Health & Safety Work Refusal

Know you rights 


Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, Section 43 of the Act gives workers the right to refuse unsafe work if they have reason to believe it is likely to endanger their immediate or long-term health or that of another worker. Section 50 gives further protection to the worker by enshrining the restriction that there shall be no reprisal against the refusing worker.

Under the Act, three important rights are implied in the intent of the legislation, specifically:

  • the right to participate in your workplace health and safety;
  • the right to know the hazards in the workplace;
  • the right to refuse unsafe work.

A few tips to doing a work refusal correctly are:
  • refusing worker immediately notifies supervisor of refusal under section 43 of the Act;
  • the supervisor investigates the situation immediately in the worker's presence and their worker representative being present;
  • during the investigation the refusing worker can't be reassigned other work;
  • if resolved, get the facts and resolution in writing and return to work;
  • if the worker still believes the issue is unresolved, and feels they have reasonable grounds to refuse, a Ministry of Labour inspector is notified.

Once the inspector is involved they will consult with the worker, supervisor and the worker representative.

The inspector will make findings and provide a written decision to either order remedial action or deem it safe to continue working. The worker can be assigned alternative work that is reasonable in the course of the investigation.

No other worker can be assigned the work being refused unless they are informed of the refusal and the specifics of the issues surrounding the refusal. This notification must be done in the presence of the worker representative.

Either party can appeal the inspector's order within 30 days to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.