• Legal

  December 11, 2023

Refusing Unsafe Work

A person must not participate in any work process or the operation of any tool, appliance or equipment if that person has reasonable cause to believe that to do so would create an undue hazard to the health and safety of any person.

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A worker who refuses to carry out a work process or operate a tool, appliance or equipment because they feel it would be unsafe to do so must immediately report the circumstances of the unsafe condition to the supervisor or employer.


The supervisor or employer receiving a report of this nature must immediately investigate the matter and ensure that any unsafe condition is remedied without delay. However, if the supervisor or employer believes that the report is not valid, the person who made the report must be informed to that effect.


If this procedure does not resolve the matter and the worker continues to refuse to carry out the work as instructed, the supervisor or employer must re-investigate the matter, this time in the presence of the worker who made the report and in the presence of:

(a) a worker member of the joint committee;

(b) a worker who is selected by a trade union representing the worker; or

(c) if there is no joint committee or the worker is not represented by a trade union, any other reasonably available worker selected by the worker.

If this subsequent investigation does not resolve the matter and the worker continues to refuse to carry out the work as instructed, both the supervisor, or the employer, and the worker must immediately notify an officer of WorkSafeBC, who must investigate the matter without undue delay and issue whatever orders are deemed necessary.


COVID-19 Work Refusals

Many work refusals arose as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers may seek to refuse attending work or performing certain work processes due to a perceived risk of exposure to COVID-19 from co-workers or customers of the business. Workers may also have more generalized concerns about contracting COVID-19 when travelling to or attending work, particularly if they have an underlying medical condition that makes them more vulnerable to the illness.


In the event of a work refusal related to COVID-19, the employer must respond in accordance with the general process outlined above. This will include an investigation into the specific concerns identified by the worker and, if appropriate, adopting measures to eliminate or reduce the workplace danger as set out above. Employers should be aware that appropriate measures to be taken with respect to COVID-19 may vary based on current scientific understanding of COVID-19 and the specific circumstances of the workplace.



A worker must not be subject to discriminatory or retaliatory action because the worker has refused to perform unsafe work, in accordance with the procedure set out above. Until the matter is resolved, a temporary assignment to alternative work, at no loss in pay to the worker, is deemed not to constitute discriminatory action.

Information provided by HARRIS & COMPANY. For more information about HARRIS & COMPANY, please visit harrisco.com.


Additional information provided by Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP. The information provided in this article is necessarily of a general nature and must not be regarded as legal advice. For more information about Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, please visit mathewsdinsdale.com.

This article may not be republished without the express permission of the copyright owner identified in the article.

go2HR is BC’s tourism & hospitality, human resources and health & safety association, driving strong workforces and safe workplaces that deliver world-class tourism and hospitality experiences in BC. Follow us on LinkedIn or reach out to our team.

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