Definition of "Danger" - 905-1-IPG-062

Effective Date: October, 2014

1. Subject

Interpretation of the definition of "danger" as set out in subsection 122(1) Canada Labour Code , part II.

2. Issue

In 2014, Bill C-4, Economic Action Plan No. 2, amended the definition of danger. This was done to clarify and reduce the complexity of the definition. The purpose of this IPG is to provide assistance in the interpretation of the new definition and to support its consistent application.

Subsection 122(1) of the Code defines "danger" as:

"any hazard, condition or activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered."

3. Characteristics of "danger" as defined in the Code

The main components of the definition are:

3.1 Hazard/Condition/Activity

  1. "Hazard" means a source of harm or risk to an employee.
  2. "Condition" means circumstances, and in particular, those affecting the functioning or existence of something.
  3. "Activity" means the tasks directly related to the employee's duties.

3.2 Additional definitions

  1. "Reasonably expected" means:
    Does not require that the threat materialize every time the hazard, condition or activity occurs;

    It is not necessary to establish precisely the time when the threat will materialize nor does the threat need to materialize frequently;

    Only requires that a person determines in what circumstances the threat could reasonably be expected to materialize;

    There is more than one way to establish that a condition, hazard, or activity can reasonably be expected to be a threat. Evidence of actual injury in exactly the same circumstances is not required.

    Other sources of evidence include: expert opinions; opinions of ordinary witnesses having the necessary experience; and inference arising logically or reasonably from known facts.
  2. "Imminent threat" means a threat on the point of happening.
  3. "Serious threat" means a substantial threat to health or life and includes potential substantial threat.
  4. "Life or health" includes injury and illness.
  5. "Continued refusal to work" refers to the employee's continued refusal to work following the employer's decision under subsection 128(15).

4. Conclusion

Upon notification of a continued refusal to work, the Official delegated by the Minister, with the appropriate authority must assess whether a danger exists; that is, whether the hazard, condition or activity in question are reasonably considered either an imminent threat or a serious threat before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered.

All of the components of the definition of "danger", including whether there is a serious or imminent threat "before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered", will be determined on the facts of each case.

Allegations of the existence of a danger should not be based on speculation or hypothesis.

Hazards, conditions or activities that are determined to not meet the definition of danger shall be referred back to the workplace.

Brenda Baxter
Director General
Workplace Directorate
Employment and Social Development Canada – Labour Program
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