Employees: You have Health and Safety Responsibilities, Too!

There’s a ton of literature and online content available that is dedicated to espousing the various – and very important – health and safety responsibilities of the employer. While the employer does have some of the most important responsibilities, employees are not absolved of health and safety responsibilities. Employees must understand that they are part of the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) and that they have many health and safety responsibilities.

What Does the Legislation Say?

The health and safety duties of the worker aren’t arbitrary; they’re legislated. They are listed in the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Section 28. Duties of the worker under the act are listed as:

28. (1) A worker shall, 

(a) work in compliance with the provisions of this Act and the regulations; 

(b) use or wear the equipment, protective devices or clothing that the worker’s employer requires to be used or worn;

(c) report to his or her employer or supervisor the absence of or defect in any equipment or protective device of which the worker is aware and which may endanger himself, herself, or another worker; and

(d) report to his or her employer or supervisor any contravention of this Act or the regulations or the existence of any hazard of which he or she knows.

 (2) No worker shall,

(a)remove or make ineffective any device required by the regulations or his or her employer, without providing an adequate temporary protective device and when the need for removing or making ineffective the protective device has ceased, the protective device shall be replaced immediately; 

(b)use or operate any equipment, machine, device or thing or work in a manner that may endanger himself, herself or any other worker; or

(c) engage in any prank, contest, feat of strength, unnecessary running or rough and boisterous conduct.

What Does that Mean for Workers?

Sometimes legislation can be difficult to interpret, or it may be unclear how the legislation is actually applied at work. What is Section 28 telling workers? How might a worker exercise their duties? Below are some examples of the legislation in practice.

S.28(1)(a) – Workers need to work in compliance with the Act. This section is pretty straightforward. It’s making workers aware that they must follow the legislation contained in the act while at work.

S.28(1)(b) – This makes it clear to workers that if an employer provides Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and makes it mandatory that workers wear it, workers must comply. For example, if an employer provides cutting gloves to prep checks to wear when they slice tomatoes, pickles, and onions, they are required to wear it. A worker who chooses not to wear the glove because he thinks it slows him down is contravening the Act.

S.28(1)(c) – Workers are required by the act to report hazards. Employers ought to encourage this, but regardless, reporting is mandatory. This is an important part of the worker’s right to participate, and one of the best ways to exercise it. To exercise this responsibility, workers may report unsafe conditions and potential or actual hazards in good faith to their employer.

S.28(1)(d) – Much like S.28(1)(c), this duty is all about reporting and exercising the right to participate. The difference is, instead of reporting hazards, this clause is making reporting contravention to the act a mandatory responsibility of the worker.

S.28(2)(a) – This section is all about guarding and protecting devices. Workers are responsible for not removing or circumnavigating them. The Act prohibits removal of these, and workers are responsible for following this missive.

S.28(2)(b) – This clause is pretty important, and it’s easy to misinterpret. It is about the safe use of equipment. Examples of how workers can exercise this include not racing lift trucks or using other heavy equipment for horseplay, not speeding or driving in unauthorized areas, and not using PPE as safety-hero dress-up clothing.

S.28(2)(c) – This clause is telling workers that they are responsible for working safely and not horsing around. For example, workers who engage in races, contests, or pranks are considered to be in contravention of the Act. Most workers don’t intend for a prank or silly race or contest to end in an injury, but unfortunately, that is too often the result of horseplay in the workplace.

OSG Can Help!

If you have any questions about what responsibilities workers have for health and safety in the workplace, or if you have questions about Section 28 of the Act, call 800-815-9980 Monday through Friday from 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. to speak a health and safety advisor, or contact us online.