Q & A

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What are workers rights today?

Here are some important points about your rights.

  • You have the right to refuse any unsafe work.
  • You have the right to know about what can hurt you.
  • You have the right to take part in your own safety.

It’s against the law for your boss to fire or penalize you for refusing or reporting unsafe work conditions. And every employer is required by law to keep your safety in mind and talk to you about it. Need report unsafe work practices here.

For more information please refer to Section 17 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

If everyone I work with decided to jump off a bridge should I or should I not follow?

This is a great metaphorical question - one parents often ask as a way of getting us to think independently and do what’s right for us not everyone else. I can hear my mom now…”If so-and-so jumped off a bridge would you jump too?

The same rule applies in the workplace. We list your rights on this site, but you also have responsibilities in a workplace.

You've got a right to a safe workplace. An unsafe workplace is a threat, to you and to your fellow employees. But you also need to take responsibility for your own safety and those around you. Remember, it's the little things that make a difference

  • See something unsafe? Report it!
  • Refuse work you think is unsafe. That's your right.
  • Keep your own work area neat and tidy.
  • Follow safety guidelines.
  • Ask for safety training.
  • Get involved - join your safety committee or become a representative.

So if Johnny does something unsafe and you know it, should you follow him? Probably not and you should feel confident in doing something about it.

What if my employer insists I work when I am ill and I get injured or the illness gets worse?

Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well! Your question is a bit of a complicated one. Sick time policies are different from one employer to the next, but here’s what the guide to the Labour Standards Code says:

Sick Leave

Employees are entitled to receive up to three days, unpaid sick leave each year. This leave may be used to care for an ill parent, child, or family member. It can also be used for medical, dental, or other similar appointments. An employee who is denied sick leave may make a complaint with the Labour Standards Division.

It also depends on what the illness is, as there are different rules for communicable diseases covered under health legislation. Regardless of your health at the time, report an injury or an occupational disease as soon as possible. You may well be entitled to compensation.

Get well soon

When must a hard hat be worn?

Excellent question! You’ve got to keep that noggin protected.

The official response:

Section 11 of The Occupational Safety General Regulations states:

Hazard to head

11 Where a person is exposed to a hazard that may injure the person's head, an employer shall ensure that protective equipment is worn that is appropriate to the hazard and that complies with CSA Standard
(a) CAN/CSA-Z94.1-92 (R1998), "Industrial Protective Headwear"; or Clause 11(a) amended: O.I.C. 2000-130, N.S. Reg. 52/2000. ”

More information is available in the Personal Protective Equipment: A guide to Part 3 of the Occupational Safety General Regulations.

What do I do if someone comes in to my workplace with a weapon?

Workplace violence is a serious issue affecting many workplaces across the province.There are many types of workplaces that must follow NS Violence Regulations, and need to put a violence prevention program in place. Some of these business settings are hospitals, nursing homes and pharmacies, banks and government offices, retail settings (a huge category!) and anywhere that liquor is sold or consumed.

Guide to Preventing: Violence, Robbery & Theft

Check more information about Nova Scotia’s workplace violence prevention strategy and law.

Access to communication is an important part of any violence prevention program.  If your workplace doesn't have a violence prevention plan, or a way to communicate outside, talk to your supervisor.  If nothing changes, you can call and ask for more information from the NS OHS Division, 1-800-952-2687.

More information is also available from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

If I’m hurt at work, what do I do?

First, take care of yourself. As soon as possible, report your injury to your boss and seek health care. If possible, help your boss investigate the incident so that measures can be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

If you need to miss time from work, follow the advice of your doctor and health professionals. And get back to work as soon as you're able. Stay focused on what you CAN do, not what you can't. Don't let an injury take over your whole life. Studies show your workplace is often the best place to get back your health.

Who do I go to if I have any safety concerns?

First and foremost, remember that you should know about the hazards on your job before you do it. On Day One your boss should be telling you what could hurt you, and how to avoid that hurt actually happening. For example, if you’re working around something hot, you may need certain kinds of protective equipment or clothing to wear.

It’s not always easy to talk to your boss about safety. But it’s always important. In fact, you have a duty to immediately report anything that seems unsafe. And remember, it’s your right to refuse work that could hurt you.

Your boss needs to know about workplace hazards. If you see something you feel is dangerous – for example, there’s oil leaking from a fryer - it’s your responsibility to let someone know that. And it’s your employer’s responsibility to investigate and do something about it. The few minutes it takes to talk about it and find a solution is nothing compared to the impact of workplace injury. At the end of the day, you both want the same thing – the work to get done, and to get done safely.

What kind of health and safety orientation do I get before I start?

Whether you’re working in a shopping mall, a restaurant or on a construction site, your employer should provide a heath and safety orientation to give you the low-down on safety in your workplace. Your orientation should cover these types of safety-related topics:

  • The company’s safety policy and program
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Responsibilities and processes for reporting injuries or incidents
  • Identification and control of hazards
  • First aid details
  • Emergency evacuation details
  • Any other safety concerns related to your workplace

If you’re on a job and your boss hasn’t discussed safety, ask about it. It’s your right.

What equipment do I need to safely do my job?

It all depends on the type of work you’re doing. Hardhats, safety glasses, gloves, ear plugs – these and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are critical to keeping you safe on the job. Talk to your boss about what you should be using.

If I’m working with chemicals what kind of safety training will I get?

Hazardous materials in your workplace (ie, pretty much anything in a container that you can’t drink or wash your face with) are covered by a program called WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System).

WHMIS (pronounced ‘wimmis’ for short) is Canada’s system to talk about hazardous (also called ‘controlled) materials in the workplace. WHMIS safety law that includes easy-to-read labels that tell us how to safely work with and around controlled materials.

Check out this brochure from Nova Scotia Labour and Workforce Development.

Almost every workplace has and uses products that are controlled under WHMIS law.  If you work with or handle these products, you need WHMIS training.  Talk to your boss to find out more.

Whatever your industry or position, you have rights

Here are some important points about your rights.

  • You have the right to refuse any unsafe work.
  • You have the right to know about what can hurt you.
  • You have the right to take part in your own safety.

It’s against the law for your boss to fire or penalize you for refusing or reporting unsafe work conditions. And every employer is required by law to keep your safety in mind and talk to you about it.

To report an unsafe workplace, contact the OHS Division of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education  at 1-800-952-2687 or fill out their online Secure Enquiry Form.