Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety has two aspects: prevention and reparation.


Prevention involves adopting measures that will reduce or eliminate the risk of work-related accidents or illnesses.

APTS resource people specialized in prevention take steps to minimize risk factors in the workplace that can lead to accidents, musculoskeletal problems, respiratory diseases, problems related to stress or violence, or communicable diseases. They support local teams to help them set up preventive measures and take appropriate action under the Act respecting occupational health and safety (LSST).

Each local executive appoints a health and safety representative. Don’t hesitate to contact this person to find out how to address health and safety problems.



If you have an accident, an illness, or a relapse (recurrence or aggravation of an employment injury), you can benefit from APTS support and information services to defend and exercise your rights and recourses under the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (LATMP). The APTS also provides advocacy/representation services before the decisional bodies of the CNESST (Québec’s Labour Standards, Pay Equity and Occupational Health and Safety Commission).

Contact your union counsellor to understand your rights and recourses under the LATMP. If necessary, she or he will refer you to APTS resource people who will help you defend your rights before the tribunal.



Protective leave or reassignment when you are pregnant 

I’m pregnant. How can I benefit from the CNESST’s For a Safe Maternity Experience program?

Follow these steps:

  1. As soon as you become pregnant, make an appointment with your attending physician or a physician of your choice.
  2. Before going to your appointment, read pages 5 and 6 of Preventive withdrawal for a pregnant or breastfeeding worker to learn about ergonomic, chemical, biological, physical and psychosocial risks. Identify any hazards in your work environment and discuss them with your physician. If you work in more than one activity centre or institution, make sure you have identified hazards in each of your work stations.
  3. If necessary, your physician will give you a “preventive withdrawal and reassignment certificate for a pregnant or breast-feeding worker” (Certificat visant le retrait préventif et l’affectation de la travailleuse enceinte ou qui allaite). For the certificate to be valid, your physician must consult the physician designated by the public health director for your region.
  4. Give the completed form to your employer, who is required by law to act on it immediately.
  5. You will be reassigned to duties that do not involve any hazards, or, if this is not possible, you will immediately stop working.

If I am reassigned to new duties, will I keep my usual salary and advantages?

You will keep all of the rights and advantages associated with your job, exactly as if you had continued to perform your work. This will be the case whether you are reassigned to other duties or are on preventive withdrawal. Among other things, you can:

  • accumulate vacation and sick days;
  • accumulate seniority and experience;
  • maintain your participation in life insurance and health insurance plans;
  • apply for any job posted;
  • obtain replacement assignments according to the availability you have indicated.

When you go back to work, your employer must reinstate you in your usual position.  Also, you can keep any assignment you had obtained before your preventive withdrawal or maternity leave if this assignment is still in effect when you go back to work.

What should I do if I’m reassigned to new duties that involve a hazard identified in the certificate?

If you are reassigned to new duties involving one or more of the hazards identified in your certificate, you should ask the CNESST to study the issue and determine whether or not the reassignment complies with your certificate.

You can choose either to continue with the reassignment or to stop working. However, your right to an income replacement indemnity will not be recognized until a decision is made about the reassignment you are contesting, and the indemnity will be given to you retroactively only if the CNESST confirms that a hazard is present at the work station to which you were assigned.

The APTS can provide you with financial assistance while your case is under review. For more information, talk to your local executive or union counsellor.

For full details, see page 30 of the CNESST brochure:  Programme Pour une maternité sans danger.

For a summary in English, see the following pamphlets:
Safe working conditions for a safe maternity experience
The safe maternity experience and indemnities


My new assignment involves new hazards. What should I do?

If you are reassigned to new duties involving new hazards that are not identified in your preventive withdrawal certificate, you must see your physician again to get a second certificate identifying these new hazards, and go through the same process to benefit from the CNESST For a Safe Maternity Experience program.

For more information, see page 14 of the brochure: Preventive withdrawal for a pregnant or breastfeeding worker.


Air quality

What are the chief symptoms associated with poor air quality?

The chief symptoms are headaches, sinus congestion, watery eyes or excessive tearing, dry throat, shortness of breath, nausea.

What are some of the causes of poor indoor air quality?

Causes include high levels of humidity and mould on ceilings and walls; inadequate room temperature and poor CO2 levels; insufficient number of air changes.

What should I do if I have reason to doubt the quality of the air in my workplace?

Talk to the occupational health and safety representative on your local APTS team to assess the situation and find out what you can do. Tell your institution’s safety officer about the problem; if there is no safety officer, tell the person responsible for occupational health and safety.

What actions does the APTS take to help address these issues?

APTS resource people specializing in occupational health and safety provide local teams with assessment tools so that they can identify symptoms associated with poor air quality. A tool to inspect work environments is also made available to identify the most likely causes of poor air quality.

For more information, see pages 11 to 17 of the brochure on this topic: Clean air is vital to our health.


Violence in the workplace

What is a micro-aggression?

A micro-aggression is any adverse event that has (or may have) affected your health or safety in performing your duties, as well as any violent incident that you witness or experience, even if the incident does not result in time off from work.

How should I respond to a micro-aggression?

Report the incident using this form provided by your employer or the ASSTSAS (the joint occupational health and safety association for the social affairs sector).

Download form

For more information, see our brochure Trivializing micro-agressions no more! and our special section on Micro-aggressions (in French).


Stress, psychological and physical distress

What causes stress?

According to the Chair in occupational health and safety management at Université Laval, the four most significant sources of stress at work are:

  1. work overload
  2. not being recognized or valued by colleagues
  3. poor or non-existent relations with supervisors
  4. not being informed and not being involved in decisions

For more information, see our brochure Psychological distress can be defused! (page 10)

What are the consequences of stress?

Stress has many consequences, including

  1. physical symptoms: abnormal blood pressure, muscular tension, stomach ulcers, cardiovascular disease
  2. psychological symptoms: anxiety, irritability, exhaustion, insomnia, memory problems, difficulty concentrating

For more information, see our brochure Psychological distress can be defused! (page 11)

How can psychological distress be defused?

Québec’s public health institute, the INSPQ, has developed a tool to assess psychosocial risks at work (Grille d’identification des risques psychosociaux au travail). The tool provides a concise evaluation of a group’s psychological health, using widely accepted indicators to determine levels of psychological risk. We think you might find it useful as a source of ideas.

The following brochures also provide valuable information:

Does my employer have an obligation to protect my psychological health?

Yes. According to Article 51 of the Act respecting occupational health and safety, your employer must take the necessary measures to protect employees’ health and ensure their safety and physical well-being.

For more information on what your employer can do to support your psychological health, see our brochure Protecting our psychological health: it’s our right.

What are musculoskeletal disorders?

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are painful conditions affecting muscles, tendons, and nerves, that can take the form of back pain, shoulder pain, tendinitis, bursitis, epicondylitis, low back sprain, or a herniated disk. You may develop a musculoskeletal disorder if you’re exposed to one of the following risk factors at work.

Ergonomic risk factors:

  • restrictive or static postures, or repetitive movements
  • a badly arranged work station
  • excessive effort

Psychosocial risk factors:

  • excessive workload
  • lack of autonomous decision-making

See our factsheet for more information.


Find out what musculoskeletal disorders are in a video featuring Claude Villeneuve, ergonomist at the CISSS de l’Outaouais  (Direction de la Santé publique(in French).



Am I “working alone”?

If you’re on your own in a setting where you can’t be seen or heard by another person, and have no way of contacting anyone, then you probably fit the definition of “working alone.” See our factsheet for more information.