#BTColumn – Dear HR. . . Can I refuse to carry out an instruction from my supervisor if I consider the task to be dangerous?

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.

by Carol-Ann Jordan and Jacqueline Belgrave

You have the right to refuse to perform a specific job or task that you believe is unsafe without being disciplined by your employer. The Employment Rights Act 2012-9 protects you from dismissal as this would be considered grounds for unfair dismissal.

You can refuse to carry out an instruction if there is sufficient evidence that your health and safety is in imminent danger – imminent danger being defined as exposure to an immediate threat of injury or death.

However, even if you think the task is dangerous and refuse to perform it when prompted, that’s not where the matter ends.

Your decision is acceptable pending discussion with the safety committee, union, staff association or labor director. If they determine that the task is safe, then you will need to complete the requested task.

Occupational safety and health is about managing risks to protect both workers and the company.

The responsibility for managing these risks rests with the employer, the occupant or owner of the premises and the employee.

An employer hires people for the purpose of practicing a trade, business, profession, office, vocation or apprenticeship. This is the person (or entity) engaging your services.

The occupant is the person who controls a workplace – the manager. In some companies, the occupant and the employer may be one and the same person.

The landlord is the person to whom the rent for the building is paid or who has the right to collect the rent.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2005 (SHAW Act), certain obligations and responsibilities fall on both the employer, occupier, owner
and employee.

General Duties and Responsibilities of the Employer/Owner/Occupant

• Guarantee, as far as possible, the health, safety and well-being at work of all employees.

• Ensure maintenance of work facilities and systems that are, as far as possible, safe and without health risks.

• The provision of information, instructions, training and supervision necessary to ensure, as far as possible, the occupational health and safety of employees.

• Provide a safe workplace to ensure the health and safety of employees.

• Provide competent and safety-conscious co-workers.

• Provide safe work systems.

General duties and responsibilities of the employee

• Take reasonable precautions for his personal health and safety and that of others who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work.

• Where a legal provision, obligation or requirement is imposed on the employer or any other person in the workplace, you must co-operate to the extent necessary to ensure that they can carry out the obligation or that he is able to
comply.

To report any violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act or any regulations made of which you become aware at work.

• To correctly use the personal protective clothing or devices made available to you and to ensure that they are maintained and stored
in the correct way as shown.

Safety consultations (dialogue)

Employers must consult employees or their representatives when developing measures to promote occupational safety and health.

They must also provide for the participation of their employees in the development and improvement of these measures.

This takes the form of safety delegates or safety committees. When the company employs 25 people or less, consultation must be facilitated by the selection and appointment by the employees of one or more safety representatives.

Where there are more than twenty-five (25) persons, a safety and health committee, consisting of an equal number of employer and employee representatives, should be established.

Offences, Penalties and Legal Proceedings

Where the owner, occupier or employee violates any provision of the SHAW Act or any related regulations, that person is guilty of an offence.

The law further states that if an offense is committed by a company with the consent or negligence of a director, director, secretary or other officer of that company, the company and the officer are both guilty of an offence.

When found guilty of the offense for contravening the Act or any related regulation, where no penalty is specifically provided, the owner or occupier is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine $500 and an additional $100 for each day the offense continues after conviction. .

However, if a person is injured, resulting in a permanent injury or dies, the owner/occupant is liable on summary conviction to a $5,000 fine or 12 months imprisonment or both.

It should be noted that occupational safety and health are indelible.

In other words, even where the owner or occupier contracts out work to undertake civil or construction work on their behalf, the owner or occupier retains responsibility for workplace safety.

About Lifeline Labor Solutions: Lifeline Labor Solutions is a boutique partnership that provides people management solutions to workplace challenges. Partners Carol-Ann Jordan and Jacqueline Belgrave are established practitioners with a wealth of knowledge and experience in labor relations, labor relations and human resource management. E-mail: [email protected]; Tel: 1(246)247-5213

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