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Understanding the right to refuse dangerous work

When you go to work in the state of California, the last thing you should ever worry about is your safety. Unfortunately, there are instances where employees encounter work situations that are so perilous that their health or life could be at risk. Should you encounter such a situation, remember that your employer cannot compel you to endanger your life by taking on an unsafe task.

According to OSHA, you can exercise your right to refuse dangerous work if certain conditions have been met. First, an employee should have informed their employer about the problem. However, the employer has not taken corrective steps to handle the issue. The worker, by refusing to do the work, must believe that imminent danger is present and that under a reasonable standard danger to the worker’s health and safety existed. Finally, the danger must be so urgent that you cannot wait for the relevant enforcement agencies to arrive and correct the issue.

Federal law protects the right of a worker to blow the whistle on work practices that are dangerous, including situations that are both immediately harmful and those that present risks but are not imminently dangerous. Per FindLaw, in the latter situations, you can provide a written statement to your employer. Should the employer not handle the condition, you can go to OSHA or a California occupational safety agency with a complaint about the situation.

These rights are meant to guard your safety in the workplace. So if you take your concerns to your employer, you should face no retaliation for doing so. If your employer does decide to retaliate against you, by demoting you, stripping you of benefits, or firing you, you may have a case of illegal retaliation.

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