Workers have the Right to Know about the dangers of our jobs, and how we are protected.
Employers must tell us about our health and safety rights. They must identify hazards at work and ensure we have the training, instruction and equipment we need to work safely.
Every workplace is potentially dangerous, and every job may expose workers to different types of hazards. It is important that we know what can hurt us, the impact on our health, and how we are protected. It is also important that we share this information with other workers.
- A hazard is something that can hurt our health
- Hazards can cause both illnesses and injuries
- Some hazards are obvious, some are not
- Some hazards can injure or make us ill right away, with others we may not know until later
A Hazard Assessment is identifying the dangers we could be exposed to while doing our jobs, and how we are protected from them.
Workers should be involved in a Hazard Assessment when we first start a job, or when the work changes. For some of us whose job tasks or locations change frequently, we may need more regular Hazard Assessments.
Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System
Some hazards are required by law to be clearly labeled so we know that they are dangerous. These include controlled substances like solvents, cleaning agents, compressed gasses, explosive or flammable materials, biohazards, and others.
WHMIS includes labels with pictograms that can warn us of hazardous materials. WHMIS also requires Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for controlled substances, which lists detailed and up-to-date hazard information, including safe handling and emergency measures. Employers are required to make applicable SDSs available to workers. You can find out more about WHMIS from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).
Note: if a chemical does not have WHMIS labeling, it could still be a health hazard. Some products available to consumers (such as household cleaners purchased from a grocery store and used in a workplace) do not require the same kind of labeling.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
A common way of protecting workers from workplace hazards is by requiring workers to wear protective equipment. Some common PPEs include hearing protection, protective gloves, goggles, hard hats, steel toed boots, masks, reflective vests and fall protection harnesses. (see PPE examples)
PPE’s can offer important protection for a worker, but should not be the only method used. Hazards should be eliminated wherever possible, or controlled in such a way that they never come in contact with the worker.
PPEs need to be the right kind of protection for the job, and they need to fit the worker properly.
You should receive safety training when you first start any job or when new work processes are introduced. This should include safe work procedures, proper (and safe) use of PPEs, and the reporting process for injuries, illnesses and Potentially Serious Incidents (PSIs). Some jobs may require specific training for things like First Aid, confined spaces, and work with certain hazardous substances.
Note: It is important that workers follow the health and safety rules of our workplace, such as wearing proper PPE, even if we think there may be a more effective way of controlling a hazard. Our HSC or H&S Rep can help make recommendations for better worker protection, and our Union (if we have one) can negotiate for better protection in our Collective Bargaining Agreement.
See more on how to protect workers: Hazard Assessment, Elimination and Control