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

 Topics include:

Module 2: Legal Responsibilities and Duties

Health and safety law and policies

[Insert your department’s[1] 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:

Other specific duties of each employer are outlined in the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, and include but are not limited to:

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:

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

  1. Identify your basic rights under the Canada Labour Code, Part II:
    1. The right to know, the right to participate, the right to refuse dangerous work
    2. The right to refuse dangerous work, the right to leave, the right to disagree with an employer’s decision
    3. The right to participate, the right to know, the right to inform the committee of a danger
  2. Identify the health and safety responsibilities of employers:
    1. 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
    2. Investigate, record, and report all accidents, occupational diseases and other hazardous occurrences, and keep and maintain health and safety records
    3. Provide each employee with the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety at work
    4. Provide first aid, sanitary and personal facilities and health services
    5. All of the above
  3. Identify the health and safety responsibilities of employees:
    1. Report all hazards and hazardous occurrences
    2. Wear all personal protective equipment and clothing
    3. Comply with all instructions regarding health and safety
    4. Work safely at all times
    5. All of the above
  4. A nursing or pregnant employee:
    1. Is allowed to remove herself from possible danger until a medical certificate has been obtained
    2. May not transmit sufficient quantities of the agent or agents to have a chronic effect on her child
    3. Does need to inform her supervisor or manager of her pregnant or nursing condition
    4. None of the above
    5. 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

 

[1] In this training package, “department” is generally used to refer to federal departments and agencies. 

[2] 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.