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Understanding Your Right to Refuse Unsafe Work During COVID-19

  • Bulletin; Health & Safety
Members should know there is a process in place to ensure they are protected as PPE access continues to be an issue

Statistics from a recent internal member survey that collected experiences from over 3,000 members in regards to accessing personal protective equipment (PPE) show nurses continue to struggle with having unfettered access to the critical PPE they require to keep themselves, their patients and their colleagues safe.

The survey, "COVID-19 in the Workplace", found a majority of members (77 per cent), believe the current PPE restrictions have been based on supply instead of science.

Failure to have appropriate PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic is a glaring example of a possible undue hazard to your safety. If a worker believes that there is a hazard to their safety present in their workplace which could place them at undue risk of harm, they may refuse unsafe work. It is very important to note that the right to refuse unsafe work may be exercised solely at the workers' decision and that there is a prohibition against discriminatory or retaliatory action by an employer or supervisor in the event of a refusal of unsafe work.

While all workers in British Columbia carry the right to refuse unsafe work, it is critical employers make workplace safety a top priority for nurses as they deal with the everyday health and safety hazards that exist when working through the COVID-19 pandemic. BCNU has developed this Refusal of Unsafe Work Flowchart, aimed at clarifying the work refusal process for our members and to help ensure that their rights are protected.

Members can also read BCNU's recently developed Personal Protective Equipment Position Statement, which outlines the expectations the union has of both employers and the government around PPE investments and preparedness.

BCNU believes the health and safety of all members is paramount. To gain further support, please contact the Member Safety and Support Phone Line at 604-433-2268 (press 1) or toll-free 1-800-663-9991 (press 1). The line is open seven days a week between 0700 – 2300. You will be connected with a member of our occupational health and safety and labour relations team who will work directly with you to help and resolve any issues at your worksite.

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