After recent occupational health and safety (OHS) issues with asbestos at PDP III made headlines, and with reports of increasingly hazardous workplace conditions from our members, all while the government has announced a misguided direction to return to the office three days a week. 

No member should have to physically report to work in unsafe conditions. Therefore, it’s imperative that members understand their rights to OHS, take the actions necessary to file a complaint, and make it clear to the employer that working in increasingly unsafe conditions won’t be tolerated. 

Know your rights and responsibilities 

The Canadian Labour Code aims to ensure safe working conditions for employees by preventing workplace accidents, harassment, violence and physical or psychological injuries and illnesses. Under this legislation, you have rights (opens in new tab) and responsibilities (opens in new tab), which includes but is not limited to: 


  • Being informed of any workplace hazards; 
  • Participating in identifying and correcting work-related health and safety concerns; and 
  • Refusing unsafe work that endangers you or others. 


  • Following procedures and instructions relating to health and safety; 
  • Reporting hazards, accidents, occupational disease and/or unsafe conditions to the employer; 
  • Complying with every oral or written direction given by a health and safety officer; and 
  • Using all safety materials, equipment, devices, and clothing that are provided by the employer and intended to protect employees. 

Understanding the complaint process 

Have you encountered unsafe working conditions or believe that OHS standards are not being met? 

The steps below provide an overview of how ACFO members should proceed when their health and safety is at risk in the workplace. For a more complete guide, consult this pamphlet (opens in new tab) from the Government Labour Program on the complaint process.  

1. Report it internally and file a complaint 

The first step is to inform your immediate supervisor verbally or in writing. Be sure to document the issue and the employer’s response. 

2. Tell your OHS committee or representative 

After informing your supervisor of the safety issue, report it to your workplace health and safety committee or to the designated OHS representative. This is a very important step, especially if your supervisor has not resolved the issue. 

3. Inform your colleagues 

Employees have the right to know if there’s a health or safety issue. If the employer does not inform your colleagues of the problem, you should tell them about it to help keep them safe. 

4. Refuse dangerous work 

Under federal and some provincial labour laws, you have a right to refuse dangerous work if you have reasonable cause. If you are being asked to perform dangerous work, promptly contact your designated OHS representative and ACFO for assistance and advice to make an informed decision on your rights and obligations in exercising this right. 

5. Contact ACFO 

As your union, it’s important for us to be aware of any health and safety issues our members encounter in the workplace. As an ACFO member, you also have the option to bring your concerns to your union representative. ACFO can provide support and guidance on how to handle the situation and can escalate the matter on your behalf. 

Still not sure what to do about an OHS issue? Contact us at We’ll also be issuing a survey in the coming days with questions on OHS to understand the realities of what you’re experiencing in your workplaces.