Health and Safety Regulations in the Workplace (7:XIII)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 1, 2023.

The WCB is also responsible for enacting and enforcing health and safety regulations under Part 2 of the Act [Former Act,Part 3] through WCB’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, BC Reg 296/97 (OHS). These regulations can be found online. Workers or employers interested in the regulations can be referred to the Board’s Health and Safety Department. The date of enactment should always be checked to determine which version was in effect at the time of injury.

A. A Worker May Refuse Unsafe Work

Under the existing OHS, Part 2, a worker may refuse work that is unsafe. The worker must not carry out any work process if they have reasonable cause to believe that it would create an undue hazard to the health and safety of any person.

The right to refuse continues until the employer has taken remedial action to the satisfaction of the worker, or an officer has investigated the matter and advised the worker to return to work.

A worker who has exercised their right to refuse unsafe work must immediately report the refusal and the reasons for it to their supervisor or to the employer. The worker must remain available at the workplace during normal working hours until the investigation is complete. The employer may give the worker different duties to perform until the matter is resolved, and it may assign another worker to the job in question if the risk is specific to the worker (such as a person with a bad back being told to lift heavy boxes, or an untrained person being told to operate equipment).

B. Prohibition Against Discriminatory Action

Section 48 of the WCA [Former Act, s. 151] states that an employer or union must not take or threaten any retaliatory action against a worker for exercising any of their rights under Part 2 of the Act [Former Act, Part 3]. A non-exhaustive list of such discriminatory actions is provided in s. 47 of the Act [Former Act, s. 150]. This list includes: suspension, layoff or dismissal; demotion; reduction in wages; transfer of duties or of location; coercion or intimidation; and the imposition of any discipline, reprimand, or penalty.

Note that the “bare filing of a claim,” that is, filing a claim that is a request for compensation only and does not allege OHS violations, does not engage the protection of s. 48 of the Act (WCAT2015-01946).

Complaints should be made in writing to the Board within the time limits set out in s. 49 of the Act [Former Act, s. 152]. Section 49(4) of the Act [Former Act, s. 152(2)] places the burden of proving that the alleged discriminatory action did not occur on the employer or union as applicable. The Board has been given a wide range of remedies under s. 50 of the Act [Former Act, s. 153]. It is important to note that this section is not for human rights complaints, but only for retaliation against a worker for exercising the rights provided by the WCB system.

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