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Workplace health and safety

Both the federal and provincial/territorial governments take health and safety very seriously when it comes to the workplace.

Accordingly, both the federal and provincial/territorial governments have passed legislation that specifically deals with health and safety in the workplace. Such legislation spells out the duties of employers and employees to make sure the workplace is a safe place for everyone.

Federal health and safety legislation

Federally regulated employees fall under the Canadian Labour Code.  The code confers a number of rights and obligations on employers and employees.

The employee has the duty to play a part in preventing accidents at work as well as work-related diseases. However, the employee also has rights related to his or her safety, which are: the right to know, participate, and refuse.

The employer has responsibilities as well. He or she has responsibility to train you to do the job properly keeping in mind your safety and health, as well as the safety and health of other employees. Their duty is to train, supervise and give you the information you need to be safe at work.

Provincial health and safety legislation

Every province and territory also has their own health and safety legislation in place, which imposes rights and obligations on employees and employers when it comes to safety and health.

Though legislation is similar from province/territory to province/territory it’s not the same and you need to consult the legislation of your own province/territory for more information.

Here are a few examples of such legislation:


Ontario has the Occupational Health and Safety Act in place.

The act outlines that all workplace parties have a responsibility for promoting health and safety in the workplace and a role to play to help the workplace be in compliance with the statutory requirements set out under the act.

The act also created mechanism to deal with workplace hazards and how the law is to be enforced if compliance wasn’t voluntarily achieved in the workplace.

Just as in the Canadian Labour Code, the act sets out a worker`s right to refuse to work if the worker feels he or she is not safe.

The province has also created a strategy to help enforce health at safety at work through their Safe at Work Ontario program. The program includes, among other things, conducting proactive safety blitzes and initiatives. In other words, the ministry ensures that employers are complying with the OHSA, as well as the Employment Standards Act during these inspections.


Alberta has its own Occupational Health and Safety Act in place.

OHS enforces compliance with provincial legislation through education, work site inspections, and other enforcement measures.

The OHS in Alberta is enforced by:

  • Conducting inspections
  • Issuing orders
  • Writing tickets
  • Issuing administrative penalties

Certain workers do not fall under the OHS:

  • The owner of a farm or ranch operation and their family members, unpaid workers such as relatives, neighbours and children doing chores or participating in 4-H;
  • Domestic workers;
  • Federal government employees;
  • Workers in federally regulated industries such as banking and aviation.

Exceptions of which workers are and aren’t included under occupational health and safety acts of the individual provinces and territories are similar to that of Alberta but to find out whether you are included under that exception, you should consult the act of your province/territory.

If you are having issues regards health and safety at your workplace consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Workplace Safety Government of Canada

Occupational Health and Safety Act of Alberta