The CSST and workers rights

By Jack Locke on February 11, 2010

One day, Bob Morgan was happily working at his baking job when he was assaulted by a co-worker. The story is eerily reminiscent of the butcher who had a mishap while grinding beef to make sausage.\
The butcher was a skilled fellow with many years experience under his belt. As he was grinding the meat he realized he had to add more spices to the mixture. As he reached high atop the shelf, the pepper fell. When he tried to catch the falling container, he accidentally backed up into the meat grinder.
After the butcher was released from hospital, the occupational safety inquiry refused to give the poor man compensation. Their rationale: A butcher should not get behind in his work.
And while the butcher story is not true, the case of Morgan is very true.
Morgan(not his real name) has just received the CSST(Commission de la Santé et de la Sécurité du Travail) decision dismissing the recognition of his complaint. This dismissal was a preliminary, procedural dismissal saying his complaint would not have a hearing on its merits.
But Morgan is not surprised.
He says he knew he was in trouble when the adjudicator took him into a separate room and told him that he should not have left the workplace upon being assaulted.
"The adjudicator, Francois Morand, told me that a worker who refuses to work because of perceived danger must remain at the worksite and call the CSST immediately," says Morgan.
"When I told him I had been assaulted and was injured, he reiterated that the responsibility of the worker is to call the CSST immediately and to stay at the workplace. This was a bad omen."
Obviously, Morgan did not do as he should have. He left the workplace and sought medical attention. What was he thinking?
Morgan has not read Morand's 13-page decision(as Morgan is not fluent in French.) Nor is he eager to read the translation which he is to receive in 3-4 weeks.
"I've seen enough mouse turds where I worked to know mouse turds when I see them," says the philosophical(and unemployed) sojourner.
Morgan has 45 days to file an appeal with the Commission des lesions professionnelles, but it sounds like an appeal is unlikely. He thinks he hasn't a scintilla of hope on appeal.
The refusal to work is a right which all worker's possess and that right is part of Quebec's Act respecting occupational health and safety:
"A worker has a right to refuse to perform particular work if he has reasonable grounds to believe that the performance of that work would expose him to danger to his health, safety or physical well-being, or would expose another person to a similar danger."
Did Morgan truly think that he would get assaulted again?
"The head injury I sustained was not what worried me most. The cook who hit me uses far more dangerous tools than their fist and I was not willing to risk a future altercation." he says. "Not only is the CSST dismissing my complaint before a hearing, they will not even consider looking at my complaint." 
In essence, the CSST is saying that assault is not an occupational danger. It's not like, for example, falling into a meat grinder.
So now, Morgan will seek other employment. He will not appeal the CSST's decision.
It's probably a smart decision, after all, a baker knows a lot about a peel.


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