Rights and Responsibilities


We all share the responsibility of health and safety in our workplaces to the extent of our ability and authority to affect the situation at hand.  It is spelled out in the NS Occupational Health and Safety Act and is referred to as the Internal Responsibility System (IRS).  These responsibilities provide an opportunity for everyone to contribute to a positive safety culture at StFX.  The IRS has been interpreted for the purposes of the StFX OHS Manual as follows: 


The University is responsible to:

  • ensure that all the operations of the University comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations and all orders and requirements of Occupational Health and Safety Officers of the NS Department of Labour and Advanced Education;
  • ensure that all the operations of the University adhere to the Occupational Health and Safety Policy;
  • ensure that all the operations of the University adhere to the requirements of the University’s OHS Management System;
  • ensure that there is strategic direction and planning for the University’s OHS Management System and to implement the OHS Management System;
  • integrate occupational health and safety in the University’s business;
  • allocate resources for health and safety programs and initiatives;
  • ensure that program review or audit results of the OHS Management System are reviewed and appropriate action is taken; and
  • ensure that responsibility/authority for workplace health and safety is delegated to trained and competent personnel.
Directors, Deans, Managers, Chairs And Supervisors

Directors, Deans, Managers, Chairs and Supervisors are responsible to:

  • ensure compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations within the portion of the workplace under their supervision;
  • ensure that all the operations under their supervision adhere to the OHS Policy;
  • ensure that all the operations under their supervision adhere to the requirements of the OHS Management System;
  • integrate preventive health and safety practices into all activities;
  • ensure that information and training are provided to employees to protect their health and safety;
  • communicate information concerning workplace hazards and the necessary control procedures to be practiced to employees;
  • hold employees accountable for following Safety Programs and Safe Operating Procedures (SOP);
  • supervise employees and review work processes to ensure that employees work in the manner required;
  • take action immediately upon any report or suspicion of unsafe or hazardous conditions or situations;
  • undertake workplace inspections and conduct investigations of incidents, unsafe work refusals, concerns and complaints related to observed or suspected health and safety hazards, encouraging full participation in such inspections and investigations by representatives of their area JOHS Committee;
  • cooperate with employees and the JOHS Committees to promote a healthy and safe workplace;
  • respond in writing to recommendations from a JOHS Committee, when requested, and within the deadline specified in the OHS Act;
  • cooperate with any person performing a duty under the OHS Act and regulations;
  • ensure that all orders from and requirements of OHS Officers of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education are satisfied in a timely manner and report all such activities, including progress reports, to the University OHS Office; and
  • co-operate with the staff of the University OHS Office in the evaluation of health and safety performance; and
  • provide feedback on the operation of the OHS Management System.
Employees, Including Staff, Faculty and Students

StFX Employees are responsible to:

  • work in accordance with the OHS Act and regulations;
  • adhere to the OHS Policy;
  • adhere to the requirements of the OHS Management System;
  • adhere to other policies and procedures on healthy and safe job performance;
  • ensure that work activity and behaviour do not, through act or omission, place their own health and safety, or the health and safety of others, at risk;
  • report all workplace hazards and any health and safety concerns to their immediate supervisor in a timely manner;
  • report all personal injuries or work-related illness, property or equipment damage, and near-miss incidents to their immediate supervisor in a timely manner;
  • follow Safety Programs and Safe Operating Procedures and use machinery, equipment and materials only as authorized and as trained;
  • wear personal protective equipment as required and as instructed;
  • participate, wherever possible, in defining Safety Programs and Safe Operating Procedures and in opportunities to protect and promote health and safety on the job; and
  • Co-operate with the University JOHS Committees, the University OHS Office, or any person performing a duty under the OHS Act and regulations.
Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees

A  Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC) is a collaborative employer-employee body established to work together to address health and safety issues in the workplace and is responsible to:

  • perform the functions of a joint occupational health and safety committee as defined in sections 29, 30 and 31 of the OHS Act and as required by the regulations;
  • hold regular meetings in accordance with written Terms of Reference and maintain minutes and records of committee activities;
  • work cooperatively with management and employees to identify hazards to health and safety and provide input on health and safety programs designed to respond to the hazards;
  • work cooperatively with the employer in the investigation and resolution of health and safety complaints, concerns or work refusals;
  • work cooperatively with management in undertaking inspections, inquiries, and investigations concerning health and safety;
  • participate in the yearly review of the Occupational Health and Safety Policy;
  • advise on the development, implementation, and evaluation of the OHS Management System;
  • participate in the co-operative auditing of the workplace to determine compliance with occupational health and safety requirements; and
  • Develop written recommendations to management as considered appropriate.
 Occupational Health and Safety Office

The StFX Occupational Health and Safety Office provides coordination and consultative services to the University in support of the OHS Management System, and is responsible to:

  • coordinate the yearly review of the OHS Policy;
  • coordinate the development and implementation of the OHS Management System;
  • monitor implementation of the OHS Policy and OHS Management System,
  • provide consultative support services to management and employees on matters relating to occupational health and safety;
  • provide statistical reports on University performance on key health and safety indicators;
  • monitor, evaluate and audit occupational health and safety compliance and performance with legislated standards;
  • support University initiatives to facilitate improvements in health and safety and to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses; and
  • liaise with unions, external agencies, and the Department of Labour and Advanced Education on health and safety issues.
  • provide OHS orientation and some campus-wide OHS training.


Employee Rights

The model of recognizing occupational health and safety rights focuses on the employee. Nova Scotia’s occupational health and safety legislation creates methods by which the individual employee is empowered and can exercise his or her right to take action so as to be safe and healthy in the work they do and also to protect other persons who are at the workplace.

Rights under the OHS Act include:

The right to Know about hazards, the right to participate in occupational health and safety, and the right to refuse unsafe work: The right to information on issues that affect your health and safety.

The right to Participate in occupational health and safety is done via the JOHS Committee. All employees are represented by the JOHS Committee and must have regular access to committee members. Employees also have the right to report unsafe conditions, and voice concerns or opinions on any issue that affects their health and safety or the health and safety of anyone at the workplace.

The right to Refuse unsafe or unhealthy work.

Every employee has the right to refuse to do any act which he/she believes is likely to endanger his or her health or safety or the health or safety of another person, but must follow the procedure for doing so which is set out in Section 43 of the OHS Act.

StFX University has developed a procedure for responding to employee unsafe work refusals which conforms to the three-step process required by the OHS Act. 

A refusal to undertake work believed to be unsafe will always be regarded as an urgent situation, and all involved parties must give the situation their immediate attention.

As in the case of reporting a hazard or concern, employees are to exercise their right to refuse unsafe work without fear of reprisal or discriminatory action.  Because of the potential seriousness of the situation, the employee should make sure he/she has done everything possible to eliminate or control the problem if this is possible without personal risk.  The area should be secured if possible harm might occur to others.

Step 1 - Report To A Supervisor, Manager Or Chair

The first step in exercising the right to refuse unsafe work is for the employee to report the problem to his or her immediate supervisor, manager or Chair.  The employee should remain in a safe place until the problem is eliminated or controlled to their satisfaction or until they are assigned another task.  While the investigation and any remedial actions are being carried out, the employee may be assigned to other duties.

The supervisor, manager or Chair shall investigate the refusal, make a decision, and if necessary, correct the situation or control the hazard.

The supervisor, manager or Chair’s conclusions shall be communicated to the employee who exercised the unsafe work refusal.  If the supervisor, manager or Chair concludes there is no hazard, or that the hazard is adequately controlled, an explanation must be given and the employee advised to return to work.  If the employee is satisfied that the matter has been resolved or accepts the explanation given by the supervisor or manager, then he/she should return to work and the matter is concluded.

The manager or Chair must document the resolution of the refusal to work on a Work Refusal Form.

Where an employee has exercised their right to refuse under section 43 of the OHS Act, no other employee shall be assigned to do that work unless the replacement employee has been advised of the refusal by the first employee, the reason for the refusal, and the replacement employee’s right to refuse under section 43.

Step 2 - Formal Referral To The JOHS Committee

When exercising his/her right to refuse unsafe work and the hazard or concern has not been remedied to the employee’s satisfaction following reporting the hazard or concern to the employee’s manager, or Chair, the employee shall take the next step in the unsafe work refusal process.  The JOHS Committee Co-Chairs shall initiate an immediate investigation by the Committee.

The employee who has exercised the right to refuse must be given the opportunity to accompany the area JOHS Committee on a physical inspection of the workplace for the purpose of ensuring that the investigators understand the reasons for the refusal.

The area JOHS Committee may agree with the employee who has exercised the unsafe work refusal and in such case shall make recommendations to management as to how to correct the problem.  If the JOHS Committee does not find reason to support the work refusal, it may advise the employee to return to work, but such direction must be the unanimous decision of the area JOHS Committee.

Step 3 - Formal Referral To The OHS Division, Department Of Labour And Advanced Education

If the area JOHS Committee cannot agree unanimously that the employee should return to work, or if the problem is not resolved to the employee’s satisfaction, the exercising of the right to refuse will continue.

The JOHS Committee or the employee who is not satisfied with the outcome of his/her work refusal, shall contact the Occupational Health and Safety Division (OHSD) of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education (1-800-952-2687).  An OHSD Officer will take the case on a priority basis and will investigate as soon as possible.  If the Officer finds that the task refused is unsafe, he/she will ensure that no one performs the task until appropriate action is taken to remedy the situation.  If the Officer cannot find indications that the task is unsafe, or finds that the hazard has been adequately controlled, he/she will advise the employee to return to work.  These findings will be confirmed in writing to the employee and the University.