Right to Refuse

Section 43 of Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health and Safety Act specifies an employee’s right to refuse unsafe work. An employee may refuse to do any act where they have reasonable grounds for believing that it is likely to endanger their health or safety or the health or safety of any other person.

When exercising the right to refuse, an employee shall:

(a) immediately report it to a supervisor;

(b) where the matter is not remedied to the employee’s satisfaction, report it to the committee or the representative, if any; and

(c) where the matter is not remedied to the employee’s satisfaction after the employee has reported pursuant to clauses (a) and (b), report it to the Department of Labour.

To reach the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, call (902) 424-5400 or 1-800-9LABOUR, and ask to speak to an Officer.

The employee who refused work has the right to accompany an officer assigned to inspect the work and investigate the refusal. Otherwise, while the work is being refused, the employee may be reassigned to other work at the same rate of pay. Until the matter is resolved, no other employee shall be assigned the work unless they agree to it after they are first informed of the previous refusal and the reasons for it.

Nova Scotia OH&S legislation (s43) prohibits employers (and unions) from discriminating against employees who appropriately exercise their rights under OH&S law and regulation. ‘Discriminatory action’ means an action that adversely affects an employee with respect to terms or conditions of employment or any opportunity for employment or promotion and includes dismissal, layoff, suspension, demotion, transfer of job or location, change in hours of work, coercion, intimidation, imposition of any discipline, reprimand or other penalty including reduction in wages, salary or other benefits, or the discontinuation or elimination of the job of the employee.

Additional Resources

How to Use Your Right to Refuse

Workplace Refusal Form (Please ask your employer if they have their own preferred form)

CFNU Canadian Labour Congress