Can You Refuse to Work in a Dangerous Work Environment?

By Peter DePaolis

Do you know what to do if a dangerous condition exists at your workplace? In addition to bringing the unsafe or unhealthy condition to your employer’s attention, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) advises that under some circumstances, you have a legal right to refuse to work in an environment that could cause you harm.

After reporting the condition to your employer, you can file a report with OSHA at any time. However, if the working condition is immediately hazardous, OSHA may not have enough time to investigate. According to OSHA’s website, when presented with immediate hazards on the worksite, you can refuse to do a task at work if you meet all of these conditions:

  • Where possible, you 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 is not enough time, due to the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.

OSHA further provides that if all of the above are present, you must do the following:

  • Ask your employer to correct the hazard, or to assign other work;
  • Tell your employer that you won’t perform the work unless and until the hazard is corrected; and
  • Remain at the worksite until ordered to leave by your employer.

If you abide by the above, your employer cannot retaliate against you for refusing to work. Is there a dangerous condition where you work? We are here to help. Contact our office today.

Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP

Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia Injury Attorneys

Approved by attorney Justin Beall

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.