All Employers are required to protect the health and safety of all parties at their work sites. All workers, regardless of number, also have health and safety rights and obligations. To protect workers from illnesses, injuries and diseases, workers are afforded three fundamental rights (included in the Saskatchewan Employment Act).
Those rights are:
- The right to know (about hazards).
- The right to participate (in health and safety).
- The right to refuse (unsafe work).
The Right to Know
Every worker has a right to ask and be told about specific hazards in their workplace and how to control and handle them safely. A hazard is any activity, situation or substance that can harm a worker. You can identify hazardous materials by product labels, safety data sheets (SDSs) and worker education programs.
Every worker should be instructed about the safety precautions they need to take to protect themselves. New workers must receive orientation regarding health and safety in their workplace which would include the hazards they may encounter in their work.
The Right to Participate
The right to participate ensures workers have an opportunity to help identify and correct hazards and participate in decisions that affect their health and safety at work. This right is best seen in the form of a Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee or as an OH&S Representative in the workplace that has workers and managers working together to ensure the workplace is safe.
Every worker can participate in health and safety by reporting potential hazards and following safe work practices.
The Right to Refuse
In Saskatchewan, workers have a right to refuse work they believe, in good faith, to be unusually dangerous to themselves or others. An unusual danger could be:
- a danger that is not normal for the job;
- a danger that would normally stop work; and,
- a situation that a worker isn’t trained, equipped or experienced to deal with properly and safely.
If a worker is being asked to perform a job they feel is dangerous, the Part III - Section 31 of the Saskatchewan Employment Act provides a way for them to exercise their right to refuse the unsafe work. A work refusal is initiated by the individual worker (not a group) and when initiated in good faith shall not result in discriminatory action by the Employer. Under the Act, workers who use their right to refuse are legally protected; an Employer cannot discriminate against, fire or discipline a worker who refuses to do unusually dangerous work.
The specific job or task(s) that have been identified as unusually dangerous, cannot be reassigned to another individual unless they have been made aware of the refusal of work and have been advised of the process in place to fix the matter, to the satisfaction of the employee who refused the work.