Priority rights in occupational health and safety in pandemic times

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The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted gaps in Canada’s workers’ health and safety regimes. Certain sectors more exposed to the dangers of contamination, particularly in the health care sector and other sectors deemed essential, have had to contend with challenges related to a lack of protective equipment. This reality has led to repeated violations of the regulatory framework for occupational health and safety governing the prevention of occupational injuries.

In this video, Professor Katherine Lippel, Full Professor at the Faculty of Law and holder of the Distinguished Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety Law, outlines the weaknesses demonstrated by the Quebec regime for the prevention of work accidents and occupational diseases in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Lippel makes observations on the effectiveness of the prevention regime in place for workers in Quebec, with specific regard to the most vulnerable groups of workers such as those assigned to a client company by a temporary work agency. She outlines the legal challenges that employees and employers may face in the event of coronavirus contamination in the workplace.

The current crisis is forcing policymakers as well as employers and unions to rethink occupational health and safety policies to ensure that the workers who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 can return to work in a healthy and safe environment.

In this regard, the desire of the main union and employer representatives to unite their voices around the Charter of commitment to combat the coronavirus in the workplace (created by CNESST (Committee on Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work) signals a move towards a social dialogue aimed at identifying and implementing lasting solutions to these issues that affect thousands of workers.

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