You don't want to get injured at work, so you're always careful. You follow every safety regulation. You use the right safety gear. You protect yourself at every turn.

Then, one day, your employer asks you to do something that you believe is inherently dangerous. It seems irresponsible. Your gut tells you that it's something you'd never do -- like climbing on a steep roof without fall protection gear -- if you weren't being told to do it. Do you have to follow instructions and put yourself in harm's way?

Your Rights

It's very likely that you do not have to do the job, though every case is different. If a situation is too dangerous, you have the right to refuse to do the work. There are four different criteria that must be met, which are:

  • There is no alternative course of action that is reasonable and obvious. There's no easy and safe way to accomplish the same task.
  • On good faith, you do believe that the risk to life and limb is immediate and substantial. You honestly think you could be killed or seriously injured. You're not exaggerating just to get out of the job.
  • You don't have any time to make an official report with the government, such as asking for an inspection from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Your employer is telling you to do the job right away.
  • You have notified your employer about the dangerous situation, you've explained your position and your employer refuses to do anything to fix it.

When all of this is true, you have a legal right to refuse to do the task.

Potential Compensation

If you are forced or influenced to work in unsafe conditions and you're injured as a result, make sure you know exactly what legal rights you have, which could include the right to financial compensation.