Safe Workplaces: The Right to a Safe and Healthy Workplace Regulations respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace address only certain workplace hazards. Not all workplace hazards are regulated, and in the various jurisdictions, hazards are regulated differently. Here is a sample of common workplace hazards and the regulations meant to limit or eliminate those hazards. Compare the regulations in Québec with regulations in the other provinces and territories.
Ergonomic hazards in the office can cause musculo skeletal injury (MSI) or repetitive strain injury (RSI). The injury "carpel tunnel syndrome" is an example. Regulations followed by the employer are meant to protect office workers from MSI. What is the regulation on MSI respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace? Only Saskatchewan and British Columbia have regulations on the prevention of MSI in the workplace. The federal workplace jurisdiction and Manitoba will be passing ergonomics regulations soon.
Two main health effects of working with noise are hearing loss and stress. Workplace noise can be caused by traffic, pneumatic tools, power tools, machinery, ventilation systems, humans and animals, for example. Regulations followed by the employer are meant to protect workers from too much noise. What is the regulation on noise respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace? Noise exposure limits in Québec workplaces are found in the Règlement sur la qualité du milieu de travail under the Loi sur la santé et la sécurité du travail, or the Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety. An employer must ensure that a worker is not working with noise levels above the limit set in the regulation. The limit is 90 decibels in an 8 hour day.
Warning signs have to mark areas where the noise level is above 90 decibels. If the worker works with noise for more than 8 hours in a 24 hour period, or less than 8 hours in a 24 hour period, then the employer must control the noise level according to the precise noise levels and work hours set in the regulation. In order to lower noise to the limit set in the regulation, the employer must, in the following order:
- reduce noise at its source
- separate the noisy work area from other work areas
- make the work areas soundproof
- have workers use special hearing protection equipment as described in the regulation
Regulations followed by the employer are meant to protect workers from hazardous materials, like workplace chemicals. What is the regulation on hazardous materials respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace? Regulations in every province, territory, and in the federal workplace jurisdiction state that employers must educate and train workers on certain hazardous workplace materials. These materials are "classified", or named, in the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS). Click here for more information on WHMIS.
Some workplace materials that might be hazardous are not classified under WHIMS. These materials include cosmetics, pesticides, and objects made of wood. Hazardous materials classified under WHMIS include compressed gas, flammable and combustible materials, oxidizing materials, poisonous and infectious materials, corrosive materials and dangerously reactive materials. Each comes with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and a WHMIS warning label.
The MSDS and the WHMIS warning label explain the dangers of the material and how to work safely with it. In order to better protect the worker, the employer trains the worker in reading the WHMIS label and data sheet, on safely using the hazardous material, and on responding to a spill, release, fire or poisoning.
Working alone is not always hazardous, but it can be hazardous, especially when there is an injury or other emergency. Working alone is also hazardous when work is done with the public and there's a possibility of violence. Regulations followed by the employer are meant to protect workers from the hazards of working alone and from workplace violence. What is the regulation on working alone and workplace violence respecting workers' right to a safe and healthy workplace? Québec health and safety regulations on working alone can be found in the Règlement sur la santé et la sécurité du travail under the Loi sur la santé et la sécurité du travail. For workers working alone in isolated areas and for workers working in workplaces where it is impossible to get help, the employer ensures that there is regular or continuous supervision of the worker.
For workers working in confined spaces, the employer ensures that a co worker and the worker working in the confined space have eye contact, or have speaking and hearing contact, using equipment if necessary. In most cases, it is illegal in Québec for workers under 15 years old to work alone.
While BC and Saskatchewan have specific regulations on protecting workers from violence in the workplace, Québec has no such regulation.