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Federal work refusals now require “imminent or serious threat”

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Federal employers have a new definition of “danger” to apply, and an updated work refusal process to use, effective October 31, 2014.

The federal government amended the definition of “danger” to, according to a government statement, “ensure that work refusals are used only when employees are facing an imminent or serious threat to their life or health.”

“Danger” is now defined as “any hazard, condition or activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered.”

The previous definition of “danger” was the somewhat-convoluted, “any existing or potential hazard or condition or any current or future activity that could reasonably be expected to cause injury or illness to a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected, or the activity altered, whether or not the injury or illness occurs immediately after the exposure to the hazard, condition or activity, and includes any exposure to a hazardous substance that is likely to result in a chronic illness, in disease or in damage to the reproductive system”.

The federal Labour Program also states, on its website,

“The refusal to work process has been amended to clarify when the employer and health and safety committee (or representative) must conduct their investigations and the Labour Program has developed a report template that can be used to record the findings. For further information, please consult Information document 4, “Right to Refuse Dangerous Work” and a series of questions and answers pertaining to the restructured process.”