Electrical test technicians are exposed to deadly energy sources on a daily basis. Some technicians may unwillingly perform dangerous tasks because they fear that refusing to do so will result in disciplinary action from their employer.

To help destigmatize the issue, I thought it would be helpful to discuss our right to refuse work and share some information on the issue directly from OSHA.gov

Can workers walk off the job because of unsafe conditions?

As a general rule, workers DO NOT have the right to walk off the job because of unsafe or unhealthful conditions under the OSH Act. Refusing to do a job because of potentially unsafe workplace conditions may result in disciplinary action by your employer.

If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, you should first call your employer to address the problem. You may file a complaint with OSHA if your employer does not correct the hazard or disagrees with you about the extent of the hazard.

When can workers refuse to perform a dangerous task?

You DO have the right to refuse to do a job, if you believe in “good faith” that you are exposed to an imminent danger. “Good faith” means you have reasonable grounds to believe that death or serious injury or illness might occur as a result of performing the work.

Refusing to work is protected
if all of the following conditions are met:

  • Where possible, you have 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. Your refusal cannot be a disguised attempt to harass your employer or disrupt business; and
  • A reasonable person would agree that there is a real danger of death or serious injury; and
  • There isn't enough time, due to the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.

If all of the above conditions are met
, you can take the following steps:

  • Ask your employer to correct the hazard;
  • Ask your employer for 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.

You should contact OSHA immediately
if your employer discriminates against you for refusing to perform the dangerous work.

Have you ever refused to work because conditions were too dangerous? Share your story!