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Can I refuse to work if I feel it's unsafe?

Both state and federal laws protect workers from having to work in unsafe conditions. Most notably, the Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted to set baselines laws that all employers must follow in order to maintain safe conditions in the workplace.

OSHA is designed to protect employees by ensuring employers:

  • Post safety notifications from OSHA in the workplace.
  • Keep track of their safety records, including deaths, injuries and accidental exposures.
  • Give employees the safety training necessary to do the job safely.
  • Give employees a work space that's free of anything that could cause injury or death.

So what happens if you notice a dangerous working condition where you work? Are you allowed to refuse to work if you feel you could be injured? The answer is yes if:

  • You have a reasonable belief that something in the workplace causes an immediate danger to you and your co-workers.
  • The employer won't fix the condition after you've brought it to their attention.
  • The nature of the issues doesn't allow for enough time to make a report to OSHA.
  • You have no reasonable alternative but to stop working.

You can refuse to work until your employer does something about the dangerous condition. If there isn't an immediate danger, you should go directly to your employer and report the problem in writing. If they don't respond, you can contact OSHA.

If you do get hurt at work, workers' compensation is designed to help you pay for your recovery. If your claim has been denied, an attorney may be able to help you file an appeal.

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