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Can I refuse to work in unsafe conditions?

It may seem like the everyman worker is the one who carries all the risk and the least reward in the day-in, day-out bustle of business, and that is often the case. However, the law is quite clear that workers are entitled to a safe workplace and can demand safe working conditions if they are not present. In certain case, a worker has the power of the law on their side to refuse to work if conditions meet a grievous enough standard.

First, let's be clear — if you believe that unsafe work conditions threaten your life, you should absolutely take all necessary steps to protect yourself from a fatal injury, and should not worry about retaliations from an employer for refusing to work in life-threatening conditions. Of course, there may be certain jobs that imply a certain degree of danger by nature of the job (such as firefighting), but that notwithstanding, you have the right to be safe at work.

You are empowered by the authority of OSHA to refuse to work if there is a safety hazard presenting an imminent threat of serious injury or death, provided that there is not a safe alternative way to accomplish your work, and that the employer either refuses to fix the hazard or does not have enough time to fix it before work is to begin. You are also allowed to refuse to return to work until the employer has either mended the issue or completed an investigation that positively determines that the risk was been eliminated.

Workers' rights are a foundational part of how our country works, and should be taken seriously, even in times when jobs are not as abundant. If you believe that you have been the victim of a workers' rights violation, you deserve to have your case heard fairly to determine if you may be a candidate for a workers' rights violation claim. With the guidance of an experienced attorney, you can explore your options and ensure that your rights are protected.

Source: FindLaw, "Protecting Yourself from Unsafe Working Conditions," accessed Dec. 01, 2016

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