Workers are entitled to a safe workplace under current state and federal regulations. Employers are obligated to provide safe working conditions for their employees, and if they do not, workers can report any violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In some circumstances, when conditions are particularly unsafe, workers can refuse to work. Below are some OSHA guidelines for workers struggling to carry out their duties in dangerous workplace environments.
In cases where the unsafe conditions jeopardize the workers' lives or places them in imminent danger, these dangerous conditions should be reported to OSHA. Workers are within their rights to refuse to work when:
-- Someone could reasonably and in good faith believe that workplace conditions pose a substantial and immediate risk of causing workers serious physical injuries or death.
-- The company refuses to fix the dangerous conditions.
-- The immediate danger does not provide sufficient time to make a report to OSHA or other appropriate state agencies.
-- Workers had no reasonable alternatives.
The refusal to work can last until the employer removes or corrects the dangers or conducts an investigation that determines no imminent dangers exist.
When dangerous conditions exist that do not create risks of imminent danger, workers should detail the problems to their employers in writing. If the company does not correct these conditions, workers can then make a complaint to OSHA or another state occupational safety agency.
Under OSHA (and often state laws) retaliatory actions against workers who report safety violations are strictly prohibited. Companies can't fire, demote, or dock the pay of workers who file complaints regarding unsafe working conditions. If OSHA determines that an employer retaliated against employees for reporting, they can be ordered to reinstate the workers to their former positions and order them to be compensated for any lost wages.
Our firm's attorneys routinely handle cases involving unsafe working conditions for our clients. If you would like to discuss your case with an attorney, give us a call today.