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Right to refuse to perform a task

In some circumstances, workers may refuse to perform a task.

Unsafe work 

If a worker believes a task is unsafe for themselves or another person, they must immediately notify their superior (or a representative of the employer). They must tell them why they believe the task is unsafe. The worker has the right to refuse to perform the task. The worker must remain available at the workplace to perform other tasks.

The employer and the worker or their representative (health and safety representative, union representative or the person designated by the worker who is exercising their right of refusal) must propose measures and make corrections to resolve the problem together. If a satisfactory solution is not found, they may ask a CNESST inspector (in French only) to intervene. The inspector will determine whether or not the worker's refusal to do the task is warranted. The “Cadre d’intervention en prévention-inspection : Droit de refus” (in French only) provides a detailed description of the intervention carried out by an inspector.

In making their decision, the inspector consults the various parties, takes note of the file and consults all the information made available to them. The inspector's decision is effective immediately and must be complied with even if the employer or the worker do not agree with it. They may file an application for a review of the decision with the CNESST.

An employer may ask someone else to replace a person who refuses to perform a task when:

  • the employer and the health and safety representative believe that the refusal is not warranted 
  • the employer and the health and safety representative believe that the refusal is warranted only in the worker’s specific case

The person must be informed of the worker's refusal to perform the task and the reasons for their refusal. The person may then agree or refuse to perform the work.

Despite these rules, a person may not refuse to perform a task:

  • if their refusal would endanger the life, health or safety of other people
  • if there is a risk of destruction or serious damage to movable or immovable property or in any other case of force majeure
  • if the refusal violates their code of ethics

Laws and regulations

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