Can I refuse to work if a hazard is in the workplace?

Can you refuse to work when the safety standards set by law aren’t being met? What about if you feel your workplace is a hazardous environment?

If you’ve been hurt after a safety violation occurred, then you’re probably ready to refuse working any time something doesn’t seem safe enough. The truth is, you can file your own complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, you and do have the right to refuse work if you believe that you are being exposed to imminent danger. If you have reasonable grounds to believe you were in danger, that would hold up in court.

Refusing to work, even if it’s for a good reason, can still result in you being disciplined by your employer. It’s your job as an employee to draw attention to the problem and make sure your employer corrects it. If he or she doesn’t, that’s when you should get into contact with OSHA to complain.

You can refuse to work if all of the conditions below are met:

  • If you’ve asked your employer to correct the issue and he or she did not; and
  • If you refused to work because you genuinely thought you were in danger; and
  • That another reasonable person would also agree with you that there was a threat of injury or death; and

— That there was no time to correct the error by contacting OSHA or other channels.

Once you meet those qualifications, you can ask your employer to take steps to correct the hazard. If he or she won’t, ask to do another job that is safe. Tell your employer you won’t work unless the hazard is taken care of, and then stay at work until you’re ordered to leave.

Source: United States Department of Labor, “Refusing to Work Because Conditions are Dangerous,” accessed Oct. 08, 2015