Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2019-04-26

The Limits of Voice: Are Workers Afraid to Express Their Health and Safety Rights?

Document type Article
Author Lewchuk, Wayne
Journal Osgoode Hall Law Journal
Volume 50
Date 2013-04-01
ISSN 0030-6185
Pages 789-812


This article reconsiders the shift in Canada from an exclusively government-regulated occupational health and safety system to the Internal Responsibility System (IRS). The IRS gives workers rights, or “voice,” to manage, know about, and refuse unsafe working conditions. I present new evidence that worker voice and the IRS have weakened with the decline of unions and the rise of precarious employment. Survey data are analyzed from Ontario workers who rated the likelihood that raising a health and safety concern with their current employer would negatively affect their future employment. My analysis models how workers’ sex, race, unionization, sector, and degree of employment precarity affect their probability of exercising voice. Results of a logistic regression suggest the most precariously employed are the least likely to use voice. Consequently, I argue that the IRS should be supplemented with more external oversight in sectors where employment is most insecure.