Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

You have the right to refuse unsafe work if you have reasonable cause to believe that to continue to do so would create an undue hazard to the health and safety of any person. The procedure for refusal is outlined in Section 3.12 of the OHS Regulation.



What is an undue hazard? 

"Undue hazard"

A "hazard" is identified in Part 1 of the Regulation as "a thing or condition that may expose a person to a risk of injury or occupational disease." Further, "undue" is defined by the Oxford dictionary as "unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive or disproportionate." Therefore, a thing or condition that may expose a worker to an excessive or unwarranted risk of injury or occupational disease represents an undue hazard for the purposes of section 3.12 of the Regulation.

What is reasonable cause?

"Reasonable cause to believe"

The use of the term "reasonable" in "reasonable cause to believe" means that the worker must assess the situation as a reasonable person, taking into account relevant and available information and exercising good faith judgment with respect to the hazard with due regard to the worker's training and experience.

"Reasonable cause to believe" and the susceptible worker

Some workers may have an underlying condition which would lead them to suffer an illness or sustain an injury, even though others would not be affected in the same way. In this so-called "susceptible worker" situation, the "objective " test of whether the worker has reasonable cause to believe the work presents an undue hazard is to be applied in the context of the person's specific health condition.

To uphold a work refusal, there needs to be a clear connection between the undue hazard asserted by the susceptible worker, and his or her health condition. As part of the investigation into the refusal, the employer may ask for confirming evidence of the effect of the hazard on the person's condition. While the evidence is being obtained, the worker should be removed from the condition that the worker asserts is an undue hazard.

UPDATED: March 23, 2023

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