Occupational Health and Safety

Part II of the Canada Labour Code

CLC Part II talks about health and safety. This section of the Code has the sole purpose. That purpose is to prevent work related injuries and illness

Part II of the Canada Labour Code applies to employees under federal jurisdiction (e.g.: banks, railway, road and air transport, telephony, etc.), i.e., about 10% of the country’s labour force. It also applies in particular to the entire federal public service and the persons employed therein. However, it does not apply to certain businesses governed by the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

Part II of the Canada Labour Code recognizes this principle by assigning priorities to control measures:

Section 122.2: “Preventive measures should consist first of the elimination of hazards, then the reduction of hazards and finally, the provision of personal protective equipment, clothing, devices or materials, all with the goal of ensuring the health and safety of employees.”

Ideally, a lot of energy should spent on prevention would mean very little time is required to “fix” occupational injury or illness.

Employees Three Rights

Right to Know

Employers are required to ensure that employees have access to all pertinent information necessary for them to:

  • Work in a safe environment
  • Be able to take proper action when necessary.

Therefore, employees are entitled:

  • To be informed of any known or foreseeable dangers in their place of work;
  • To receive the training, information and supervision necessary for protecting their health and safety.

The Act sets out some mechanisms and employers must ensure that Health and Safety representatives and committees have access to all relevant information.

The Right to Refuse

Employees may refuse to perform work or a task that can jeopardize their health, safety or integrity. The right to refuse is based on the definition of danger within in the Act. An employee can refuse work if he/she believes that the situation is unsafe to either himself/herself or his/her co-workers.

When a worker believes that a work refusal should be initiated, then

  • the employee must report to his/her supervisor that he/she is refusing to work and state why he/she believes the situation is unsafe,
  • the employee, supervisor, and a JHSC member or employee representative will investigate
  • the employee returns to work if the problem is resolved with mutual agreement
  • if the problem is not resolved, a government health and safety inspector is called and the inspector investigates and gives decision in writing.

Right to Participate

Participation must be based on information communicated in advance.

Employees are entitled to be involved in anything that affects health and safety issues in their place of work.

This right is exercised through the following persons or mechanisms:

Occupational Health and Safety committees, 20 or more employees;

Health and Safety representatives. Fewer than 20 employees;

Policy committees, 300 or more employees must establish usually 1 national committee .

Employer Duties

Section 124:

“Every employer shall ensure that the health and safety at work of every person employed by the employer is protected.”

The employer must therefore act like a “reasonable person”.

This is a legal duty, which the courts take into consideration when making their decisions.

Employers must,

  • Ensure every person employed is protected.
  • Ensure training for employees and OHS committees
  • Ensure OHS committees work properly
  • Investigate and give follow up.
  • Participate in Prevention Activities

The Internal Complaint Resolution Process (ICRP)

The Act allows for an ICRP. Its aim is to resolve problems in the work place rather than asking a third party to adjudicate the dispute.

Our Union Role in Occupational Health and Safety

Health and Safety representatives are appointed by your Union in order to assert our rights with prevention as our goal.

We must remember that employees’ and employers’ interests often follow different tacks.

If we do not play our role appropriately, what may result is a loss of rights for the very people we represent. They could be exposed to dangerous situations that might otherwise have been avoided.

The Act is not an end in itself, but rather a means.

Take the training, become informed;

Create networks and contacts and obtain assistance from a variety of sources;

Provide information and try to ensure that our prevention approach is shared by all;

Ensure that Health and Safety prevent is not an “isolated activity”, but is instead related to other activities;

Above all, make sure we “Look after our interests”;

If we do not do it, other parties will speak or act in our stead. The Occupational Health and Safety Committee is the accepted place for us to play this role.

Useful Links


OHS Regulations


Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Health Canada