Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (September 2010)
FEDERAL — The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is panning legislative amendments that it has said will “seriously undermine the right of federal workers to refuse dangerous work.”
Representing about 172,000 workers across the country, the union has raised concerns about the wording in Part 21 of Bill C-9, an omnibus budget bill recently tabled by the federal government. The amendments to the Canada Labour Code “will change the definition of the appointment and functions of appeal officers,” PSAC’s national president, John Gordon, commented a few weeks before the proposals were given the green light in mid-July.
The new language stipulates that if a worker refuses unsafe work, a health and safety officer would determine if the work is, in fact, safe. Should the worker choose to appeal that decision, he would be required to file a notice with the federal labour minister as opposed to an appeals officer.
The union noted the minister could then “appoint” an appeals officer whom he or she deems to be qualified, as opposed to the current authority under the labour code to “designate” an appeals officer.
The difference may seem inconsequential, but Liberal Senator Joseph Day suggested the new language alters the process significantly.
Appoint “usually means ‘appoint from outside,'” Day noted, adding the move could open the door to hiring specialized lawyers on case-by-case bases to serve as appeals officers. “Previously, ‘designate’ was somebody that is a public servant, somebody who is working within the government, [who was] being designated to do this particular job.”
Gordon also questioned the objectivity of the process. “Right now, you can challenge the appeal officers because it’s an open and transparent process. But I think this is going to take away that transparency,” he said.
The amendments require that appeal officer rulings be issued within 90 days of the original notice, which PSAC argued “could preclude the ability to bring expert evidence and testimony” to the process and would mean “the parties would not receive full reasons for the officer’s decision.”
Gordon would have preferred to see a systematic review of the federal occupational health and safety system. “They ought to, first of all, sit down with a cross-section of people, including the unions,” to put forward recommendations.
The ‘Right to Refuse’ legislation is there for a reason. No one should be working in any unsafe condition. Mind you, if he/she feels that it is the job or safety, then the job usually wins out. Many feel that if they say something then their lives can be made miserable. Under section 50 of the OHSA, there is protection there and it must be enacted through training.
The MOL has initiated training for the worker as well as the supervisor. Ensure that all your workers understand their positions in the workplace and that all hazards are identified, assessed and controlled. That also, is the law!!!
Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
We can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.