Canadian Contractor

Does wearing a hard hat stop your religious freedom?

It seems so, according to many recent court cases. More and more citizens are being permitted to ditch hard hats and helmets in favour of religious headgear. Who pays when these people sustain an injury? We all do.

April 16, 2014
By Alec Caldwell
Alec Caldwell

At a construction site in Ontario recently a turban-wearing security guard said he could not trade his turban for a hard hat. Under current laws, Canada-wide, every person on a construction job site is required to wear a hard hat.

Nevertheless, more and more workers are refusing to wear hard hats for religious reasons. Faced with this situation, employers have to try and honour the term “Reasonable Accommodation.” This means they must attempt to reconcile their workers’ religious requirements with the other laws they are required to follow.

The case of the turban-wearing security guard is now before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Chances are, this person will win his case as many human rights decisions have superceded other laws in recent years.

But this was not the case as recently as 1985. That year, the Supreme Court of Canada  ruled that a Sikh railway worker was required to wear a hard hat on the job.

But since then, the legal community has taken a harder look at the real implications of exempting people from helmet or hard hat laws. A Chief Justice, in a written ruling, noted that such exemptions from hard hat laws expose workers to negligible risk, there is no cost to employers and, most importantly, no risk to anyone else except the person claiming the right to not wear the hard hat.

Many religious-freedom legal challenges to motorcycle helmet laws in British Columbia and Manitoba have been upheld – the turbans (in most cases) can stay on. Although, in Ontario, a judge recently upheld a ticket issued to a Sikh man caught riding in a turban with (obviously) no helmet. The case has now gone to appeal.

This new way is intriguing and liberating (for the complainants). Not wearing a hard hat doesn’t jeopardize anyone else’s safety. However, these individuals’ decision to seek discard hard hats will exclude them from suing anyone in the case of injuries sustained because of that decision.

But I wonder how this would play out if someone on scaffolding above accidentally dropped a brick and it fell on the head of a non hard-hat wearer!

The cost to the rest of society is another matter. The Ontario judge in the recent helmetless rider case who upheld the ticket noted that the cost of treating devastating brain injuries is enormous. So, too, is the burden on family members who lose a loved one – or have them incapacitated – due to a head injury.

It looks like society will be burdened by the debt of trying to save peoples’ lives because of preventable injuries caused by  their religious beliefs. If we were all allowed to follow our beliefs on the wearing of safety gear, our health premiums would surely increase.

CARAHS was founded as a non profit association to advocate and mentor independent self employed renovators and home services (Canadian Association of Renovators and Home Services)  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    CARAHS has over 130 online Health & Safety e-courses at

Hot Line Toll free 1-866-366-2930 members questions on WSIB, MOL and more        





Print this page



22 Comments » for Does wearing a hard hat stop your religious freedom?
  1. The question is are you willing to see your Canadian laws changed to suit every tom dick and Harey coming into Canada as immigrants, who feel it their right to our change our laws to suit these new Minority immigrents.

    The viewpoint with many Canadian it seem this is watering down thier basic rights by this new a minotity who are out for their self, regardless what your think of it as being 100% pure Canadians
    Australia recently declread if you come to their Country and if you don’t like thee laws, your are welcome to leave the country and and go back to where you came from.

    I like the Austrailian idea. WHAT ARE YOU THOUGHTS ON THIS GROWING SITUATION? and what do you 100% Canadians say:

    Here is your chane to view your true opinion. Tell us your thought here Now. Get if off your chest……..

    • Ashely Benson says:

      why don’t you go back to where your from you ignorant red neck.

    • RickSantos says:

      You are absolutely right. I like your mentality I am a 3rd Generation of Immigrant grandparents and of Mixed Heritage. What SOME of these immifgrants want is to replicate the rubbish-holes they came from.

  2. Brian says:

    Safety first. I don’t care who you are. If you don’t follow safety regulations I won’t hire you. Sue me or become a Canadian.

    • Well Said Brian. I’m a Scottish Immigrant, and a proud Canadian citizen and if I were to wear a kilt, I would not try to change the laws. Yet if I did try, I could say to the courts “that safety harness sure messes up my wee sporran and my kilt on ethnic grounds”

      Not to mention the mess I’ll be in when I’m hanging their mid air and to be honest, what a terrible sight it be for the rest on site, there I’m hanging in mid air, jewels all over the place.

      So what do all you other proud Canadian readers out there think? Its time to get the rumbles, mumbles and grown’s out. You’ll feel better.

      Tell us what you think.

  3. Joe Greps says:

    If you don’t wear a hardhat you won’t be working around me. Period.

    We drop stuff, it happens and it is damn disrespectful to other workers who really don’t need your unnecessary head injury on their conscious.

    The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is not a construction organization, has no qualification in construction safety and under no circumstances should they be permitted to dictate such policies. Regardless we all have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for all workers and this clearly includes the use of hard hats, as a supervisor you cannot and should never entertain any less.

  4. Allan Finlayson says:

    I agree with Alec. We should be following the Australian example. Religious accommodation has gone too far.

  5. Questo says:

    Joe, you seems to forget something about the human rights tribunal, it does have business everywhere, the right to accommodate. They don’t seem to target the construction sites in the issue of accommodation., because there isn’t much space into it.

    For example: The seeks with their long heir, became cops and haven’t cut that, But others, they have to cut their heir. The meaning of accommodation isn’t fair in a lot of situations, its the rabbit hole.

  6. Lyle Donaldson says:

    Before immigration is allowed would it not be prudent to have list of Canadian Laws stated and if the person immigrating does not wish to accept Canadian culture and laws than refuse them the opportunity to become Canadian Citizen. Existing Canadian Citizens should be made by the Supreme Court of Canada to sign waiver that waives the Canadian taxpayer from paying for any hospital costs associated with injuries sustained while not wearing protective headgear. Ride your motor bike without helmet but don’t expect me to pay for your health costs.

  7. Patrick Grieco says:

    Stupidity like this makes me reluctant to hire any immigrants. I don’t need to be dragged in front of the Human Rights Tribunal and explain why I’m infringing on somebody’s rights or disrespecting their religion.

    You have a choice, wear a hardhat on a construction site or go find a different job that doesn’t require protective gear.

  8. Bob2 says:

    Canada is becoming a joke, cater to everyone for everything, forget about laws that apply to everyone because the next day someone will pull some religious stunt to disobey said laws.

    I have to say that I hate hard hats but that is besides the point, the fact that people are using religion to get out of rules, policies and laws is disturbing and needs to be brought to the front pages.

  9. Questo says:

    Canada apparently became a huge rabbit hole. Or the blue pill and red pill, which one you prefer?, have you see the movie yet, about the color pill.?
    To many accommodations ends in a crash, colluding each other in a none cense avenue.

  10. Paul says:

    Well this has stirred up a little bees nest, lol.

    So to all those complaining about immigrants coming here and changing things; you all must be Native Americans. If not, your heritage is one of being an immigrant. Our laws and dress codes and lifestyles have always been influenced by other nations.
    Now dont get me wrong, I am totally in favor of the Australian solution. If you dont like it, dont chose to do it. But, as an ever increasing volume of Sihks apply for jobs, maybe some change is in order. My question is, in stead of asking to be excluded from the rules, come up with viable solutions that will work for them and within our rules and regulations.
    I think that is the reason for us all to be bitter, is that people are asking for exclusion, in stead of modification.

    • Brian says:

      Hi Paul,
      By your response, I think it’s safe to assume that you are not one who has ever been much concerned about safety code regulations, WCB, Safety inspectors or actually having employees. Much less, paying all applicable taxes as a licensed tradesman or contractor. If you have, in fact, ever had anyone under your employ I imagine it was most likely paid cash to the day workers on the corner.
      You’re a handyman, am I right?
      The rest of us, who care about the level that our country operates at and the welfare of our workforce, I strongly hope would differ.

      • Paul says:

        @ Brian, You have no clue who I am! So dont take cheap shots, and stick to the topic.
        My point was that people dont realize our country has always been influenced by immigrants. I never said to allow them to not work safe and outside our rules. I said , in short, stop asking for exclusing to the rule, and come up with a solution that works for all.
        BTW-I do pay all related expenses to operating a company, and the staff and young people Ive mentored know me as “Mr Safety”- not one lost time accident-EVER! And since 1982 Ive employeed probably well over a 100 people, full or part time, all on the books.

    • Bob2 says:

      Paul, I will be holding the gooberment accountable for any hair loss I may incur down the road due to being forced to wear a hard hat, I hope I have your support?

  11. Terry says:

    I am 3rd generation Canadian of Scottish decent, my ancestors came over here swore an oath to uphold all laws and then they helped build this beautiful country we all call home.
    Over the last few decades there has been a change, it seems that many are coming over here now only to rape this country and if we say something then its time to play the racism card . There is a big difference between the two! I wonder with this huge push on to imprison company owners if someone is killed on the job, will there be a clause in there for me to opt out of hiring someone that doesn’t have to follow the rules because of religious beliefs or will I be sued by human rights and loose everything I have worked so hard all these years for. Or will have to suck it up and hope I don’t have to go to jail.
    Hmm ! If that sounds raciest sorry ! I’m just concerned for the future of me and my family!

  12. Brian says:

    I must apologize to Paul for my blunt response to his earlier comment.
    I do believe, however, that I was being on topic.
    A building has no care or regard for the personal issues of the tradesperson or contractor constructing it but it certainly tells a lot of stories after the fact. Our character and intentionality is what that building becomes. Garbage piled in dead spaces, honeycomb concrete walls, nails protruding from floors and walls, imperfections in cabinetry not filled. We could all make a list 10 miles long.
    Every time we approach our honorable craft with petty, extraneous agendas the project fails. Sure, we’ll get our permits signed off, most of the paint and finishing looks great and we’ll probably get paid.
    We all have 3 daily considerations in what we do. Customer satisfaction, quality workmanship and making a profit. I may be old school but I firmly believe that if we take care of the first two then profit happens.
    How do my personal feelings about the way I dress, what I think others should be doing for me or my religious beliefs have any positive influence on my first 2 considerations?
    Here’s an idea. Maybe someone could come up with a CSA approved design for a hard hat shaped like a turban. 🙂

  13. Hi Brian,
    That would be a great invention and CSA approved. Now that’s accommodating and would solve the issues and all the legalities that’s been going on about this issue for years.

    Our cultures are diverse in Canada, especially around Toronto and GTA area and I believe diversity makes us even stronger.

    Now while we are at it, if the we could get an additional hard hat (CSA) approved that includes a cooling fan inside it for the summer use, that would be a best seller and everyone would gladly wear one.

    So instead of “wear your hard hat” it’ll be “where’s my hard hat I need it” lol

    I want to thank everyone here who took time out to make comment. It shows there will always be difference of opinions, but if we’;re open for discussion, things can be resolve.
    Cheers to all,

    Alec Caldwell CARAHS Founder
    Hot line 1 866 366 2930 for information on WSIB & MOL laws

    Some one could make money inventing thees two hard hats. Anyone have idea’s ?

  14. Dillon says:

    it seems people don’t realize that being a Muslim or Sikh practitioner, is not based on ethnicity, seeing as its a religion, and people saying these “immigrants” should know our laws when they come here, shows religious intolerance and misunderstanding, 90% of Muslims are not middle eastern, you have Chinese Muslims, American Muslims, and Canadian Muslims, who are there own ethnic background, besides middle-eastern. And on a further note, to refuse to hire, to fire, or to be involved in discrimination as an employer or employee, due to the fact religious accommodations is needed, is illegal. If a customer of yours, refuses to hire you for work, due to the ethnic/religious background of your employee, you cannot punish him for that, for it is illegal. But i agree, if they want to get hurt on a job site, no insurance coverage for them, and no lawsuits due to personal injury, and as an added blow, id say if you cant come in the next day after the injury, your fired haha. Also, there is a cost to employers and employees, the time it take for the ambulance to show up to get Mr. dumb-dumb his much needed brain surgery, cuts into production efficiency, unless you drag the guy a couple of yards away from the job site and resume work hehe. and im a 20 year old Canadian Atheist, so no unbiased opinion here, just a general one. And i have to wear my hardhat on a roof, whats going to drop on my head? bird excrement? but i still wear it. But seriously, they need some air flow in them things before i pass out on the job hahaha.

  15. Mel Kozun says:

    I find in interesting that there are a number of Sikh professional football players that manage to find a way to fit their turban requirements within the confines of football rules. You don’t see any refusing to wear a helmet because it interferes with their normal “street” turban. They have a way to cover their hair that doesn’t conflict with their religious beliefs ….. either that or they’ve figured out that a turban can take a back seat to getting your head demolished …..

  16. JOSH BALDWIN says:

    Shut up

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.