Ask Jean

Dear Jean, what should I do if I have an accident at work?

While members who do certain jobs think about the potential for workplace accidents every day, you don’t have to be scaling a transmitter tower or report from a war zone to be at risk. Examples of workplace accidents could include leaning back in your chair and having it break under you, slipping and falling, or getting your hand caught in an automatic door. If you have an accident of any sort at work, you should report it immediately to your manager, who will bring it to your local Health and Safety Committee. Workplace Health and Safety Committees are joint union-management committees mandated by the federal and provincial labour codes. Your committee will carry out an investigation. The goal is to see if there are underlying problems that led to your accident that need to be fixed so that it doesn’t happen again.

What rights do I have if I am being asked to work in unsafe conditions?
If you are being asked to work in unsafe conditions, you have the right to refuse to work. You should first tell your manager that you think what is being asked of you is unsafe. If your manager does not respond to your concerns appropriately, do not put yourself at risk. Contact your union right away.

What else does the workplace Health and Safety Committee do?
Your workplace Health and Safety Committee’s primary job is not actually responding to accident reports. Most of their work is proactive. They’re the people that develop fire safety plans and make sure that the air quality in your building is decent. They also periodically inspect the workplace to make sure everything is kept as safe as possible. These committees have been instrumental in getting members appropriate protective clothing for winter work. At the Vancouver CBC building, they teamed up with EAP to get an exercise room up and running in the building. They aren’t the most glamorous of committees, but the work they do is both important and concrete. And most of the time, they are looking for more volunteers. If you’re interested in helping out with this kind of work, let someone from your local executive know. They’ll be happy to put you in touch with your committee.

Jean Broughton is the Guild’s union services co-ordinator. You can get in touch with her at or by calling 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.

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