Your Safety: Safety rights and responsibilities

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Safety rights and responsibilities

Your work environment has a tremendous influence on your physical, social and mental well-being. Just think – in a typical week, you may spend up to 10 or more hours a day working and commuting. You probably spend more time at work than you do at home or with your family!

A safe workplace – it’s all about you!
Because so much of your day revolves around work, it’s important that your workplace is safe. The Peel board cares about the well-being of its staff and students and is committed to building an organizational culture that supports workplace safety.

In Ontario, workplace safety is governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). OHSA protects workers against health and safety hazards on the job and outlines the rights and responsibilities of every person in the workplace.

Recognizing that a safe workplace requires a strong partnership between employer and worker, the act encourages organizations to adopt a concept of shared responsibility, known as the Internal Responsibility System (IRS).

What is the IRS?
The IRS gives everyone within an organization direct responsibility for health and safety – it becomes an essential part of every job. Each individual is responsible for achieving health and safety in a way that suits the kind of work that he or she does.

The goal of an effective IRS is to get people involved in identifying and controlling hazards before they can cause harm. Everyone is expected to take the initiative on health and safety issues and to work towards solving problems and making improvements on an ongoing basis. People may do this on their own or by working co-operatively with others.

While the IRS concept supports shared responsibility for a safe and healthy workplace, it also recognizes that this responsibility may be limited by each person’s level of authority and ability. For example, an employer would have more responsibility for workplace health and safety than an employee – and an employee would have more responsibility than a supplier.

When the IRS is implemented successfully, it usually results in a reduction of work-related accidents and illnesses. Find out more about the keys to a successful IRS.

Your basic rights
The act also establishes four basic rights for everyone in the workplace:

The right to know – You have a right to information on issues that affect your health and safety. This includes the right to be trained and to have information on machinery, equipment, working conditions, processes and hazardous substances.

The right to participate – You have a right to be involved in the process of identifying and resolving workplace health and safety concerns. This right is expressed by worker representation on health and safety committees or through health and safety representatives. You also have the right to report conditions that you believe are unsafe.

The right to refuse work – You have a right to refuse work that you believe is dangerous, either to your own health and safety or to the health and safety of another worker.

The right to stop work – Under certain circumstances, certified Joint Health and Safety Committee members can stop work that is dangerous.

In addition to these basic rights, the act also specifies the rights and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers, and contractors.

A safe work environment:
meets or exceeds current health and safety legislation and directives
manages general conditions and ensures cleanliness and safety
manages the various aspects of occupational hygiene, including lighting, indoor air quality and noise control
ensures that employees understand the emergency systems provided in each worksite
establishes strategies to address the potential risk of violence at the workplace

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Learn more about OHSA

You’ll find more detailed information about workplace health and safety in the Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act published by the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

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