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Can I refuse to work if my job site is unsafe?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2022 | Employment Law (Employee)

Many workplaces in Hershey can present dangers, and it is up to employers to ensure their workers are kept safe from workplace hazards. For example, railings must be installed on platforms and staircases, protective clothing and hard hats must be worn when needed, and hazardous waste must be properly contained.

Still, there are times when an employer does not provide workers with the safety features they need. If this happens to you, you may wonder if you can refuse to work until the hazard is fixed.

OSHA complaints

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency tasked with ensuring workplaces are safe. If you are concerned about the safety conditions of your workplace, the first step is to discuss your concerns with your employer. Sometimes that is all it takes for the hazard to be remedied.

If that does not work, you can file a complaint with OSHA. OSHA will investigate the situation and, if necessary, may fine your employer for maintaining unsafe working conditions and order your employer to fix the situation. But you cannot walk out on your job simply because you filed an OSHA complaint.

When can you refuse to work?

If the hazard could cause you death or serious injuries and there is not enough time to notify OSHA to investigate and correct the situation, and you discussed the hazard with your employer and your employer still refused to fix it, then you have the right to refuse to work.

This refusal must be made in “good faith,” meaning you honestly think there is an imminent danger in your workplace and a reasonable person would also agree the hazard could put your life at risk or could cause serious injuries.

If you want to refuse to work, you should ask your employer to give you other work and let them know you will not perform your regular duties unless the hazard is fixed. Even if you refuse to work you should still stay on your worksite until your employer tells you to go home.

No one should have to put their health and life at risk when fixable workplace hazards arise. Some employers avoid fixing hazards, perhaps thinking they are too costly or that they are not that dangerous. You may have grounds for refusing to work, but it is important to take all the necessary steps before doing so to protect your rights as an employee.