Health, Safety & the Environment

Health, Safety & the Environment

Unifor on Health, Safety and the Environment: Unions historically spoke of three fundamental workers’ rights in health and safety:

  • the right to know about workplace hazards and obtain information and training;
  • the right to refuse (in some cases to shut down) unsafe work;
  • the right to participate in decision making about health and safety through Joint Committees.


The right to participate is very important to us and forms the centrepiece of an effective workplace health and safety program. In some ways, the other two “rights” flow from this one. The Unifor’s predecessor unions fought for Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) so that those with the most knowledge of the hazards and who are directly exposed to the risks – the workers – would have a voice in health and safety conditions at work. Our objective is to empower our members.

In addition, Unifor worked for better legislation and regulation. To back up joint workplace approaches, good regulations and good enforcement are necessary. It is not a question of one approach being better than the other. Without a workplace consensus on the need for occupational health and safety excellence, there will never be enough regulation and enforcement to make a difference. Without the laws, however, there is no way to deal with those employers who are unwilling to make a joint approach work.

In recent years, environmental issues have been included with occupational health and safety. We have a responsibility to protect our members’ health, however it is being affected. Not only are the same substances and processes often involved, but our experience in fighting for occupational health and safety can be instructive in the fight to save the environment.

Saving Ourselves

Health, Safety and Environmental Assistance and Services.
The following assistance and services are available from the Unifor. Some of these are available through our Regional Offices; others are available through the Unifor National Office. In every case, your first step is to contact the National Representative servicing your local union. They will direct your request or inquiry to the appropriate place.

  • POLICIES – at Unifor Constitutional Conventions, or between conventions by the Unifor National Executive Board, policies are set on many topics including health, safety and the environment.
  • EDUCATION AND TRAINING – a variety of programs are available regionally and nationally, provided by the Unifor or by organizations with which we are affiliated. Some, but not all of these, are listed in the Unifor National Education Programme Calendar or in publications of the Unifor Health, Safety and Industrial Relations Training Fund. Contact your National Representative.
  • INFORMATION, INQUIRIES AND RESEARCH – the National Office (and some Regional Offices) maintains or has access to extensive information on hazards, controls, scientific studies, toxicology, occupational hygiene. Let us know, and we will try to answer your questions.
  • PUBLICATIONS – “The Guardian”/”Le Phare” is published approximately eight times per year. For additions or corrections to the mailing list, contact the National Office.
  • COLLECTIVE BARGAINING – your National Representative can assist you in bargaining appropriate language on health, safety or environmental matters in your collective agreement, guided by Unifor policies and your specific local needs.
  • SERVICE AND ADVOCACY – sometimes, specific situations call for direct assistance or representations. Again, your National Representative is the first person to contact.
  • LEGISLATION – the Unifor is always in the forefront of fights to improve legislation, regulation and enforcement. Sometimes this involves meetings with government representatives; sometimes it requires public demonstrations. You can help us by keeping Unifor informed about issues affecting your workplace.
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