Frequently asked questions

What is the role of the CNESST in Quebec?

The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST – commission on workplace standards, fairness, health and safety) has been mandated by the Quebec government to administer the occupational health and safety system. It serves as the public insurer for workers and employers, in addition to dealing with prevention.

The occupational health and safety system is the result of a broad consensus that led to a social contract between more than two million workers and their employers. Under that contract, victims of work-related injuries are compensated. Employers, meanwhile, are protected from lawsuits.

  • The CNESST provides victims of occupational injuries or diseases with financial support, as well as the medical and rehabilitation assistance they need to return to work.
  • The CNESST helps employers, who fund the plan through their premiums (contributions), to create healthier workplaces and remove occupational hazards.
  • The CNESST is responsible for enforcing the two key laws governing the rights and obligations of workers and employers with respect to occupational health and safety. These are the Act respecting occupational health and safety (LSST), in effect since 1979, and the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (LATMP), which was adopted in 1985, but whose origins date back to the early 1930s.

Do I have to register with the CNESST to be eligible for compensation?

Not in most cases. Workers in Quebec are generally insured against workplace accidents or occupational diseases, and don’t have to pay anything. However, domestics, independent operators (self-employed workers) and employers who want to receive compensation in case of accident must register with the CNESST in order to be eligible for benefits.

Can workers sue their employers following an accident?

No, to the extent that the employer is subject to the Quebec occupational health and safety system, which provides no-fault protection. This regime is advantageous to both parties:

  • The worker who has suffered the occupational injury is compensated, which ensures income protection;
  • The employer is immune from lawsuits, which ensures that its assets are protected.

Can a decision of the CNESST be challenged?

Yes, anyone (worker or employer) who believes they have been wronged by a decision of the CNESST has the right to challenge it. The process varies depending on the nature of the decision.
In most cases, the first step involves submitting a written application for review. The subject of the decision must be indicated, as well as the grounds for challenging it. This application must be submitted to the CNESST office in the region where the worker resides.

There is a 30-day time limit for submitting an application for review following receipt of a CNESST decision. However, the time limit is 10 days when the application involves a decision rendered following an inspection, or relating to a refusal of work or a refusal to re-assign a pregnant or nursing worker.

The CNESST renders a decision after giving the parties an opportunity to present their arguments. The CNESST may confirm, quash or amend a previously rendered decision. A person who believes they have been wronged by this new decision may challenge it before the Commission des lésions professionnelles (employment injury commission) within 45 days of notification.

What medical expenses are covered by the CNESST?

All medical expenses related to a work injury are covered by the CNESST. It pays for:

  • The services of a health professional (physician, dentist, optometrist);
  • Care and treatment received in a facility that is part of the Quebec health and social services network (e.g., a hospital or CLSC);
  • Drugs and other pharmaceutical products;
  • Orthotics and prosthetics;
  • Care and treatment provided in private facilities by healthcare professionals if that care or treatment is covered by the Regulation respecting medical aid and was prescribed by the attending physician (e.g., physiotherapy);
  • Technical aids and other costs provided for in the Regulation.

For more information, contact the CNESST office in your region, or see the Medical Assistance section in our Compendium of rehabilitation and compensation policies.

If I change jobs, does my new employer have access to my CNESST file?

No. You are the only person who has access to your complete CNESST file.

Even if there is a relapse, recurrence or aggravation when you are working for a different employer, only the employer you were working for when your work accident occurred has access to the file created by the CNESST regarding that specific injury. Additionally, only the health professional designated by that employer has access to the medical component of your file.

Furthermore, when a health professional designated by your employer consults your medical or rehabilitation file, the CNESST lets you know, and provides you with that person’s name and address.

If an occupational disease is related to an occupation practised for more than one employer, all the employers involved may have access to your file.

What is WHMIS?

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System is the Canadian standard for communicating information on hazardous materials. It was developed based on numerous federal and provincial laws and regulations, and is a tool for preventing occupational diseases and accidents.

WHMIS explains the role of suppliers (including importers and distributors), which is to provide material safety data sheets and labels for controlled products, whether sold or imported, that are found in Canadian workplaces. It also describes the employer’s role, which is to ensure that all controlled products used in the workplace are labelled and accompanied by a material safety data sheet that is accessible to everyone.

The employer must also develop a training and information program for employees so that everyone is aware of the dangers associated with certain hazardous materials, and the precautions to be taken when handling them. The staff at the CNESST Répertoire toxicologique can answer any questions regarding WHMIS. That service also publishes the Material Safety Data Sheet User’s Guide, which can be obtained from the CNESST office in your region, or downloaded directly from the website.