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Roles, rights & responsibilities

When it comes to health and safety, everyone in the workplace has distinct responsibilities. Whether you're an owner, employer, supervisor, prime contractor, or worker, you have a role to play in keeping the workplace safe. As a worker, you have rights to a safe and healthy workplace, which includes the right to refuse unsafe work.

Responsibilities for workplace health and safety

Everyone has a role to play in workplace safety. The following table shows the various role and responsibilities of all who are involved.

On a worksite, the owner is ultimately responsible for health and safety. In many cases, the owner is also in the role of employer. If you’re both the owner of the workplace and the employer, you must meet your responsibilities for both roles.

Your responsibilities

  • Maintain the premises in a way that ensures the health and safety of people working on site.
  • Disclose to employers or prime contractors the full details of any potential hazards in or around the workplace so they can be eliminated or controlled.
  • Comply with occupational health and safety requirements and orders.

Whether a business is large or small, the law requires that it be a safe and healthy place to work. If you are an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure a healthy and safe workplace.

Your responsibilities

  • Establish a valid occupational health and safety program.
  • Train your employees to do their work safely and provide proper supervision.
  • Provide supervisors with the necessary support and training to carry out health and safety responsibilities.
  • Ensure adequate first aid equipment, supplies, and trained attendants are on site to handle injuries.
  • Regularly inspect your workplace to make sure everything is working properly.
  • Fix problems reported by workers.
  • Transport injured workers to the nearest location for medical treatment.
  • Report all injuries to WorkSafeBC that required medical attention.
  • Investigate incidents where workers are injured or equipment is damaged.
  • Submit the necessary forms to WorkSafeBC.

Supervisors play a key role with very specific health and safety responsibilities that need to be understood. 

A supervisor is a person who instructs, directs, and controls workers in the performance of their duties. A supervisor can be any worker — management or staff — who meets this definition, whether or not he or she has the supervisor title. If someone in the workplace has a supervisor's responsibilities, that person is responsible for worker health and safety.

Your responsibilities

  • Ensure the health and safety of all workers under your direct supervision.
  • Know the WorkSafeBC requirements that apply to the work under your supervision and make sure those requirements are met.
  • Ensure workers under your supervision are aware of all known hazards.
  • Ensure workers under your supervision have the appropriate personal protective equipment, which is being used properly, regularly inspected, and maintained.

On a worksite, everyone has varying levels of responsibility for workplace health and safety. You should know and understand your responsibilities — and those of others. If you’re a worker, you also have three key rights.

Your rights

  • The right to know about hazards in the workplace.
  • The right to participate in health and safety activities in the workplace.
  • The right to refuse unsafe work.*

*By law, employers are prohibited from penalizing workers for raising a health and safety issue. Learn more about the actions workers can take if they feel this has occurred.

Your responsibilities

As a worker, you play an important role in making sure you — and your fellow workers — stay healthy and safe on the job. As a worker, you must:

  • Be alert to hazards. Report them immediately to your supervisor or employer.
  • Follow safe work procedures and act safely in the workplace at all times.
  • Use the protective clothing, devices, and equipment provided. Be sure to wear them properly.
  • Co-operate with joint health and safety committees, worker health and safety representatives, WorkSafeBC prevention officers, and anybody with health and safety duties.
  • Get treatment quickly should an injury happen on the job and tell the health care provider that the injury is work-related.
  • Follow the treatment advice of health care providers.
  • Return to work safely after an injury by modifying your duties and not immediately starting with your full, regular responsibilities.
  • Never work under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any other substance, or if you're overly tired.

In a workplace where there are two or more employers working at the same time, a written agreement should identify a prime contractor. If there is no written agreement, the owner is considered to be the prime contractor.

While prime contractors have overall responsibility for health and safety on a worksite, employers still retain responsibility for the health and safety of their own workers.

Your responsibilities

  • Coordinate the occupational health and safety activities of all employers, workers, and anyone else at the workplace.
  • Establish and maintain procedures to ensure occupational health and safety requirements at the workplace are followed by all parties.