Right to Refuse Unsafe Work: Exploring Strengths & Limitations - Research Paper

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1835 Words
Date:  2023-04-06


Early in the decade, federal regulation of safety and health in the industrial work was quite limited. The only universal provision that protected workers from workplace injury was the self-help remedy. Self-help remedy was actualized through the National Labor Relations Act. A few years later, the labor-management relations Act introduced the right to act concertedly for mutual aid and protection against dangerous working conditions. The introduction of section 502, which was the last legislation, protected the employees from working in places of danger. The part protected the workers from being accused of a strike when they refuse to work under dangerous conditions. In the old times, the workers and employed were implemented by the law if they tried to resist work in protest of dangerous working places. The significant assurance that workers had was compensation. Compensation to the workers was only enacted once the worker suffered an injury. Changes in national policy and legislation occurred, which introduced the rights for an employee to refuse to work in a dangerous working place. In this article, an analysis of the effectiveness of the right to refuse unsafe work is the main focus. The right to refuse hazardous work provided to employees is meant to reduce accidents and injuries at the workplace. The method has been useful but still needs adjustments, as analyzed below, with practical examples from the courts. The paper will also provide insights into the strength and limitations of the existing occupational health and safety laws. It also illustrates what could be done to contribute further to the current laws even to make the occupational health and safety laws more attractive and inclusive.

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Legislation History

The right to refuse to work in unsafe environments was established after the failure of a proper administrative scheme on how to compensate workers. The laws that existed then required that an injured worker is paid, which was an assumption that it would prevent workplace accidents effectively. However, the legislation on safety did not administratively address directly the method of deduction that could be used when a worker or an employee is injured (Doorey, 2017). It is from the mentioned gap that there rose the need to expressly grant workers the right to refuse a dangerous job assignment, which they feared could be hazardous (Doorey, 2017). The power became active when the Secretary of Labor issued a regulation permitting all workers and employees to refuse unsafe work in a specific situation. In light of the above establishment, the scope of whether the right remains valid in preventing accidents and injuries at the workplace is determined in the following important ways.

Effectiveness of the Right of an Employee to Refuse to Work in an Unsafe Working Condition

Firstly, the right has succeeded in preventing accidents and injuries by enabling employee participation. The right imposes duties and confers powers to the employees to ensure their safety as opposed to the employers. In the initial consideration, it was the duty of the employer to ensure safety. In case they did not guarantee security, and their employee gets involved in an accident or acquires an injury, they were expected to pay for compensation. To prevent finances lost through compensation, most employers would try preventing employee accidents and damage in the workplace. However, this method was not practical since payment for compensation would be challenging to establish administratively. The introduction of the right to refuse an unsafe working environment facilitates employee participation as an integral feature of enforcing occupational safety and health act. The only duty applied to the employee is that they have to comply (Ferdosi, 2020). An employee is expected to comply with safety and health standards, rules, regulations, and other orders within the Act. Once they are duty to all the responsibilities, they are at will to contribute to their safety through refusing to work in unsafe environments. As illustrated above, the participation of employees provided in the right is proof that the Act is useful in helping prevent injuries and accidents in workplaces.

Apart from participation, the effectiveness of the right is seen by enabling workers to seek and obtain the elimination of hazardous working conditions in three different ways. As articulated in section 7, "employees have the right to suggest to the Secretary of labor about safety standards needed in particular areas. The suggestion might also include a proposed hearing of different standards." The effectiveness of these rights can be explained in the following ways:

Employees are at liberty to request an inspection of their employer's place of business and operation. When an employer has been assigned duty in a location suspected of imminent danger, they can request for inspection services from a safety and health administration. In so doing, accidents and injuries are prevented at the workplace since if the place is unsafe, the employee as a right to refuse to work at the site without being held responsible. Once the Secretary determines that there is imminent danger at the place of working or operation, they are requested to ask the employer to make the proper adjustment preventing accidents and injuries from occurring.

The second way in which they can suggest safety standards to prevent accidents and injuries, supported by the right to refuse to work in an unsafe environment, is through accompanying the inspection officer. Employees and words or their representatives can accompany an inspection officer to any working sight to determine safety standards. The effectiveness of the right is seen when workers then have an opportunity to assist in the inspection. In the case where the inspection officer neglects a section, the employees are at liberty to complain or suggest better ways for the inspector or the employer to adjust safety, thereby preventing accidents and injuries. Within the second method, workers have been provided with the opportunity to present information to the inspector concerning the conditions of the workplace. Employees have the right to complete a report about a working place, submit it to the inspectors without being held culprits.

Another way in which the right to refuse to work in an unsafe environment is effective in reducing accidents and injuries among employees is through dictating action that the employee can take when their request has not been approved. If the inspector determines that the area of operation is not threatening to safety standards while the employee feels otherwise, this right provides an appropriate choice. The employee can issue a citation with reasonable promptness within fifteen days from when the inspector published his report. If the inspector's analysis is not contested within fifteen days, the employee will be obligated to resume duties with the employer only asked to rectify conditions without punishing the employee. When the employee contents the decision of the inspector, the rights under section 13 empowers the Secretary of labor and the employee. They are at liberty to seek an order from the district court and restrain any practices by the employer likely to cause danger. An order issued under section 13 of the right to refuse an unsafe environment, demands that the employer rectifies the condition perceived to be of imminent danger. If the threat is perceived to be that which can cause death, then the restraining order prohibits the employment of any individuals in the affected locations. An argument arises on the moment the Secretary of labor refuses to get a restraining order from the district court. The right to refuse to work in an unsafe environment is effective in preventing accidents and injuries, even in the case that the Secretary arbitrarily does not acquire a restraining order. An employee faced with the dilemma, as mentioned above, is rescued by section 13 d of the rights. The employee has the right to seek correction of dangerous conditions through a petition to the district court. Through the court, a writ of mandamus is produced, thereby compelling the Secretary to obtain an injunction.

Amidst all this, some employees might feel discouraged from exercising their rights for fear of losing their jobs or being implicated. The rights under Act section 11 prevent such anxiety by assuring employees of sufficient job security. Article 11 mandates that: no person shall, in any manner, discriminate against any employee because the employee has filed any complaint related to the right of refusal to work in an unsafe environment. The person shall not act on behalf of himself or any other person. The section above is a capture of ACT. It emphasizes how this right is effective through ensuring job and employment security for employees who act as whistleblowers.

Apart from protecting the employee from losing their job, the right provides an option for an employee who suspects that they have been discriminated against. An employee who believes they have been discriminated against because they were exercising their protected rights of refusing to work on an unsafe environment can file complaints with the department of labor. The Secretary of Labor will investigate the merit of the allegations. The quality is established in one of these three ways. If there is proof that the employee engaged in a refusal activity due to imminent danger at their workplace, the claim is merited. The employer had a reason to know that the employee has exercised the said rights, and finally when the investigation determines that the employee would not have been implicated except for engagement in the refusal activity. When the three have been established beyond doubt, then the employee is awarded back their job and any back pay related to it.

Another reason why the right to refuse unsafe work is useful is that it limits employers from unfair labor practice of curtailing the exercise of the employee to exercise his employee rights. This curtailing prevention is guaranteed under section 7 of the Act. The article provides that employees shall have the right to engage in concerted activities for mutual aid and protection. Joint activities, as mentioned in the section, including refusal to work due to an unsafe working environment. A perfect example of such a case is the NLRB versus Washington Aluminum Company. The company suspended seven employees after they walked out of a job, which had subfreezing temperatures endangering their health. The employees moved to the court, demanding the court to establish if the walkout was a concerted activity. The Supreme held that the strike by the seven employees was a collective activity.

The court did not consider the employer's rule that prohibited its employees from walking out from a plant activity. With the above case study, it is easy to derive that employees have an upper edge on matters protection of rights by the labor courts. In the Supreme Court case, it supported its decision by claiming that the walkout was the most effective way that the employees found available to present their grievances concerning dangerous working conditions. Such a statement by the courts is an indication that employees are protected by the law more than employers, which makes the right to refuse to work on an unsafe environment beneficial. However, employers also have their contribution to the i...

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Right to Refuse Unsafe Work: Exploring Strengths & Limitations - Research Paper. (2023, Apr 06). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/right-to-refuse-unsafe-work-exploring-strengths-limitations-research-paper

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