ISSUE 2009-10: November 4, 2009

In This Issue

Refusal of Unsafe Work – H1N1


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If you have questions about the issues raised in this newsletter, or any health, safety or wellness issue, please contact Mark Grabas at 604.730.4509 or markg@bcpsea.bc.ca

Refusal of Unsafe Work – H1N1

On October 29, 2009, WorkSafeBC investigated a refusal of unsafe work based on an assertion that the potential to contract H1N1 in a classroom created an undue hazard.

This case started when two pregnant teachers walked away from their classrooms claiming it was unsafe to stay. They based their claim of unsafe work on the potential to contract H1N1 while in the classroom.

WorkSafeBC investigated the assertion of unsafe work and issued an Inspection Report on October 30, 2009. In the WorkSafeBC Inspection Report, the investigating officer came to the following conclusion (reproduced as written):

Undue Hazard

Part 1 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) defines hazard to mean ‘a thing or condition that may expose a person to a risk of injury or occupational disease.’

WorksafeBC policy item R2.2 defines states that ‘undue risk means are greater than normal probability continued exposure to the work, or working conditions, will result in injury or adverse health effect. [sic]

An undue hazard to the health and safety of the workers currently refusing unsafe work would require that there is greater than normal probability that continued exposure will result in injury or adverse health effect.Based upon the facts presented to date, no greater than normal probability of exposure has been established for either the divisions assigned to the teachers or the school in general.

Based upon the evidence available to-date, this investigation into the work refusal at Arbutus Middle School under section 3.12 has not identified an undue hazard.

The entire Inspection Report is attached to this email.

What does this mean?

In previous communications, WorkSafeBC has stated that the current H1N1 influenza is primarily a community-acquired infection and teaching staff are at no greater risk of contracting the infection than others in the community.

Consequently, based on the WorkSafeBC investigation of the refusal of unsafe work and the position stated by WorkSafeBC, it is our opinion that it will not be deemed to be unsafe for a pregnant teacher to go to work in the classroom where the potential to contract H1N1 exists.

Furthermore, it is our opinion that in the absence of any underlying medical conditions, a pregnant teacher cannot have reasonable cause to believe that to carry out her work would create an undue hazard to her health and safety based solely on the presence or potential to contract H1N1.

BC Public School Employers' Association
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