Local 20 – Hearing & Speech Nova Scotia Right to Refuse

Dear members,

It has been brought to our attention that a number of our members working for Hearing & Speech Nova Scotia (for example, our members on the EIBI teams) have concerns about workplace safety concerns during this most recent wave of COVID-19.

Specifically, there are concerns surrounding entering a home where there are multiple people present that are not required to wear face masks themselves, whether they are HSNS clients, their caregiver, and now the potentially additional family members that are expected to remain home due to school and work closures. We have contacted your employer to flag these concerns, and to ask what members should do if they perform a point of care risk assessment and it is determined that a six-foot distance cannot be maintained or the clients/caregivers/additional family members in the household refuse to wear a mask.

We have communicated these specific concerns to your employer and are awaiting a response.

In the meantime, if you encounter a scenario as outlined above and do not feel comfortable, you do have the right to refuse unsafe work. This right is enshrined under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Right to Refuse is an individual right, for you as the individual to exercise. The union cannot tell someone to refuse, but our role is to try and educate you on the process and support you should you choose to utilize this right. If you choose to exercise this right, you must communicate to your supervisor that you believe it is dangerous to work in those conditions. You should maintain your refusal through all the steps unless additional precautionary measures are put in place

If you are interested in further information on the Right to Refuse process, please see: https://novascotia.ca/lae/healthandsafety/docs/YourRightsandResp-en.pdf

If you decide you must exercise your Right to Refuse and you would like assistance navigating this process, please contact the NSGEU’s Occupational Health & Safety Officer Paul Cormier at 902-424-4063 (toll-free 1-877-556-7438). We will be here to support you throughout this process.

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