In this module, you will learn about what the federal government’s occupational health and safety legislation and regulations require from federally regulated employers and their employees in their workplace and in the course of their employment. This is information you need to know to be healthy and feel safe at work every day. That is why it is important you understand the health and safety responsibilities of everyone in your workplace, including you. This module provides general awareness of the rights and duties of employees and employers, from the most senior executive to the newest employee.
By the Canada School of Public Service
- Health and safety law and policies
- Three basic rights
- Right to know
- Right to participate
- Right to refuse dangerous work
- Duties of the employer
- Duties of the employee
- Nursing or pregnant employees
- Quiz: 4 questions
- Going further than that…
Module 2: Legal Responsibilities and Duties
Health and safety law and policies
[Insert your department’s name] is committed to providing employees with a healthy and safe workplace. This is achieved when employers, occupational health and safety (OHS) committees and representatives, and employees work together. An important part of working together is to understand and carry out the legal duties and responsibilities defined in the Canada Labour Code, Part II (the Code, Part II).
Three basic rights
Under the Code, Part II, you as an employee have three basic rights:
The right to know: Each employee has the right to know about every known or foreseeable health and safety hazard associated with their job. Your manager or supervisor must tell you about these hazards and train or instruct you to work safely.
The right to participate: Health and safety representatives or committee members have the right and the responsibility to participate in identifying and correcting job-related health and safety concerns. In addition, an employee has the right to participate in any internal complaint resolution or refusal-to-work investigation.
The right to refuse dangerous work: An employee has the right to refuse dangerous work, when the danger is a hazard, condition or an activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the employee’s life or health, if they are exposed to it before the hazard or condition is corrected or the activity altered. Module 8 will provide you with further information.
In addition to the three basic rights, the Code, Part II, outlines specific roles and responsibilities for the employer, employee, OHS committees, OHS representatives, and official representatives of the Minister of Labour.
The Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations explain in more detail some of the legal obligations of employers, and other specific provisions to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. The regulations must be read and implemented in conjunction with the Code, Part II, and contain legal obligations that are essentially divided into 20 parts.
The Policy Committees, Work Place Committees and Health and Safety Representatives Regulations add additional information to the legal obligations of employers for health and safety committees and employee health and safety representatives in the Code, Part II.
Duties of the employer
In addition to the general duty of the Code, Part II, (section 124) to protect employees’ health and safety, [insert your department’s name] (as an employer) and its managers and supervisors have many specific duties. The specific duties for an employer are outlined in section 125 of the Code, Part II, and are summarized as follows:
- Ensure that the health and safety at work of every person employed by the employer is protected;
- Implement the requirements of the Canada Labour Code, Part II, and its regulations;
- Provide prescribed first aid facilities and health services, safe drinking water, and sanitary and personal facilities;
- Ensure that all employees are made aware of every known or foreseeable health and safety hazard in the area where the employee works;
- Provide every person granted access to the workplace by the employer with prescribed safety materials, equipment, devices and clothing, and ensure that their activities do not endanger the health and safety of employees;
- Provide each employee with the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety at work;
- Ensure that the machinery, equipment and tools used by the employees in the course of their employment meet prescribed health, safety and ergonomic standards, and are safe under all conditions of their intended use;
- Ensure that the vehicles and mobile equipment used by the employees in the course of their employment meet prescribed standards;
- Investigate, record and report all accidents, occupational diseases and other hazardous occurrences, and keep and maintain health and safety records;
- Follow the process outlined in section 132 of the Code, Part II, to ensure that pregnant or nursing employees, who believe that some or all of their duties may constitute a risk to their health or to that of their fetus or nursing child, are protected;
- Ensure OHS committees and representatives are in place for all staffed workplaces:
- Subsection 134.1(1) requires each employer who employs 300 or more public servants in their organization to have an OHS Policy Committee;
- Subsection 135(1) requires that each employer have in place a Joint Local OHS Committee in each workplace where they employ 20 or more public servants;
- Section 136 requires that each employer have an OHS Employee Representative in each workplace where they employ fewer than 20 public servants;
- Each employer must respond to any inquiries or reports of hazards from committees or representatives within specific time frames;
- Comply with authorized directions from the Minister of Labour
Other specific duties of each employer are outlined in the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, and include but are not limited to:
- Part II: Permanent Structures – Subsection 2.24(4): The employer shall appoint a qualified person or persons to implement the instructions and make a report, in writing, of each inspection, testing, cleaning, and maintenance operation of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system (HVAC).
- Part III: Temporary Structures and Excavations – Subsection 3.12(1): Before the commencement of work on a tunnel, excavation or trench, the employer shall mark the location of all underground pipes, cables and conduits in the area where the work is to be done.
- Part V: Boilers and Pressure Vessels – Section 5.17: The employer shall keep and maintain a record of every boiler, pressure vessel and pressure piping system.
- Part IX: Sanitation – Section 9.24: Every employer shall provide potable water for drinking, personal washing and food preparation.
- Part X: Hazardous Substances – Subsection 10.14(1): Every employer shall, in consultation with the policy committee or, if there is no policy committee, the workplace committee or the health and safety representative, develop and implement an employee education and training program with respect to hazard prevention and control at the workplace.
- Part XI: Confined Spaces – Subsection 11.11(1): The employer shall provide every employee who is likely to enter a confined space with instruction and training in the procedures established and the use of the protective equipment.
- Part XII: Protection Equipment and Other Preventive Measures – Section 12.6: Where there is a hazard of injury to the eyes, face, ears or front of the neck of an employee in a workplace, the employer shall provide eye or face protectors.
- Part XIV: Materials Handling – Section 14.48: Where an employee is required manually to lift or carry loads weighing in excess of 10 kg, the employer shall instruct and train the employee.
- Part XV: Hazardous Occurrence Investigation, Recording and Reporting – Subsection 15.4(1): Where an employer becomes aware of an accident, occupational disease or other hazardous occurrence affecting any of his employees in the course of employment, the employer shall, without delay:
- appoint a qualified person to carry out an investigation of the hazardous occurrence;
- notify the local work place committee or the health and safety representative of the hazardous occurrence and of the name of the person appointed to investigate it; and
- take necessary measures to prevent a recurrence of the hazardous occurrence.
- Part XVI: First Aid – Subsection 16.3(1): At every workplace at which six or more employees are working at any time, the employer shall ensure that there is a first aid attendant.
- Part XVII: Safe Occupancy of the Workplace – Subsection 17.7(1): Where an employer or employers have prepared an emergency evacuation plan for a building, the employer or employers shall appoint:
- a chief emergency warden and a deputy chief emergency warden for that building;
- an emergency warden and a deputy emergency warden for each floor of the building that is occupied by employees of the employer or employers; and
- monitors for any employee who requires special assistance in evacuating the building.
- Part XVIII: Diving Operations – Subsection 18.5(1): Every employer shall ensure that an employee required to dive has received instruction and training.
Duties of the employee
As a federal public service employee, you also have specific duties outlined in the Code, Part II.
These can be found in section 126, and are summarized as follows:
- Use any safety materials, equipment, devices and clothing that are intended for your protection and furnished to you by the employer;
- Follow prescribed procedures and comply with all instructions from your employer with respect to your health and safety;
- Take all reasonable and necessary precautions to ensure your own health and safety when conducting work, and ensure that you take into consideration the health and safety of others who may be affected by your acts or omissions;
- Cooperate with your employer or any official representative of the Minister who is carrying out a duty that forms part of their roles and responsibilities under the Code, Part II;
- Cooperate with all OHS committees and representatives;
- Report to the employer any thing, circumstance, or hazard in a workplace that is likely to be hazardous to the health or safety of you or any other persons in the workplace;
- Report to the employer any situation believed to be a contravention of the Code, Part II;
- Report every accident or near miss that arises as a result of your work;
- Comply with every oral or written direction by an official representative of the Minister of Labour or an appeals officer that concerns the health and safety of employees.
Nursing or pregnant employees
The purpose of the Code is to prevent employment injuries and illnesses in sectors to which Part II applies. Prevention is a significant factor provided in the Code in order to ensure the health and safety of employees and to eliminate risks.
Pregnant and nursing employees may remove themselves from possible danger until a medical certificate has been obtained. This provision applies in the case of a risk to the health of the employee, the fetus or the nursing child. An employee may cease to perform her job if, by reason of the pregnancy or nursing, she believes that some or all her duties constitute a risk.
A pregnant employee may be exposed to an increased risk to herself, as a result of her physical condition, while being responsible for the health and safety of the fetus she is nurturing. For example, certain physical hazards and chemical, infectious and biological agents, although relatively harmless to the mother, could have a serious and permanent effect on the fetus.
Because of her exposure to hazardous chemical substances, infectious agents and biological contaminants, it is also possible that a nursing employee may transmit sufficient quantities of the agent or agents to have a chronic effect on her child.
To allow a pregnant or nursing employee to take immediate action to temporarily remove herself from a potential health risk to herself or to her fetus or nursing child, a specific right has been established by Part II of the Code. This right may be exercised from the beginning of the pregnancy until the employee is no longer nursing.
To confirm or alleviate her concern, the employee is required to consult a qualified medical practitioner as soon as possible. Furthermore, she has the legal right to choose the medical practitioner. Although the legislation is silent on how the medical practitioner will provide an opinion on whether continuing her job functions constitutes a risk to her health or that of her fetus or nursing child, the employee should protect her rights by obtaining a medical certificate.
Quiz – Module 2: Legal Responsibilities and Duties
- Identify your basic rights under the Canada Labour Code, Part II:
- The right to know, the right to participate, the right to refuse dangerous work
- The right to refuse dangerous work, the right to leave, the right to disagree with an employer’s decision
- The right to participate, the right to know, the right to inform the committee of a danger
- Identify the health and safety responsibilities of employers:
- Provide every person granted access to the workplace by the employer with prescribed safety materials, equipment, devices and clothing, and ensure that their activities do not endanger the health and safety of employees
- Investigate, record, and report all accidents, occupational diseases and other hazardous occurrences, and keep and maintain health and safety records
- Provide each employee with the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety at work
- Provide first aid, sanitary and personal facilities and health services
- All of the above
- Identify the health and safety responsibilities of employees:
- Report all hazards and hazardous occurrences
- Wear all personal protective equipment and clothing
- Comply with all instructions regarding health and safety
- Work safely at all times
- All of the above
- A nursing or pregnant employee:
- Is allowed to remove herself from possible danger until a medical certificate has been obtained
- May not transmit sufficient quantities of the agent or agents to have a chronic effect on her child
- Does need to inform her supervisor or manager of her pregnant or nursing condition
- None of the above
- All of the above
Module 2: Going further than that…
You are invited to enhance your skills and knowledge by consulting the following links.
Links to reference material
- Information on Occupational Health and Safety – Pamphlet 2A Employer and employee duties
- Information on Occupational Health and Safety – Pamphlet 5 Pregnant and nursing employees
 In this training package, “department” is generally used to refer to federal departments and agencies.
 In the Canada Labour Code, the more general term “organization” is used. When referring to the Canada Labour Code in this training package, the same term is used.