opinions wanted:re workplace refusal

This concerns Ontario, Canada so other jurisdicitons your mileage may vary as usual.

Due to the recent cold snap that we have been having , I was thinking that this would be a real bad time for the fire alarm to go off and having to stand around in sub arctic weather conditions for the fire department to allow us to return if its a false alarm or worse.

The company that I work for has a fire plan that they regularly update , make people aware of, conduct drills for evacuation and so forth and this is a good thing.

The way its supposed to work is that we get a briefing when we first start with the company and then refresher briefings every quarter or so , to reinforce and apply new updates.

The fire alarm sounds , and everyone makes their way to the nearest exit to what I would call “relative safety” in that fire and smoke inhalation are now not a prime concern. Line leaders will do a head count and report to lead hands , who then report to supervisors , who do a separate head count. This is so that no fireman is put at risk searching for someone who is already outside and or accounted for in other ways.

Basically the building should be empty at this point while waiting for the responders to show up and assume local authority.

All of the above is a good thing and I heartily endorse it.

Some one else posted a thread a few weeks ago that touched on this , but it now seems to be standard for some jurisdictions to scramble a bus or a coach for people to wait in relative comfort while the situation is being attended. The OPP I believe did just this , when we had a big snow storm recently having stranded something like 200 cars.
Can someone spot a logic error in the next part however.

Its a freezing cold day and we get evac’ed , the fire guys show up and there is a waiting period between the all clear <> its a fire , go home and I am outside wearing practically nothing and at risk of getting hypothermia.

Should i leave the area , minimum I am looking at is getting written up for going to my car and waiting for the all clear, just to be clear this is after the census has taken place and not the first five or ten minutes getting everyone sorted.

Management has effectively said to me that they expect some sort of outside agency to deal with us, which would be fine , if they added the time frame for how soon those folks would get to us and what that exactly entails.

Thats the problem in a nut shell.

Now being a sort of locker room lawyer , I am of the opinion that we do have an option that effectively blocks the HR folks from putting nasty letters in our files or worse, this is your job to shoot down that fallacy if it needs.

At any point in the working day , I dont have a defined workplace. If the company tells me to go do this , I do it. Shift me to another job , I do that. As long as I am on company property and getting paid , then I am under the care and control of the company and subject to regulations in the employee hand book. If no one has a problem with that definition of workplace ,then we can move on.**

I work for a fairly large corparation that has HR policys up the ying yang , amongst these are safety meetings reinforcing various things that we know from whimis, to work place safety, and some new ones regarding nerfing the workplace against language , discriminatin and so forth. It keeps the company in compliance with the WSIB , the ontario version of OSHA and any other ministry that puts out workplace regulations.

Now the one that I like for this application of locker room lawyering , is the right to refuse unsafe work. To put it simply , if you are assigned to a work place that you feel is unsafe , its your right to refuse. This sets in train a process where a supervisor is called in, he or she hears the reasoning and then directs the appropriate response and can take only a few minutes or have the area shut down and qurantined if its hazardous. If all reasonable measures have been taken and the employee still feels unsafe, someone from the ministry can be called in and if (s)he believes that the company has taken appropriate steps , the employee can be fined.

Does it sound right, that if in the aftermath of a evacuation that I can refuse to “work” citing unsafe conditions (hypothermia etc) and wheres my PPE for these condtions.**

If someone can spot a flaw in that train of thought ,sing out . I expect to be taking this up with company officials in addressing this lack of foresight.


I think you’re being a bit melodramatic here. Unless you are working in shorts and a tank top, the actual risk of hypothermia is very low. Cold? Yeah, probably, but its more important that you are near if someone wonders if Declan is still in the building. If the plan is to release the workers or send them back within say 30 minutes or so, I don’t see any problem with the plan.

If they set a time frame (which they cant since its up to the fire department to declare it safe, not management) ya we probably could stand around getting all nipply , but during the winter all ontarians will find themselves at work during cold snaps, and their attire will vary.

The weather people will give out cold weather advisorys stating exposure in minutes and our work place ppe is dependent on eye , ear, feet and not clothing beyond no baggys and jewelry. So tanks are quite possible. Its indoor work and temp controlled in winter with average temps of 65 to 70 degrees.

And I mentioned in the op, this is the period after the census has been taken and before the building is declared safe to enter, should I re-enter the building for some reason before the all clear , I am gonna be terminated with extreme predudice and probably fined by the fire department for pulling a stunt like that.


Hmmm… gross misconduct? Reckless endangerment of others? Your ass should be fired so quickly it doesn’t hit the ground.

You should absolutely not leave the area. I was a fire warden - someone who made sure everyone got evacuated - at a previous job. On one of the training courses I attended, we were told a story showing that actions such as you are proposing resulted in the death of a fireman. Someone will say, “Hey, where’s Declan?” and they’ll do another count and discover you are missing, and the firemen will go back into the burning building to search for you.

If it’s freezing cold outside, pick up your coat on the way out.

Our Fire Drills usually consist of lining up in the hallway near the stairwells, where they count us. I always grab my purse as part of my personal drill. (Here in Houston, freezing weather is not a problem.) If there were a real fire I’d hate to be hustled outside while my keys & money burned up. Or–as has happened–everybody was let off early while the firefighters snuffed out a very minor problem. (I was off that day & missed the excitement.)

When there’s a Fire Drill, pretend it’s a real fire. Grab your coat on the way out of the office.

I sympathize with the OP. Having to stand outside in the bitter cold with no coat may not be life-threatening but it sure is miserable and a shitty way to be treated. I wouldn’t take the ‘unsafe workplace’ angle though since that will just put them on the defensive.

For what it’s worth, I once worked in a large office building in downtown Toronto and we were criticized by the Fire department for taking too long to evacuate the building due to everyone stopping to grab their coat. We were specifically told not to do that in the future. Of course, in reality many people (myself included) took a ‘fuck that’ attitude and grabbed our coats on cold days anyway.

If I could grab the jacket I probably would and concoct some story for being near the change rooms, but most likely your exiting via the nearest exit.

Funny enough when it happened on dayshift the only people that managed protection from the elements were the office people who grabbed thier coats on the way out.


yeah, those nasty office people, whose coats just happen to be with them: in their office. :rolleyes:

It stupid not to let all the employees take their coats to their stations if they want to hold a drill during cold weather. I learned employers will put the employees in danger and you need to take your own health as a priority. You can fight it out with the employer later. I would not freeze to death because of a fire drill. I’ve seen somebody have lung damage because the employer didn’t give them permission to leave their station. Everybody else left the room. I also went home and changed on the employer’s time, when the unwarranted job conditions left everyone in my department soaked with 6 hours to work. Talk to the management about solutions the employees think would help.

My guess is that a company in Ontario is not stupid enough to schedule a DRILL when there is a frostbite or hypothermia risk. Here in Minnesota our drills are always in the Spring/Summer/Fall and never in the rain - its like there might actually be a policy about when its appropriate to put your workers out in the elements without their coats! If such a policy exists, your concern is moot. If its not a safety issue (frostbite or hypothermia) and you are just uncomfortable, suck it up.

Who’s doing the head counts for your group and do they have a clipboard? We were once evacuated for half a day for a bomb threat, and you’d better believe we had people going to Starbucks or going to lunch early. It just had to be cleared with the floor warden for your group and written on the evacuation clipboard. That way you were properly counted and your location was known.

The floor wardens are also responsible for calling anyone who’s out in the field so that they don’t accidentally enter the evacuated building, and for checking the signout board to see who’s out sick or on vacation.

If the company is likely to have drills or false alarms during really cold weather, having a safety stash of blankets near the evacuation meeting spot might be a good idea. On a personal level, employees can keep blankets or extra coats in their cars. You’d still have to go get them, but you wouldn’t be gone so long.

Add a folding chair and a novel, and you’d be the envy of the evacuation.

Bolding added by me.

Dangerosa, yours and the post above mentioned “Fire drill” , I did’nt. I was posting about an evacuation cause unknown, during a coldsnap.

For the record though, the company has canceled drills if the temperature is inclement.


Yeah sucks to be us I tell ya. They really oughta know better by now but when they preach about the closest exit , ya think they would practice it.


I’d be with you on going to your car during a drill during a cold snap – there’s not enough value in a drill to make it worth freezing your ass off for. But during an actual evacuation where your desire to keep warm means some firefighter might have to search a burning building for you? Be a little less self-involved, get up close and personal with your co-workers for warmth and grow up.

Thanks Jacquilynne, but I am gonna chalk this opinion on the useless side for no redeeming value, but ya get what ya pay for.

If it were an actual fire , then it would be a lot easier but not desirable as we would be released to go home within about ten minutes , the minute the sprinklers come on , the water damage alone is expected to take between three and five days and the assembly lines are required to be recertified by the auto companies.

You and several other posters have seemed to opine that a single worker by himself or herself could cause a firefighter to lose his life because of , well let Quartz say it again

Well Mr Fire Marshall of some company that would do this , how would you react if your whole shift did this, this is what I am shooting for , not an individual.

The company has a fireplan shortfall that I intend for them to rectify before the next event , and not during the actual event. What they require is incentive, and thats why I am asking opinions on is there a flaw in the arguement.


I don’t get it Declan, if the census has been taken then why not go to starbucks for a coffee, or sit in your car or whatever? The head count ensures that everyone is out of the building and that’s it. Observations like ’ I counted Declan, but now I don’t see him - let’s go back in and look for him!’ don’t sound realistic. In the chaos of a real fire the simplest and most effective way of accounting for people is to take a head count. Getting them to line up in drill formation outside the building doesn’t seem possible.

Is that what your company proposes?

I am a fire warden for my building, and need to report to the guy in charge that my area of the building is empty of people. We don’t actually take any head count, we do it from the other way and ensure that the building is empty. Then everyone goes to the coffee shop.

If the building was on a street then something else would be in order ,but the building is rectangular in shape and inset inside a property with a parking lot for about 350 cars, well off the access road so they have the space for the herding.

Yes, but the word proposes might make it seem like the plan is being put together and not in actual fact. Their view on first blush is relatively straight forward, the alarm sounds and we get out of the building in the quickest time, at the nearest exit and evac to “relative” safety. Where I disagree with them, is a short window of time, during the year.

Thats pretty much the way we do it as well except for going to the coffee shop, when someone mentions fire in an industrial facility , it runs the gamut from 3 alarm blaze to a localized area of the factory that could have a fire that someone has deemed to be out of control and pulls the alarm thing.

If its the latter , the fire department can put out the fire and management can qurantine the fire zone and re deploy people to other areas of the factory and they may at most lose about two hours worth of production.

So while the fire guys do their thing , we are under the care and control of the company still until they release us or the fire department allows re-entry and if that means standing around huddling in groups while that happens , then thats what we do. I would imagine that for the company to allow people to leave the property more chaos for them would ensue.