Health & Safety

Part of our guide to your rights as a worker in B.C.
Your employer must ensure the health and safety of all of their employees.

They must fix or remove any workplace conditions that are hazardous to health and safety, and provide workers with policies and tools to be able to perform their work safely.

What is refusing unsafe work?

You may be asked to perform work that you consider to be unsafe or hazardous. In that case, you have the right to refuse unsafe work, without retaliation from your employer.

You do not need to prove that something is unsafe prior to refusing unsafe work. Instead, you must take the following steps:

  • Immediately report the unsafe work or conditions to your supervisor, who must then immediately investigate the matter. The supervisor or employer must either fix the problem, or state that there is no risk to health and safety.
  • If your supervisor or employer states that there is no risk to health and safety, you are not obligated to perform the work. The employer must first inform you of their findings, and then investigate the matter in your presence and a health and safety representative from your workplace; If there is no health and safety worker available, any other worker may be present instead;
  • If, after that, you still feel that the work or conditions are hazardous, you, the worker who joined the investigation and the employer must notify an officer at WorkSafe BC, who will then perform an investigation and issue an order.
  • You are not required to perform the unsafe work throughout this time, and must not lose wages from refusing the unsafe work.
  • If WorkSafe issues an order stating that the conditions are unsafe, the employer must fix the problem immediately.
  • If WorkSafe issues an order stating that the work is not unsafe, the right to refuse work does not protect you if you continue to refuse the work. However, your employer must not discipline you for refusing the work until that point in any way, regardless of the outcome of the investigation. 

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Bullying & harassment

Your employer’s obligation to provide you with a safe workplace includes ensuring the workplace is free from bullying and harassment. This includes bullying and harassment from your employer, your coworkers, and customers.

Employers must have a harassment policy in place that outlines the process of both resolving and preventing bullying and harassment.

The policy must describe the process of investigation in the case of a report, what will be included in an investigation, who to contact to report bullying and harassment at work, and a way to report if your manager or employer is the harasser and your employer must follow the process outlined in their own policy.

Bullying and harassment is not always overt or clear. While verbal aggression, insults and threats are considered harassment, so are:

  • Spreading gossip or rumours;
  • Sabotaging someone’s work;
  • Verbal attacks based on someone’s personal life; 
  • Targeted social isolation.

If your employer does not have an adequate policy in place, or is not appropriately addressing bullying and harassment that is taking place, you can file a complaint through WorkSafe BC within 6 months of the last incident. It is important to know that the employer will likely be able to see the contents of the complaint against them.

The employer must not discipline you in any way for reporting bullying and harassment or for filing a complaint.

Discriminatory action

You have the right to speak up about any health and safety concerns to your employer, coworkers, and WorkSafe BC without experiencing retaliation or intimidation by your employer. If you do, this may be illegal.

Discriminatory actions, or prohibited actions, include various forms of disciplinary action or intimidation that an employer might take against you after you raise a concern or file a complaint, and they are illegal;

Discriminatory action includes:

  • Being suspended, laid off, or having your position be eliminated;
  • Being demoted, or denied the opportunity for a promotion;
  • Having your duties transferred to someone else;
  • Having your wages or hours reduced;
  • Being coerced or intimidated;
  • Being disciplined, reprimanded or penalized in any way.

You can file a Discriminatory Action complaint through WorkSafe BC within 6 months. If the complaint is successful, the employer may be ordered to hire you back, pay you lost wages or require the employer to hire a third party to conduct investigations.