The TWU, USW Local 1944 National Health and Safety Committee would like to remind members of some reasonable safeguards when entering a premise or worksite that has been flooded.
When an otherwise normal work situation is altered by an outside incident, take some time to re-examine the hazards that you think you are already familiar with. Many times they may be further worsened by that situation, in addition to the easily identifiable hazards that are newly presented. When performing your initial hazard assessment, make sure to take whatever time is reasonable to reassess what we would normally take for granted.
In the case of the recent floods, standing water may have penetrated building structures and made existing stairwells a hazard. Non-visible hazards such as mold, sewage, gas, or power may be present. Many of these hazards have, or could have significant consequences in the event of an incident. Molds and sewage have a possibility of infectious bacteria or airborne spores. Gas has possibilities of displacing oxygen or acting explosively. Power is dangerous at either small or high levels of current, and can result in anything ranging between minor heart palpitations to outright loss of life or limb.
Additionally, consider if any limitation of a pre-existing means of egress from the area where you are working may trigger a ‘confined work space’ under Code. Please also be advised that this is not a definitive list, and will be subject to change dependent on the individual circumstances surrounding your situation.
Remember that if you encounter a hazard, immediately report it to your supervisor for his or her investigation. Further confirm with your supervisor if you are appropriately trained and have the required safety equipment on hand before you commence the work. Discuss with your supervisor if an HOIR needs to be filed. If you have a disagreement with your supervisor regarding if it is safe to proceed with the work, remember also that you have the Right to Refuse unsafe work under Canada Labour Code Part II.
The right to refuse dangerous work
Any employee subject to Part II of the Code has the right to refuse dangerous work as long as they have reasonable cause to believe that it presents a danger. Specifically the Code states that an employee may refuse in the following circumstances:
- to use or operate a machine that constitutes a danger to the employee or another employee;
- to work in a place;
- to perform an activity that constitutes a danger to the employee or to another employee.
The Code contains certain exceptions regarding the right to refuse dangerous work. These exceptions include: if the refusal puts the life, health or safety of another person directly in danger; or, the danger in question is a normal condition of employment.
“The demands of the service or the importance of the job are never so great that we cannot do the job safely.”