OHS Representatives in the province right to refuse unsafe work


Recent incidents at Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam have highlighted the need for workers to be made aware of their rights and duties under the Worker’s Compensation Act in carrying out their work.

On May 23, BCGEU members were injured while transporting a patient from the Royal Columbian Hospital back to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. A preliminary investigation has been conducted and temporary measures put in place until the full investigation is completed.

The BCGEU believes that had the workers been made aware of their rights under the Workers’ Compensation Act, this incident could have been prevented. Workers have a “right to refuse unsafe work”. It’s a step by step process that brings in a WorkSafeBC Board Officer to the work site if the employer and worker can’t agree on how to address a safety issue. Remember, the employer cannot take action against you if you properly follow the process when exercising your right to refuse unsafe work as per Section 3.12 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and Part 3, Division 6 of the Workers Compensation Act.

The BCGEU will continue to monitor the most recent incident at Forensic Psychiatric to ensure these workers receive the support they need.  But we will also be supporting your workplace OHS Committee in their efforts to ensure the employer fulfills its responsibility for ensuring workers have the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to stay healthy and safe on the job. 

We know workers at Forensic Psychiatric Hospital experience a higher rate of injury from violence than at other health facilities. A WorkSafeBC Board Officer inspection Report noted, “the employer’s current injury rate is 3% higher than that of other acute hospitals, with 47% of the employer’s injuries resulting from violence”. Clearly, there is a need for improvement at this worksite.

On May 24, our Occupational Health and Safety Officer delivered training sessions that specifically instructed members on how to invoke their “right to refuse unsafe work” as per Section 3.12 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. We are prepared to offer additional training sessions as needed.

The BCGEU has also created a new pocket card to guide workers, step by step, through the process of refusing unsafe work. Contact information for WCB and the BCGEU is included on this card so you can access extra support. Click on the link below to print off a PDF of the pocket card or contact us if you would like cards mailed to you.

If you have any questions, contact us at ohs@bcgeu.ca  604-291-9611 or toll free at 1-800-663-1674                 

            Click here for PDF of pocket card

Sherry Ogasawara      Vice President, Health Services

Sean Antrim              Staff Representative

Wendy Mah               Occupational Health and Safety Officer