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COVID on the job: how to refuse unsafe work - BCGEU


The right to refuse unsafe work is a legislative right and responsibility of all workers in B.C., and that is no different during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have you been assigned work that you feel is unsafe? According to law, the procedure to refuse unsafe work is as follows:

    1. Immediately report to your supervisor that you have stopped work and the reasons why you believe the job or task is unsafe. Do not leave the worksite.

      Your supervisor must investigate and decide that either "the work is unsafe, stop working" or "you are assigned alternate duties until hazards are eliminated or minimized" or "the work is deemed to be safe, please go back to work."If you are unsatisfied with your supervisor's decision, continue to step 2.

      Note: 
      If your employer asks another worker to do the work, your employer must inform them of the refusal and the reasons for the refusal.

    2. Request for an OHS Committee worker rep,union designate or your choice of co-worker to attend and assist with the investigation into unsafe work.

      You, your supervisor and your selected rep must go through the investigation process again and decide that either "the work is safe, return to work" or "the work is unsafe, we'll make this safe before continuing work." If you are still not satisfied with this decision, continue to step 3.

    3. Your supervisor and you must notify WorkSafeBC.WorkSafeBC will assign an officer who must investigate without undue delay and issue their findings and any necessary orders.

      If WorkSafeBC deems the work to be safe, you must return to work. You can appeal WorkSafeBC's decision; however, you must comply with the investigation of the WorkSafeBC officer.

Please keep your union steward, local chair, staff rep and OHS Department informed throughout the process so they can assist you.

Who is my OHS rep? How do I get in touch with them?

Your worksite should have a joint Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) committee made up of workers and employer representatives who act as OHS member reps. Their names and contact details should be posted at your worksite and provided to you during your orientation to the workplace. 

You can also find the names and contact details of your OHS members reps once you're logged into the BCGEU Member Portal at https://my.bcgeu.ca/login

If you have any questions, contact the BCGEU OHS department at ohs@bcgeu.ca

I work in my client's home. Before COVID-19, my client's family members weren't around. But now they are at home while I'm working with the client, and some are not wearing masks. I feel unsafe. Is this a situation to refuse unsafe work?

If the presence of your client's family has not been approved in your worksite's risk assessment (care plan), and you have already explained that they must leave the room in order for you to do your work, and they have not followed your request, then yes, this sounds like a situation to refuse unsafe work. To do so, stop working, leave the building, call your supervisor and explain the situation – most importantly, say:

"I am not going to continue to work as it is unsafe for me to do so. I am refusing to work as it is currently unsafe for me to do so" to ensure you are clear why you are stopping work at this time.

Click here for more questions and answers about your right to refuse unsafe work and other occupational health and safety topics during COVID-19.



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