Know your rights?

The right to refuse unsafe work is one of the three basic health and safety rights achieved by the labour movement, along with the right to know about the hazards in your workplace, and the right to participate in workplace health and safety decisions.

Procedures and circumstances around the right to refuse vary from province to province. Below you’ll find the steps you should take to refuse unsafe work in your jurisdiction.

You have the legal right to a healthy and safe workplace.


The law in Alberta states that you shall refuse all unsafe work if you believe there is an imminent danger (that is not normal for the occupation or activity) to yourself or others caused by a tool, appliance, equipment or work procedure at the worksite, according to Section 35 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Here’s how you can refuse unsafe work:

  1. Notify your employer at the worksite that you are refusing work because you don’t think it is safe and state your reason for refusal.
  2. The supervisor must investigate and take action to eliminate the danger. There must be a written record of your notification, the investigation, and action taken. A copy of the report must be provided to you.
  3. If, in your opinion, a danger still exists, you can file a complaint with a government occupational health and safety officer.
  4. The officer shall investigate the complaint, and document actions taken in a written report. A copy of the report must be provided to you.
  5. If you are not satisfied with the officer’s report and recommendations, you must legally return to work, but may appeal the report within 30 days.