Working in the 5th Wave of the Pandemic: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Your OHS Rights

Dear member,

This wave of the pandemic is presenting different health & safety challenges than previous waves due to the highly contagious nature of the Omicron variant. Health & safety protocols and equipment depend on where you work and how you interact with people. Where you interact with people in a vehicle or building and cannot maintain physical distancing, a well-fitted, 3-ply (or N95) mask is recommended by public health. We are advocating for these masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on behalf of members when needed. Please let us know if your employer is not providing you with appropriate PPE.

We are also advising you that you have the right to refuse if you are asked to work in an unsafe manner under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. 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

The right to refuse is an individual right, for you as the individual to exercise. Our role is to try and educate you on the process and support you should you choose to utilize this right. If you are interested in further information on the right to refuse process, please see:

If you have any questions about your right to refuse, we have an Occupational Health & Safety Officer who can help answer them and support you through the right to refuse process. Please contact the NSGEU at or call 902-424-4063 (877-556-7438 toll-free).

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