Regardless of the industry, there are employees across the nation who find themselves in unsafe working areas. The hazards may be apparent, but some Kentucky workers are not aware of their own rights to refuse work in such environments. What are some examples of these safety violations, and where does one draw the line?
To the surprise of many, there are guidelines that dictate whether a working environment is, in fact, safe. The United States Department of Labor stresses the importance of making an unsafe work area known to employers, stating that employees in these situations should file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If the workplace invites the risk of death or physical harm, and OSHA has not had adequate time to investigate the scene, employees have the right to refuse work where they have chances of being exposed to danger. However, employees must first have notified the employer of the danger, and then filed a complaint as a result of the employers’ failure to eliminate that danger. There must also be a valid safety hazard at the site of employment; employees may only refuse work when there has not been sufficient time to address the hazard.
According to a 2015 CNN piece on worker safety, McDonald’s employees in various cities had filed a complaint against the company for its hazardous working conditions. Sharing accident stories that ranged from boiler burns to slip and fall accidents due to wet floors without caution signs, the “Fight for $15” group — an organization that initially sought higher pay — accused McDonald’s for dismissing workers’ health needs. The group launched a petition that sought support from the Department of Labor, asking for full investigations of the working areas. At the time, McDonald’s refused to share the number of employees who had filed safety complaints. The issue may be one of the past, but is also part of a bigger problem involving fast food workers and workplace safety risks.