In 1970 the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was passed to prevent serious injury in the workplace. According to the OSH Act workers are entitled to working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
Unfortunately, not all employers follow safety guidelines.
In 2013 alone there were 178 fatal workplace injuries in New York. Of the 178, 30 were due to contact with objects and equipment and 12 were due to exposure of harmful substances or environments.
According to the United States Department of Labor, you have the right to refuse work if all of the following conditions are met:
- Where possible, you have asked the employer to eliminate the danger, and the employer failed to do so; and
- You refused to work in “good faith.” This means that you must genuinely believe that an imminent danger exists; and
- A reasonable person would agree that there is a real danger of death or serious injury; and
- There isn’t enough time, due to the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.
For less extreme or potential dangers, it’s key to notify a supervisor as soon as you suspect there may be an issue. If your employer retaliates against you for refusing to work or notifying them of a dangerous situation, contact OSHA immediately (Complaints of retaliation must be followed within 30 days of the issue’s occurrence.)
Source: The United States Department of Labor