Workplace dangers (Right to know about work place dangers - You Can Say No)
What do workers have the right to know about?Workers have the right to know about hazards and possible hazards in the workplace. Hazards in the workplace can be toxic chemicals in cleaning products used by janitors and by workers who clean the workplace at the end of a shift. Harassment and violent crime are hazards to workers in retail and sales. Poor lighting in offices, cold weather for workers working outside, and tools and machines in construction work are also examples of hazards in the workplace. Knowing about hazards and training to avoid hazards let workers work more safely.
How do workers get to know about workplace hazards?Provincial law states that employers have to tell workers about workplace hazards. Employers have to train workers in workplace health and safety, too. In New Brunswick, the Occupational Health and Safety Act explains this. But in New Brunswick, the Act doesn’t cover all workers. The Act, for instance, doesn’t cover all workers employed at private homes. There are workers at other workplaces who aren’t covered by the Act, either. These workers do not have the right to know about workplace hazards.
What information do employers have to give workers about classified hazardous materials in the workplace?It is detailed in the workplace laws of every province and territory, and in federal law, that employers have to tell workers about certain hazardous materials. These products are classified, or defined, under the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHIMIS).
Compressed gas, flammable and combustible materials, oxidizing materials, poisonous and infectious materials, corrosive materials and dangerously reactive materials each come with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which employers make available to workers. These hazardous materials, classified under WHMIS, are stored in containers with a WHMIS warning label.
Together, the WHMIS warning label and the MSDS state:
- what the hazardous material is,
- how it is hazardous to humans,
- how to work safety with it, and
- what to do in an emergency.
The MSDS gives information in greater detail than the WHMIS warning label on the container.
What is the health and safety training on classified hazardous materials that employers have to give workers?Workers are trained in
- reading WHMIS labels so to be able to identify hazardous materials in the workplace and understand the hazardous effects of these materials,
- getting ahold of the MSDS and reading the data sheet,
- safely using hazardous materials in the workplace,
- storing and disposing of hazardous materials,
- knowing what to do if there’s a spill, release, fire or poisoning involving a hazardous material, and
- using protective equipment in emergencies.
Aside from information on classified hazardous materials, what other information do employers have to give workers?Workplace hazards are not only chemical, like the ones classified under WHMIS. There are many types of workplace hazards. Safety hazards are present in work with machines and equipment, like chainsaws, forklift trucks, ladders and wood working machines. Biological hazards include HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis A, B and C, and rabies, which are present in work with humans who are ill, animals, birds and insects. Physical hazards, for example, are cold, humidity, heat, noise and vibration. Ergonomic hazards can cause injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow, and are found in work that uses hand tools, involves pushing and pulling, lifting, shoveling, working while seated and working while standing. Stress and violence in the workplace result from bullying, threatening behaviour, verbal threats, harassment and verbal abuse.
Provincial law states that employers have to tell workers about workplace hazards. The provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Act’s regulations on the workplace have to be posted in the workplace where the documents can be found easily by the workers. The Act and regulations explain provincial health and safety law, with the regulations setting the legal safety and training standards. Workers can get more information on hazards in the workplace by asking the employer.
By knowing about workplace hazards, workers can make sure employers make the work safer, provide protection to workers, and give training so that workers can work with the smallest possibility of injury or illness.
Aside from classified hazardous materials training, what other health and safety training do employers have to give workers?According to workplace law, employers have to train workers in workplace health and safety. In New Brunswick, some examples of worker health and safety training required by law are
- training in the use and care of protective equipment,
- training of workers in first aid so that on every shift there’s a worker trained in first aid, and
- training in the testing of confined spaces, which is required before other workers enter these hazardous enclosed or partially enclosed spaces.