Can I refuse to work under dangerous working conditions?
Under normal circumstances, your employer can initiate action against you if you refuse to work. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), if you, in good faith, believe that your workplace is putting you in the way of harm and proves to be dangerous, you may be protected from termination.
What is Imminent Danger?
An imminent danger can be defined as an immediate threat to an employee’s life or a dangerous situation that can cause serious physical damage in a short time frame. A number of serious situations have been classified by OSHA as imminently dangerous. Imminent danger includes an employee who, in ‘good faith’, believes that his or her work exposes him or her to:
- severe physical harm or the threat to life
- any toxic substance that poses a health hazard or exposes the employee to life-threatening physical or mental harm
- unnecessary and unbearable loud noises that lead to occupational deafness
Should I Immediately Refuse to Work or Quit?
In any situation, especially if you are under a contract of employment, you cannot terminate your employment, whether the situation is unsafe or not. Refusal to working can lead to disciplinary action against you or you can be fired from your job, eliminating your chances of the right to filing a valid complaint. If you believe your working conditions are putting you in ‘imminent danger’, immediately contact a St. Louis workers’ compensation lawyer.
Who Can I Contact For Help?
Your work environment, the imminent danger, and the threat surrounding it should be discussed with the right persons who can help you resolve the issue in a safe and legal manner. Contact:
- your Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer
- a union representative
- file a complaint with OSHA
What Protection Will I Get?
OSHA regulations and protection may be extended to you if your situation meets each of the following conditions:
- Your employer failed to eliminate the danger in your workplace when you asked,
- Your refusal was in ‘good faith’ (not to disrupt or cause disturbance) and you believed that you were exposed to imminent danger,
- Any reasonable person would confirm that you were exposed to imminent danger in your workplace,
- Your refusal to work was done in a situation of urgency, as there was insufficient time to correct the issue via any standard procedure (such as registering an OSHA request for inspection).