COVID-19 and the right to refuse

These are unprecedented times. Health and safety is a priority for you, your supervisor and employer and us at WorkSafeNB. As we cope with COVID-19, more people are interested in learning about the process to refuse unsafe work. Here are resources to help you navigate your right to refuse:

Right to refuse key steps

Employees in New Brunswick have the right to refuse work if they believe it presents an unsafe situation. When this happens, employers need to consider the work refusal on a case-by-case basis, depending on the situation. The same principles apply for managing workplace health and safety and work refusals during a pandemic as they do during normal conditions. The key steps are:

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supervisor must be told what is unsafe about the work. The OHS Act requires that the supervisor responds to the employee’s concerns, and, if in agreement, take corrective action(s) to resolve the matter. If the supervisor disagrees with the employee, they should explain why. Employees must remain at work during normal working hours while their concerns are being investigated. Employers can reassign the work to another employee but must advise that employee someone else has refused the task.

 

 

If the employee is not satisfied with the supervisor's action(s) and the workplace has a joint health and safety committee (JHSC), the JHSC must be advised of the employee’s concerns. The JHSC must investigate on the employee’s behalf and provide a decision on their findings; if they agree with the employee, they must make recommendations to the employer to take corrective measures to remedy the unsafe situation.

 

If unsatisfied with the JHSC's action(s) or if there is no JHSC, the employee must contact a WorkSafeNB health safety officer who is responsible to investigate. If the officer agrees with the employee, the officer will issue order(s) to rectify the matter; if the officer disagrees with the employee, the officer will advise that the employee return to work. Call 1 800 999 9775 or email prevention@ws-ts.nb.ca and state that you’d like to exercise your right to refuse.

 

 

If there is a JHSC and they agree with the employee, the JHSC is required to make a recommendation to the employer to remedy the employee's concerns. If the JHSC disagrees with the employee, they will advise the employee to do the work. At this point, if the employer or the employee disagrees with the JHSC, they need to advise WorkSafeNB so a health and safety officer can investigate.

 

 

 

Once the WorkSafeNB investigation is complete, if the officer agrees with the employee, the officer will issue an order or orders to the employer to remedy the situation. If the officer disagrees with the employee, the employee will be advised to do the work.

 

 

If the employer or employee disagrees with the officer's decision, they can file an appeal to WorkSafeNB's Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) who investigates. The parties have 14 days to file an appeal. 

Start the process

If you're an employee and you don't feel safe with a task you’ve been given at work, or if you're an employer and one of your workers has indicated they don't feel safe, you can fill out this Sample Right to Refuse Form

Resources

Sample Right to Refuse Form

Work Refusal Flow Chart

Workplace Guide to Right to Refuse during COVID-19

Three Rights Occupational Health and Safety Guide

Right to Refuse web page

Right to Refuse Dangerous Work (pocket pamphlet)

Right to Refuse (PowerPoint)

Information for New Workers 

Occupational Health and Safety Act (Sections 19 to 27)

Policy 24-015 Right to Refuse During Pandemics

COVID-19: What workers and employers need to know

 

Contact us

If you have workplace health and safety questions related to COVID-19 or need more information related to your right to refuse, please email prevention@ws-ts.nb.ca.

Call 1 800 999 9775

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