Unsafe at work? Know your rights!

Workers have a longstanding right to refuse unsafe work.

Specifically, they have the right to:

  • Know of workplace hazards before work begins and to receive appropriate information, instructions, education, training and supervision.
  • Participate in decisions that may impact their health and safety.
  • Refuse work that may impact their health and safety — and that of their fellow workers.

At times, it can be unclear what constitutes unsafe work: when in doubt, ask.

Many workers are wary of refusing unsafe work, whether it be from a belief that they will face reprisals — no matter how illegal — or simply because they don’t know how to do so.

Where possible, workers are encouraged to seek support from their union. Knowledge is power: many unions provide courses and training resources specific to their members on health and safety in the workplace.

Participation matters. Many workplaces are legally required to have Joint Health and Safety Committees or a similar body. Made up of worker and employer representatives, they identify risks to health and safety in the workplace and develop measures to mitigate them.

Processes for refusing unsafe work vary by jurisdiction. Find out more below:

No one should — or feel pressured to — risk injury or death at work.

Workers protect themselves and others when they are informed of risks to health and safety, participate in decisions that impact them, and refuse work that is unsafe.