Section 43 of The Occupational Health and Safety Act affirms the right of all workers to refuse unsafe work. A worker can refuse to work or to do particular work where he or she has reason to believe that:
- any equipment, machine, device or thing the worker is to use or operate is likely to endanger himself, herself or another worker
- the physical condition of the workplace or part thereof in which he or she works or is to work is likely to endanger himself or herself
- workplace violence is likely to endanger himself/herself
However if you are a teacher, Regulation 857 requires that you must ensure the safety of students in your care first. At no time is a teacher permitted to leave any students unsupervised or unattended when exercising a work refusal.
In practical terms, this means that the students in a teacher’s care must be safe and supervised before a work refusal is started.
Where there is endangerment to staff and students, essential first steps are to:
- ensure that students are safe
- get immediate assistance
- report concerns to the principal
- engage emergency procedures if necessary
If you believe that you are dealing with a serious hazard to health and safety that necessitates a work refusal, there are legal steps under the Occupational Health and Safety Act which must be followed.
Please see the steps outlined by the Ministry of Labour in the attached flow chart.
Be in contact with your local Executive Officer as well for support.