Frequently Asked Questions
Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) is a “multidisciplinary field concerned with the safety, health and welfare of people at work” (Wikipedia). Every jurisdiction in Canada has Occupational Health and Safety Laws that outline the rights and responsibilities of workers, employers and others to keep a workplace safe. In Nova Scotia we have the Occupational Health and Safety Act. These laws are administered by the Department of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Division.
No one should suffer injuries or die just to make a living. The Occupational Health and Safety laws in Nova Scotia outline everyone’s rights and responsibilities to keep workplaces safe. We can help you understand your right to a safe workplace, and how to prevent injuries to yourself or others. We can help you talk to your supervisor about any concerns, and we can explain the powers and rights you have to make a safe workplace. Calling us before anything happens might prevent injuries in the first place. Some of the things we can do include:
- Answer questions
- Explain your legal rights and responsibilities
- Explain your employer’s legal rights and responsibilities
- Show you how to refuse unsafe work
- Tell you want to do if you’ve been injured at work
- Provide OH&S education to you, your coworkers, and your employer
- Help you if you’ve been penalized for raising safety issues at work
In Nova Scotia the Occupational Health and Safety Act was passed by the Provincial Legislature. The Department of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Division, administers the Act. But remember, it is up to every single one of us to know our rights and responsibilities and to make sure workplaces are safe.
In Canada approximately 1000 workers are killed every year at work. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people are injured, disabled, or made sick because of work. This isn’t acceptable. We believe no one should be required to take unnecessary risks just to make a living. The right to a safe and healthy workplace is one that has been fought for over the ages. It’s important to continue standing up for those rights, and to keep fighting for improvements.
Every worker in Nova Scotia has the following fundamental health and safety rights:
- The Right to Know – We have the right to know about hazards in our workplace, and to the training we need to keep us safe.
- The Right to Participate – In Nova Scotia everyone has a role to play in Occupational Health and Safety in our workplaces. Workers have the right to participate and be involved. They may join OH&S committees, or may discuss issues, question and ideas with their employer.
- The Right to Refuse – Every individual has the right to refuse to perform work that they believe is unsafe. The law requires that a certain process be followed when we exercise this right. Check out our page on how to refuse unsafe work. Or call us to find out more.
- The Right to No Discriminatory Action – The law very clearly says that employers cannot retaliate against workers who exercise their OH&S rights. If you’re worried you might get in trouble for refusing work or for asking questions, contact us. We can explain what to do!
If there’s a safety problem at work, the law outlines what you should do to address it.
- Talk to your supervisor. Often they can solve the problem for you right away.
- If your supervisor doesn’t solve your problem, talk to your Joint Occupational Health and Safety Representative. (If you don’t know who your representative is give us a call and we’ll help you find out).
- If your problem isn’t solved by your supervisor or your representative within a reasonable time frame, the law says you must report the safety concern to the Department of Labour – Occupational Health and Safety Division. You can reach them any time at 1-800-952-2687.
The law says your employer can’t penalize you for exercising your safety rights. If you’re worried about addressing safety concerns the law protects you. Call us if you want more information.
You have the right to refuse unsafe work. But it's important to follow the right process. See our instructions on how to refuse unsafe work here. If you have any questions or problems, don’t hesitate to give us a call!