Working on a construction worksite can be scary. With all of the heavy equipment, power tools, exposed wiring and many, many other dangers, the fear of a construction accident is real and reasonable. But, what if you see a dangerous Garden City, New York, condition that will result in a construction accident; what do you do?
Let it be known
First, if you see a work condition that is unhealthy, unsafe or will cause a construction accident, let your supervisor and management team know. Of course, you can make a complaint to OSHA, but make sure the worksite knows about the danger. If you are a contractor, you may need to let the Kings County, New York, foreman or other site manager or supervisor know of the dangerous condition. And, if that danger is such that it presents a clear and present risk of serious bodily harm or death, you may have the right to refuse to work.
What dangers qualify?
Dangers that qualify must be so dangerous that they clearly pose a risk of serious bodily harm or death to the extent that OSHA will not have enough time to inspect the issue. This danger should be so obvious that a reasonable person would agree with your belief that the condition is that dangerous. This could be exposed electrical wiring that is live near open water or leaky pipes. It could be unsecured scaffolding, exposed toxic chemicals, etc.
How to refuse to work
First, the Brooklyn employer must be on notice that the danger exists. This can be done by you telling them. Then, they must fail to eliminate or mitigate that danger. You can then refuse to work based on your good faith belief that this imminent danger exists, and a reasonable person would also agree. There must also not be enough time for the regulatory body, like OSHA or a similar state agency, to mitigate or correct the hazard
After you tell your employer about the hazard and ask for it to be mitigated or eliminated, ask to be assigned to a different job or worksite until it is done. If the employer refuses, let them know that you will not perform that task until the hazard is corrected. However, do not leave. Stay on the worksite until they ask you to leave, and of course, make an OSHA complaint about the hazard and any retaliation you experienced because you reported that hazard.
Of course, OSHA may not be able to offer immediate help. If you are going to exercise your right to refuse work, or if you are injured in a construction accident, you should contact Chopra & Nocerino, LLP.