Everyone wears safety gear on construction worksites. Why? Because construction worksites are dangerous. There are falling objects, heaving equipment, nail guns, etc. However, there are a plethora of ways that construction worksites can be made safer, which is mandated by both state and federal laws and regulations. But, if New Yorkers see a dangerous situation, what are they supposed to do?
First, tell your employer
It is the responsibility of your employer to ensure that your worksite is safe. As such, if there is a workplace danger that is significant enough to cause immediate physical harm or death, tell them. This is usually done through the foreman, first-line supervisor or in smaller companies, the owner. They should then begin mitigation, change your work assignment or maybe, change your designated worksite.
Second, ask for what you want
Depending on how they respond, you may need to directly ask for what you want. Be specific. Ask for the danger to be eliminated or mitigated. If that is not reasonable immediately, ask for a different assignment or to be placed on a different New York City worksite.
What if the employer does not do anything?
At this point, responsible business owners would at least mitigate the danger. However, if your employer refuses to do anything, then it is time to protect yourself and your rights. This means that, at the very least, you should report your employer to OSHA.
What if they still want me to work?
You may have the option to refuse to work. This does not mean leaving. It just means you do not have to endanger yourself, but there are requirements. First, the New York City employer must be on notice. Second, you must be in genuine fear that the dangerous condition is an imminent threat to your body or life. Third, that “good faith” belief must also be reasonable, which means that a reasonable person would have that same belief. Finally, that danger must be so imminent that a regulatory agency, like OSHA could not help get the issue timely corrected.
Exercising your right to refuse to work
Put the New York City employer on notice and ask that the danger be eliminated, mitigated or that you can work at an alternate worksite. Explicitly tell your employer you will not work until that hazard is eliminated or corrected. Even if they refuse, do not leave the worksite until ordered to leave. And, if you are punished in any way for this refusal, you have litigation options for retaliation.