Whether you work in an inherently dangerous industry or environment or you work in a cozy office, you have a right to refuse dangerous work. However, before you start denying your employer’s requests, it is important that you thoroughly understand this right and the responsibilities that come with evoking it.

According to the United States Department of Labor, OSHA, you have the right to refuse work if you believe that engaging in said work would pose a risk to your health or safety. However, you should always attempt to bring the condition to your employer’s attention before denying a request, as well as meet a few other conditions.

When you can refuse work

Per OSHA, you have a legal right to refuse work if the work presents a clear risk of serious physical harm or death, you filed a complaint with OSHA but the administration did not have sufficient time to inspect the danger and, when possible, you brought the condition to your employer’s attention. OSHA further outlines the conditions you must meet in order to legally refuse work without risk of repercussions:

  • Where applicable, you notified your employer of the danger and asked him or her to eliminate it and he or she failed or refused to do so
  • You genuinely believed that an imminent danger existed and made your refusal in good faith
  • Any reasonable person would also agree that the work poses a serious risk of causing bodily harm or death
  • Due to the urgency of the hazard, you did not have enough time to go through the appropriate channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection

If your situation meets the above conditions, you may be able to legally refuse work. However, you must take the appropriate steps to do so.

Legally refusing work

To legally refuse work, you must first bring the condition to your employer’s attention and ask him or her to correct it or reassign it. You must also inform your employer that you will not perform the work until he or she corrects it. Finally, you must remain at the worksite unless and until your employer orders you to leave.