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Justification of Refusing Hazardous Work

Info: 3851 words (15 pages) Law Essay
Published: 7th Aug 2019

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Jurisdiction(s): US Law

As a worker, they have the right to know and refuse on the danger they will face during work. Their employers must have a full description on the job to the employees so that they agree with all the possible danger that they may face. Therefore, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is issued on November 25, 1983, is a series of rules that grant employees. This is to ensure that the safety, health and welfare of workers in both private and public sector are protected.

It is important that every worker aware on the right to know on the job. The right to know is defines into four categories of correlative duties that it imposes on employees to be more accurate and easy. There are the duty to reveal information already possessed; the duty to communicate information about hazards through labeling, written communications, and training programs; the duty to seek out existing information from the scientific literature and other sources; the duty to produce new information relevant to employee health. Employers are responsible for the safety and the health of their workers. Therefore, they must disclose the information to the worker so that they understand more on their working environment. Employers also should find out the information about hazards by communicate with their employees or training. Besides, employers can also seek more information from different sources to understand the problems faces by their employees and find a solution to solve it. The employers also played important roles in having new policy to protect their employees. For examples, firemen are given insurances to protect themselves and also their families if anything happen to them. Therefore, the company has the duty to provide all the information to the employees and try their best to solve all the problems that might exist.

Many workers are killed on the job and these deaths could have been prevented because hazards were not controlled. Workers covered by Occupational Safety and Health Administration have a right, under certain condition, to refuse hazardous work. If workers have reason to believe that the equipment, machine, device or thing the workers are to use or operate is likely to endanger themselves or another worker and the physical condition of the workplace too. The right allows workers to have the refused work investigated and repaired if it is dangerous. During the investigation and repair, workers have the right to receive pay.

There are certain steps workers should be sure to take before refusing to work. First, workers must have reasonable grounds for believing that the work was unsafe. Second, the workers have to inform employer immediately about the hazard and asked that to be fixed. After that, the health and safety officer will investigates the work with the refusing workers, the supervisor and the workers representative. On the other hand, workers should offer to do alternative work than to flatly refuse to work. After situation has been solved, workers should return to work. If the workers are dissatisfied with the results of the investigation and have reasonable grounds to believe that the circumstances are still such that the work is dangerous, then they may continue to refuse to work.

The justification of refusing hazardous work

Occupational health and safety has long been an issue in the law governing the relations of employers and their employee. One of the areas of greatest concern has been the development of the right of the employee to refuse hazardous work without fear of retaliation by their employers. The justification of refusing hazardous work is:

Health and safety

Most people will refuse to participate in hazardous work area because it is a place that can bring harm and injury to a worker. Most workers refuse to perform work that poses an imminent danger and observance of health and safety rules. Workers right in workplace health and safety is crucial in bringing about necessary reforms in working conditions, especially their right to know about the chemical they work with, and to participate on a daily basis regarding work environment matters in both quantitative and qualitative, and their rights to refuse a job believe to be dangerous to their well being.

Less payment

Less payment also is a reason that people refusing hazardous work. Hazard pay means additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship. Work duty that causes extreme physical discomfort and distress which is not adequately alleviated by protective devices is deemed to impose a physical hardship. The amount of the pay and the conditions under which it will be paid are determined by the employer, not regulated by law. Hazardous duty pay is typically paid only for the hours during which the employee is working under hazardous conditions.

Working environment

Nowadays, working environment is also one of the factor that can influence a person when he/she choosing a work. Hazardous work is a sector and occupations there are more dangerous than others. It is often known as the “3D”, dirty, difficult and dangerous, jobs. People will refuse to choose hazardous work because of dangerous working environment such as high-noise areas, work involving chemicals and other hazardous materials, areas with no natural air to breathe, heights, confined spaces, areas with excessive heat or cold and any potentially explosive area. The occupation that consider as hazardous work are agriculture, construction, mining, or ship-breaking, or where working relationships or conditions create particular risks, such as exposure to hazardous agents, such as chemical substances or radiation, or in the informal economy.

Disputes over a Worker’s Refusal to Perform Hazardous Work

The right to refuse such work is normally accompanied by a duty to inform the employer immediately of the situation; sometimes the joint safety committee must be informed as well. Neither the worker who refused nor another in his or her place should be (re)assigned to the work until the problem has been resolved. If this happens nonetheless and a worker is injured, the law may (as in France and Venezuela) subject the employer to severe civil and criminal penalties. In Canada, both the worker who refused the work and the health and safety representative has rights to be present while the employer undertakes an on-the-spot investigation. If the employee still refuses to do the work after the employer has taken remedial measures, an expedited government inspection can be triggered; until that has led to a decision, the employer cannot require the worker to do that work and is supposed to provide him or her with an alternative assignment to avoid earnings loss. A worker designated to replace the one who refused must be advised of the other’s refusal.

Recognition of a right to refuse hazardous work is an important exception to the general rule that the employer is the one who assigns work and that an employee is not to abandon his or her post or refuse to carry out instructions. Its conceptual justification lies in the urgency of the situation and the presence of interests of public order to save life (Bousiges 1991; Renaud and St. Jacques 1986).

The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

From the federal labor law, any employee has the right to refuse the works that are dangerous. There are some of the justifications of employee refuse the dangerous work. Firstly, an employee has the right to refuse unsafe work when the employee has reasonable cause to believe that their health and/or safety, or that of another employee is in jeopardy. If you refuse, you must notify the employer. Secondly, the employee refuses the job because the work are not normal for the job. Besides, an employee refuses the job that would normally stop work. It will make them can’t get a fixed salary. On the other hands, employee will refuses the work when occur a situation where the worker is not properly, trained, equipped, or experienced. It will make them unable to cover all their work.

This is sometimes called the “right to refuse work”, which creates confusion for employees and employers. If employees find themselves in a situation where they reasonably believe that the work which their employer is requiring them to do places their life or health in imminent danger of death or serious harm, they may decline to perform it. According to the Minnesota Statutes, this reasonable belief includes, but is not limited to, a belief that the employee has been assigned to work in an “…unsafe or unhealthful manner with a hazardous substance, harmful physical agent, or infectious agent.”

In using this right, the employee has some obligations. The first of these is that the employee must ask the employer to make the work safe. The point at which the employer declines to do so is the point at which the employee has the right to refuse to do that work. Second, the employee must perform any other work which the employer may assign. The employee does not have the right to simply leave the work place, but must remain available to perform safe work.

An employer may not discriminate against an employee for a good faith refusal to perform assigned tasks if the employee has requested that the employer correct the hazardous condition, but the condition remains uncorrected. That means that the employee cannot be fired for using this right.

The justification of a right to know

Unlike the right to refuse hazardous work, the right to know about workplace hazard is unnecessary for the right to a safe and healthy workplace. This latter right is fully protected as long as employers succeed in ridding the workplace of significant hazards. Some argue that the right to know is still an effective, if not an absolutely essential, means for securing the right to a safe and healthy workplace. Others maintain, however, that the right to know is not dependent for its justification on the right to a safe and healthy workplace; that is, even employees who are adequately protected by their employers against occupational injury and disease still have a right to be told what substances they are handling, what dangers they pose, what precaution to take, and so on.

Right-to-know laws

Right-to-know laws are a group of rules and regulations at the state and national levels that mandate that employers share scientific information with workers and local communities about the toxicity and other characteristics of chemicals and materials used in business processes. This information encompasses all substances to which workers might be exposed in the workplace, including materials and chemicals utilized in producing goods or providing services, chemical releases into the environment, waste management, and long-term exposure to substances. Right to know laws place special emphasis on maintaining and disseminating information on the potential long-term health effects (cancer, infertility, etc.) sometimes associated with longtime work exposure to high concentrations of industrial materials.

Experts in the fields of risk management and hazardous materials management generally separate employer obligations under “right-to-know” (RTK) into four broad categories: obligation to compile and retain relevant records; obligation to disclose any available information to workers, community members, or organizations on any potentially hazardous materials and processes used; obligation to provide adequate training to employees working with potentially dangerous materials; and obligation to disclose information on sudden health risks. This information, which must be presented even if it is not formally requested, should cover the potential risks of sudden and accidental chemical releases, explain the scope of the company’s technological and human resources to effectively address such events; and identify other options that could also be considered.

The Movement Toward Right-To-Know

The first U.S. efforts to inform workers and communities about hazardous substances used in the workplace were voluntary industry labeling practices. These labeling practices—now incorporated into the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act—provided workers with basic information on hazardous materials, including descriptions of the nature of the hazard and instructions for safe handling (and medical treatment in case of exposure to the chemical in question). But as recognition increased of the potential long-term health effects of prolonged exposure to certain chemicals and materials, employee groups, companies, and government agencies all recognized that these safety measures needed to be bolstered.

In 1970 the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed to help assure that American workers enjoyed safe and healthy working environments. In subsequent years, the agency established a body of regulations designed to ensure that workers were adequately informed about workplace risks (both short- and long-term) through training programs, labeling, and material safety data sheets (MSDS), in which original manufacturers provide complete information on all hazardous substances shipped to customers (downstream users are also required to supply end-users with MSDSs. Contents of material safety data sheets must include the following for each chemical: identity, physical and chemical characteristics; primary routes of entry; health hazards; permissible exposure limits and control measures for reducing exposure; instructions for safe use, handling, and storage; emergency and first aid steps; name and address of manufacturer; date of production; and date at which the information contained in the MSDS was last changed. This bounty of centralized information makes the MSDS a cornerstone of all right-to-know programs. Moreover, during the 1990s some states initiated efforts to make these information-crammed forms more concise and understandable to lay readers, making them even more valuable.

OSHA’s mandate remains in place today. It requires employers to maintain safe workplaces and jobs for their workers and maintains exposure standards for a wide variety of substances that are used in all industry sectors. In addition, many states have also developed their own right-to-know programs. These programs, if certified by the OSHA, allow individual states to assume responsibility for administration and enforcement. Observers agree that such programs are often difficult to implement, given the wide disparity of viewpoints typically exhibited by interested parties. “Conflicts arise from the relative significance of ‘subjective’ versus ‘objective’ information and from the nature and degree of uncertainty, error, and/or risk that is tolerable,” explained Nicholas Ashford in UNESCO Courier. “Community residents, workers, and agency professionals may disagree about priorities: residents and workers worry about experts’ ability to assess and control risk, while ‘experts’ fret about citizens’ and workers’ ‘unreasonable demands’ for certainty. All the members of a group will not necessarily share the same views on these matters. Conflicts occur between those trained and socialized in a technical field and those who identify more closely with humanistic traditions.” But despite the challenges of accommodating these disparate concerns while simultaneously meeting the fundamental goal of ensuring workplace safety, many states that have established RTK programs have expressed satisfaction with the results.

Right to Know Laws are serious – Employers Must Follow the Law

United States Law provides that employees have a “right to know” about hazards in the work place, including and especially about the chemicals that are on the property and being used in the operation of the business or being transported. They have the right to know the risks to their health if there is an emergency, leakage or if they breathe toxic fumes. They also have the right to know what to do if an accident occurs.

They have the right to know how to flush their eyes with rinse water, where that unit is and their rights under the law if something happens; including the medical care they are entitled too. It is also an employer’s responsibility to make large posters available that explain these rights, as well as manuals of information that is readily available to all employees on the job of all this information. Failure for an employer to do this can land them in hot water with OSHA Inspectors who will fine them.

Employers can end up spending 10s of thousands of dollars complying with these laws, but that is tough, it is a part of doing business and the goal of the regulators is to make sure that every employee gets a safe working environment that they are entitled to under the law.

There will be no exceptions to these rules and companies that break these laws can not only expect serious fines, but may also be sued civilly in a court of law. And if someone does get hurt on the job due to negligence or failure to comply with these laws, then there can also be criminal charges brought against the managers, executives and the company as well. Nutshell, Right to Know Laws is serious and employers must follow the law.

Utilitarian Arguments for a right to know

Compliance with Right To Know Programs

Business owners can take a number of steps to ensure that they are in compliance with right-to-know rules and are promoting safety and healthy working conditions for all of their employees.

Inventory: Business owner are encouraged to complete a comprehensive written inventory of all materials in the neither workplace that may be hazardous, nor matter the quantity or size of the materials on hand. The written inventory should include chemicals used and/or stored in work areas outside the building proper and also include by-products and intermediate products resulting from workplace processes. These materials inventories should include name of the product, contact information for the manufacturer and distributor, and general work area in which the material is used.

Material safety data sheets: Each substance in the materials inventories should have a material safety data sheets, especially for manufacturers must provide MSDSs to each purchaser of a hazardous chemical when making the initial shipment. If you do not have a MSDS for a chemical, you must request a replacement data sheet immediately from the manufacturer or distributor. Some businesses even stipulate delivery of an MSDS as a condition of purchase when ordering hazardous chemicals.

Hazard assessment: Many employers use the hazard information contained in each MSDS to carefully review all processes in which the material is used. At this time, business owners can decide whether current workplace practices are adequate to ensure the safety and health of employees. Specific elements to review include level of engineering controls, adequacy of personal protective equipment, emergency procedures, and work practices.

Hazard communication program: Employers should provide the hazard communication program for their employees. This program should explain how the company is meeting state/federal right-to-know requirements. Effective hazard communication programs will also include detailed explanations of the company’s system and hazardous workplace; information about the company’s material safety data sheets and hazardous material information lists. With the program ,this may result in less absenteeism, a reduction of lost time accidents, a reduction of work related illnesses, a possible reduction in workers’ compensation costs, and potentially, saved lives.

Chemical information list: After the material safety data sheets have been gathered, the man at the wheel should be reviewed to identify the substance and understand specific hazards associated with the material. The MSDS can also be used to prepare a chemical information list for the workplace. This list, required by law, must be

arranged in alphabetical order according to common name

contain the chemical name

Identify the area of the workplace in which it can be found. According to right-to-know regulations, employers must provide access to and copies of the chemical information list

According to the right to know regulation, the business owners must provide a complete information sheet to their employees and representative.

Establish an Effective training programs

Right-to-know training programs should provide guidance and information in several key areas, including the purpose and content of the law; the nature of the hazardous substances in the workplace; protection from hazards; location and usage of information on these workplace materials, including material safety data sheets, labels, and chemical information lists; and overall employee rights. This program help preventing or limiting accident happened at hazardous workplace.

Effective training program for your workforce:

Identify who needs training. Employers identify the training needs of various staff.

Determine which hazardous material your employees may be exposed to, either under normal working conditions or emergency situations.

Ensure that employees are aware of the location of chemical information lists and material safety data sheets.

Make sure that employees know how to use labels, MSDSs, and chemical information lists to obtain information on hazardous materials.

Make sure that employees understand control programs and personal protective equipment.

Employer must ensure that new and transferred workers receive training. Many businesses integrate Right-to-Know training into general orientation programs or existing departmental safety programs.

Make contingency plans to provide additional training if new hazards are introduced into the workplace.

Evaluate effectiveness of training programs after workers have completed them. Employee feedback on the training program are strongly encouraged. Business owners and managers should ask workers which aspects of the program were most valuable and informative, and which aspects were least useful. In some cases, this feedback phase may reveal that the training program did not provide staff with the necessary level of knowledge to safely and effectively deal with hazardous materials they encounter in the workplace. In those cases, programs should be revised until they meet expectations.

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