If you work in an office, you might believe that health and safety policies do not apply to you. But the truth is that, regardless of whether you work in a safety-sensitive role or spend most of your day behind a desk, all employees have the right to a safe working environment. Provincial occupational health and safety legislation imposes duties and responsibilities on employers to take all reasonable steps to ensure your safety while at work. Likewise, as an employee, you have a duty to follow the safety policies and practices established by your employer to keep you safe.
It is important for employees to understand that workplace safety is not only concerned with potential physical dangers such as heavy machinery or potentially toxic substances. In fact, workplace health and safety includes an employee’s right to be free from emotional, mental and physical danger as well; that includes workplace bullying, harassment (including sexual harassment) and/or violence.
What can you do if you don’t feel safe at work?
Employees who are struggling with a potential safety concern at work should be aware of their rights, including the right to refuse to work under certain circumstances and to have complaints and incidents of harassment and/or violence investigated in a timely and neutral manner.
If you have been injured or become ill as a result of your employer’s failure to provide you with a safe working environment, you may be entitled to compensation, either under workers’ compensation and insurance plans or in court.
How we can help
We regularly assist employees to manage health and safety issues at work by helping them to understand their rights and options. In some cases, we will work with employees “behind the scenes”, assisting to craft communications to the employer to attempt to address and remedy the problem. In other cases, it may be appropriate for us to communicate with your employer on your behalf, particularly where the work environment is so toxic or dangerous that you are not able to remain at work. We will assist you in whatever way is most appropriate for your circumstances.
Employees should be aware that they cannot be penalized for bringing a legitimate health and safety concern to the attention of their employer. Punishing an employee for attempting to enforce their rights under occupational health and safety legislation is unlawful. If you are disciplined or let go simply for voicing your health and safety concerns, contact us immediately.