Table of contents

Important to know

  • Workers have the right to refuse dangerous work and are protected from reprisal for exercising this right.
    • Employers cannot take or threaten disciplinary action against a worker for exercising their rights and duties under the legislation.
  • Workers must report the refusal and their reasons for it promptly to a supervisor, employer or employer’s designate.
  • As much as possible, workers must ensure their refusal does not endanger the health and safety of others.
  • Employers must inspect the hazard
    • if possible, remedy the hazard immediately
    • if the hazard cannot be remedied immediately, the employer must stop work, discuss the matter with the refusing worker and conduct a hazard inspection
    • work cannot resume or another worker cannot be assigned until the hazard inspection has been done and the hazard remedied or it is determined there is no hazard
  • If there is a health and safety committee or representative at the work site, they should be informed of the refusal as soon as possible.

How it works

Workers on provincially regulated work sites have the right to refuse work if they reasonably think there is an undue hazard at the work site or that particular work poses an undue hazard to themselves or others.

An undue hazard is a serious and immediate threat to health and safety that the refusing worker actually observes or experiences at their work site.

How to address dangerous work

Worker obligations

If you’re being asked to do work you think could present a danger for you or another, follow these steps:

  1. Don't do the work.
  2. Tell your employer, supervisor or another designated person as soon as possible what you're refusing to do, and why.
  3. Your employer must investigate and take action to eliminate the danger.
    • This may include the employer finding a qualified worker to do the work or implementing controls.
  4. Unless the danger is fixed immediately, the employer must prepare and provide you with a report once their investigation is complete that explains the actions they took to address the danger.
  5. Connect with the OHS Contact Centre if your employer won't stop work you think is dangerous or if an undue hazard exists at your workplace.
  6. Do other work that your employer assigns you in the meantime, providing:
    • you can reasonably do it
    • it's safe
  7. Review the written report your employer gives you about their investigation into the danger, and the actions they take to fix it.

Connect with the OHS Contact Centre if you think your employer hasn't corrected the situation.

Resource: Right to refuse dangerous work

Employer obligations

If you’re an employer who has been notified that your worker is refusing work they think is unsafe, you’re required by law to look into and eliminate the danger.

If a worker refuses dangerous work, follow these steps:

  1. Inspect the undue hazard and take action to eliminate it.
    • In some cases, you may be able to resolve the issue and resume work right away. For example, if you can:
      • provide replacements for broken or damaged tools/equipment
      • assign a trained and competent worker to a task that an untrained worker is refusing to do
    • If you can’t remedy the hazard immediately, you must stop work, discuss the matter with the refusing worker and conduct a hazard inspection, assuming it is safe and reasonable to do so.
  2. If you have a health and safety committee or representative, inform them of the refusal as soon as possible. Even if you were able to remedy the hazard immediately, they must be informed. The health and safety committee or representative may raise concerns or make recommendations. As an employer, you must respond to these promptly.
  3. You cannot resume work or assign another worker to the task until you have done the hazard inspection and either:
    • eliminated the hazard, or
    • determined that there is no hazard.
  4. You may temporarily assign the worker to another job, but at no loss of pay. The worker must be capable to do their temporary work assignment.
  5. Document in writing:
    • the circumstances surrounding the work refusal
    • details of the hazard inspection
    • what actions you took to remedy the situation
  6. Give the refusing worker and the health and safety committee or representative, if there is one, a copy of the written report.

If you have questions about how to handle a worker's refusal to do work they think is dangerous, call the OHS Contact Centre.

Contact

Connect with OHS:

Phone: 780-415-8690 (Edmonton)
Toll free: 1-866-415-8690 
TTY: 780-427-9999 (Edmonton)
TTY: 1-800-232-7215

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