Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
26 Upper Canada

Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

How the right to refuse works

Under Section 43 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Ontario, you have the right to refuse unsafe, unhealthy work. If you have reason to believe the work is likely to endanger you or someone else, this is what you do. Note - we recommend you contact the District Office before you exercise your right to refuse work, if possible

Employee: Reports the problem to a supervisor (Principal, for example) , remains in a safe place. Employees cannot under the law be disciplined for refusing unsafe work under Section 43. (Teachers Note: The Education Act requires that you must ensure the safety of students in your care first.)

Employee states the following to the supervisor: “I have already ensured the safety of my students. I have reason to believe that by performing the work which I am required to do, I am likely to endanger a fellow worker or myself. Therefore, I am refusing to do the particular work in question, as permitted by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, for the following reasons <...>. Please investigate my concerns in the presence of my OSSTF member on the Joint Health and Safety Committee”.

Supervisor: Investigates in the presence of employee and the employee's representative, (Certified Representative, Safety Representative Committeeperson, Steward, etc.).

Employee: If the worker still feels there are "reasonable grounds" to refuse, then they, their representative or the employer can call a government inspector.

Inspector: An inspector shall investigate the refusal to work in consultation with the employer or a person representing the employer, the worker, and if there is such, the person mentioned in clause (4)(a), (b) or (c).

Employee: Pending the inspector's decision, the employee will remain in a safe place, unless assigned to reasonable alternative work. No other worker can be assigned pending inspector's decision unless advised of the refusal and reason for it in the presence of a Certified Representative or Safety Representative Committeeperson, Steward, etc.

Appeal: Section 61 allows 30 days to appeal the inspector's decision to the Board – Contact the OSSTF District Office for more details.