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? Territorial law states that workplaces with over 10 workers have to have an accident prevention program, which works towards preventing worker injuries. Workplaces with less than 10 workers have, instead, discussions between workers and the employer every 6 months on the prevention of accidents. But domestic workers aren’t covered under Nunavut’s General Safety Regulations. So domestic workers do not get to know about workplace hazards from accident prevention programs nor discussions on accident prevention.
Domestic workers do not benefit, either, from instruction in working safely, which employers make sure all other workers have. For these other workers, employers are responsible for proper instruction in working safely.
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 (WHMIS).
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.
Territorial law states that employers have to keep the Safety Act and the Act’s regulations in the workplace for workers to be able to read. The Act and the regulations explain territorial health and safety law, with the regulations setting the legal safety and training standards. Employers have to make sure that workers understand those parts of the Act and the regulations that cover the workplace. Workers can get 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? In Nunavut, ensuring instruction in working safely is an employer’s legal responsibility (except for employers employing domestic workers). Training and instruction in working safely is necessary so that workers can avoid injury and illness. Some examples of worker health and safety training detailed in territorial law are
- training in first aid for at least one worker a shift in workplaces with 5 or more workers, and
- training in the use of machinery and equipment.