Refusing unsafe work

Photo credit: AshtonPal/That Boy on Flickr

“Have you ever said no to a supervisor because something seemed too dangerous?”

I posted this question on Facebook and got some interesting responses. I’ll share them with you in the coming weeks, and start with the craziest one. It’s from a friend I’ll call “Hank” – who said “no” to his supervisor at a warehouse about 10 years ago when he was asked to do something foolishly dangerous!

The supervisor had asked Hank to stand on a pallet and be lifted by forklift to fix a loose air venting pipe near the ceiling. Hank refused.

“I am not afraid to stand up to employers who are goofs and treat the worker like crap,” Hank told me, via Facebook message. “And if they don’t like it, I leave. I quit that job and a few others too, for good reasons.

Hank said his supervisor was “annoyed” by his refusal. The supervisor decided to do it himself and he told Hank to lift him to the ceiling on the pallet. Hank did it, against his better judgment, even though “there was no safety gear there.”

Hank’s advice for anyone asked to do unsafe work: “Leave and call WCB [WorkSafeBC].”

Report unsafe work by phone

Photo credit: Chapendra/Kendra on Flickr

If your employer does not fix a safety problem, you can call WorkSafeBC at 604 276-3100 (in Metro Vancouver) or toll-free 1 888 621-7233 elsewhere in BC. You can make a report without sharing your name, if necessary, and WorkSafeBC will follow up.

According to WorkSafeBC Regulation Part 3, fyi, Refusal of Unsafe Work:

“A person must not carry out or cause to be carried out any work process or operate or cause to be operated any tool, appliance or equipment if that person has reasonable cause to believe that to do so would create an undue hazard to the health and safety of any person.”

More “workplace danger” stories to come

Stay tuned for more tales of danger from used car lots, film sets, inventory yards and the living rooms of freelance writers. I can guarantee anonymity if you want it, so email me about the most dangerous things you’ve been asked to do.


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