before employees who are eligible can receive workplace safety insurance. This insurance was commonly known as workers' compensation before the law changed.
For more information on how to protect your interests, contact Gary Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a consultation.