Filing an occupational health and safety complaint


Complaint: reporting something unhealthy or unsafe at school
Compliant: following all Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws and rules
Order: actions needed to make a work site compliant with OHS laws and rules


Do I file a complaint? Or do I report unsafe work?

Filing a complaint differs from reporting unsafe work.
Filing a complaint is a formal process. A complaint results in a government investigation of workplace hazards. Filing a complaint means you are reporting unhealthy or unsafe hazards to Alberta OHS.
Reporting unsafe work is a school-based process. Alert your principal to unsafe or harmful hazards at school without delay.

For further advice, call the OHS Contact Centre:
780-415-8690 (in Edmonton)
1-866-415-8690 (toll free)

How to file a complaint

Step 1: Know the facts

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What is the complaint about?
  • What is the unhealthy or unsafe condition at the workplace?
  • What is being done wrong?
  • What procedures are in place to deal with the issue?
  • Is the complaint about a work process? Or is it about an incident?

Before you call OHS, consider the following:

  • Did you report the unsafe work to your supervisor? What was the response?
  • Did the school’s health and safety committee review the unhealthy or unsafe condition? What was the response?

Step 2: Hazard assessments

Review the site-specific hazard assessment for your school. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the hazard assessment speak to the health or safety issue related to your complaint? If not, why not? Suggest that your supervisor discuss the issue with the health and safety committee.
  • Can the school remove or control the hazard?
  • What controls limit the hazard you identified?
  • Who created and reviewed the school’s hazard assessment?
  • Were workers told how they must do their work in a healthy and safe way?
  • Does your employer check that work happens in healthy and safe ways?
  • Does the hazard assessment include your complaint? Why or why not?

Step 3: Internal responsibility system

OHS laws are based on the internal responsibility system (IRS). IRS outlines all parties’ responsibilities under the law. These parties are as follows:

  • School divisions (employers)
  • Principals (supervisors)
  • Teachers (workers) and other workers in the school

The OHS law outlines workers’ rights:

  • The right to know
  • The right to help create hazard assessments and contribute to OHS efforts
  • The right to refuse unsafe work

To decide if IRS is in use at your school, consider the following:

  • A teacher or other worker suggests that the health and safety committee consider a hazard. What happens next?
  • Does the committee log the suggestion? If so, where?
  • Does the committee discuss the suggestion?
  • Does the committee reply to the suggestion?
  • Is a hazard assessment done?
  • How is the reply or the assessment shared with all workers at the school?

Step 4: Filing a complaint

Sometimes OHS concerns are not resolved at the school level. Workers can choose to file a complaint with OHS in one of two ways:

  • For urgent or emergency situations, call the OHS Contact Centre at 780-415-8690 (in Edmonton) or 1-866-415-8690 (toll free).
  • For nonemergency situations, use the Government of Alberta’s online report form.

You will be asked pre-screening questions, including

  • Is this complaint about immediate harm or injury?
  • If the complaint is about refusing dangerous work, are you currently at the work site? Is this happening right now?
  • Are you reporting bullying or harassment? Talk to your supervisor or union before filing an OHS complaint.

OHS accepts anonymous complaints on the proper form.

Complaints sent in under your name need a MyAlberta Digital ID account. OHS will ask for the following:

  • Name and contact details
  • School division
  • School address
  • Complaint details
  • Declarations

Expect a response from OHS about 10 days after filing. If your complaint involves immediate danger, OHS will respond within two hours.

Step 5: Inspection of complaint and reporting of results

OHS may contact your school for information before staring the investigation.

Representatives from the school division and school workers will join the OHS officer for the inspection. Union representatives may also attend.

The inspection will include a walk-through of the school. The OHS officer will decide if the school is following the OHS laws and rules. The OHS officer may talk to workers, take photos, inspect equipment or look at records.

The OHS officer will then write a contact report. The report communicates all findings and any orders made to the school.