Frequently Asked OH&S Questions

Frequently Asked OH&S Questions

How do I have a voice in health and safety in my workplace?

If your workplace has between 5 and 20 employees, you can talk to (or become) your Safety Representative. An employee who is a Safety Representative is entitled to such reasonable time off from work as is necessary to carry out the employee’s functions as a representative, and such time off is deemed to be work time for which the employee shall be paid by the employer at their regular rate.

For further information, refer to Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health & Safety Act.

If your workplace has 20 or more employees, you can talk to, or become, a representative of your Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC). Every workplace with 20 or more employees must have a JOHSC. This committee must be comprised of at least 50 per cent employees. It is required by provincial law to meet on a monthly basis unless all parties agree that this is unnecessary.

How do I volunteer to be on my JOHSC?

By law, a Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC) must exist in every workplace with 20 or more employees. Check to see if you have a health and safety bulletin board in your workplace. There should be a list there of who is on your JOHSC. If you do not see a health and safety bulletin board, ask your co-workers if they know who sits on the committee or if they know your workplace union steward. If they don’t know, contact us at 424-4063, 1-877-556-7438 or

When can I exercise my right to refuse?

Any employee may refuse to do any act where she/he has reasonable grounds for believing that the act is likely to endanger the employee’s health or safety or the health or safety of any other person.

How do I exercise my right to refuse?

You must follow a set procedure. You must first notify your direct supervisor, and he or she must allow you to give them a tour of your specific workplace while you outline your concerns. Your supervisor should then work to address your concerns or provide you with the equipment you feel you need.

If you’re unsatisfied with your supervisor’s response, you can then stop working. But you must also notify your workplace Safety Representative or a member of your workplace’s Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee (JOHSC). If your representative or the JOHSC doesn’t deal satisfactorily with your concerns, you can then notify the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

If you do refuse to work at your normal job, your employer has the right to reassign you to other work (so long as it doesn’t violate your collective agreement). You will be paid as though you were working your normal job. Even if you’re not reassigned, you will still be paid as though you were working your normal job.

When should I return to work?

You should not return to work until:

  • The employer has taken remedial action to your satisfaction;
  • The committee, if any, has investigated the matter and unanimously advised you to return to work; or
  • An officer from the Department of Labour has investigated the matter and has advised you to return to work.

How has NSGEU made a difference in Health & Safety in the workplace?

In 2006, NSGEU helped form the Coalition Against Violence in the Workplace with the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees to bring an end to workplace violence. We were successful in convincing government to enact the Violence in the Workplace Regulations in April 2007.