Employees Have A Right To a Safe Workplace
Wherever you work, if you are working for a boss, that boss has a legal responsibility to provide you with a safe workplace. Period. There is no grey area regarding this obligation. It’s not something that your employer can shirk or deny knowing about. And to drive home the point, routinely there have been court cases highlighted where employees have successfully challenged their right for a safe workplace with respect to their employer’s legal responsibility.
Wherever you live, be it here where we are in British Columbia, Canada or in the United States, in Europe or elsewhere, each of your jurisdictions will have safety regulations demanding that your employer do everything reasonable to make your workplace a safe place for you to come and earn a living.
In British Columbia, the Workers Compensation Act (in Part 3, Division 3) states:
Section 115: General duties of employers
(1) Every employer must
(a) ensure the health and safety of
(i) all workers working for that employer, and
(ii) any other workers present at a workplace at which that employer’s work is being carried out
Nationally, the Canada Labour Code states:
Section 124: General duties of employers
Every employer shall ensure that the health and safety at work of every person employed by the employer is protected.
Of course, what each of those regulations look like in practice will depend entirely on the sort of work that you are engaged in, and it’s often the definition of that word “reasonable” which causes problems with some employers believing they have done everything reasonable to provide you with safety.
It is unfortunate that those examinations of what reasonable actual means in a particular workplace only seem to occur after something has actually occurred and often when someone has gotten hurt.
In 2013, a group of Albertan nurses successfully won a legal challenge against their employer for the right to a safe workplace.
Another example, also from the healthcare world is highlighted where the union representing workers at a Charlottetown mental health facility are demanding better anti-violence policies following the assault on two staff by a patient whose assaultive behaviour was well known.
Assaults on staff are also highlighted in this case are the result of the actions of the supervisor.
The right to a safe workplace is paramount.
It’s not a question of having a policy statement, pinning it up on the staff noticeboard and in the employee handbook, and then not doing anything about it.
It has to be championed within the workplace from the very top of the organization.
I wrote about this a number of months ago in a previous blog post when I was discussing the steps that an employer must take when taking reasonable steps to create that safe workplace.
If it sounds as if I am repeating myself, you’re right, I am.
But I’m only doing so because it’s so important.