Update: Return to School OHS Information
Thank you for the essential role you play as part of the educational team supporting students in Centres for Education across the province and in APSEA.
The Premier is opening schools on January 17th. Based on our survey with our members working in the Regional Centres for Education, we sent a letter to the Minister of Education, the Premier, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health, asking for three main things:
- Access to KN95 or N95 masks
- Contact tracing of school-based cases
- Access to rapid tests for staff and students
We have not received a response to our letter yet and school starts on Monday. We know you must be anxious. President MacLean has met with the President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) and we will be sharing any information we receive.
With Public Health’s decision to no longer undertake contact tracing in schools, families and staff will no longer receive notification of exposures when school resumes, making the possibility for increased infections more likely. (Please note – we are currently speaking out on this issue – watch for another update). We do not have information on the availability of rapid tests in your workplaces at this time. The NSTU were told that providing N95 masks are a priority for the administration and will be provided.
We do want to make sure you have the information you need to protect your safety at work. This means, if you feel like you are being asked to work in an unsafe way without appropriate PPE, you have the right to refuse under the Nova Scotia Occupational Health & Safety Act..
This is an individual act and you must follow a specific process. If you need support with this process, we are here. Your local Steward, local Health & Safety Representative, Employee Relations Officer, or the NSGEU Occupational Health & Safety Officer, Paul Cormier, can help you through the refusal process.
If you believe you are being asked to work in an unsafe way, you must take the following steps:
- The employee may cease doing the work and immediately notify their supervisor of the concern and wait to hear the supervisor’s response.
- If the employee is not satisfied with the supervisor’s response they shall refer the matter to the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC)
- If the employee is dissatisfied with the decision of the JOHSC they shall refer the matter to the Department of Labour for investigation.
The employer does not have the lawful right to end an employee’s work refusal. An employee is not required to resume doing the work they’ve deemed to be unsafe until one of three things occur:
- The employee is satisfied that changes are made which make the work safe to resume.
- The JOHSC unanimously decides the work refusal does not have merit
- The Department of Labour investigator determines the work is safe
If you are interested in further information on the right to refuse process, please see: https://novascotia.ca/lae/healthandsafety/docs/YourRightsandResp-en.pdf
Thank you again for all your work and dedication.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can call the NSGEU toll-free at 1-877-556-7438 or email at email@example.com.
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