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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?

Workers get to know about workplace hazards when provincial health and safety law states that employers have to tell workers about a specific hazard. While employers don't have to make sure workers know about all workplace hazards, employers have to ensure that workers are trained in all matters that are necessary to protect workers' health and safety. Saskatchewan's health and safety law is explained in two main documents: the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

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.

Workers get to know about workplace hazards when provincial health and safety law states that employers have to tell workers about a specific hazard. For instance, employers have to tell workers in certain workplaces about the risk of violence. Workers in the following workplaces are told by the employer about the nature of the violence and the level of the risk:
  • some health care facilities,
  • pharmaceutical dispensing services,
  • education services,
  • police services,
  • corrections services,
  • other law enforcement services,
  • security services,
  • crisis counseling and intervention services,
  • retail sales open between 11 pm and 6 am,
  • financial services,
  • alcohol sales and places where alcohol is drunk,
  • taxi services, and
  • transit services.

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.

That employers have to tell workers at these workplaces about the hazard of violence is stated in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. All employers in Saskatchewan have to keep at the workplace, for workers to read, a copy of the regulations on that workplace and a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Act and regulations explain provincial health and safety law, with the regulations setting the legal safety and training standards. Not only do employers have to keep at the workplace a copy the Act and regulations, but employers also have to make sure that workers are told about the parts of the Act and regulations that apply to the workers' workplace.

Aside from hazardous materials training, what other health and safety training do employers have to give workers?

In Saskatchewan, employers have to make sure that workers are trained in everything necessary for the protection of workers' health and safety. A worker is trained when she or he begins working at a workplace, or when a worker is newly moving into new work. Included in the training are:
  • what to do in case of fire or other emergency,
  • where the first aid is in the workplace,
  • where the restricted areas of the workplace are,
  • what is done to protect workers from physical, chemical or biological hazards,
  • procedures, plans, policies and programs that the Act and regulations state the workplace has to have, and
  • anything else that's needed to ensure the worker's health and safety while she or he is at work.

Training is necessary so that workers can avoid injury and illness. Legislation stipulates that committee members and representatives may take a maximum five days leave per year without loss of pay or benefits to attend OH&S training from Saskatchewan Labour or an approved training agency.

Health and safety law, including the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, detail, also, training that's necessary for workers in certain workplaces and training for workers doing certain types of work.

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