What Should You Do When Work Equipment Is Not Operating Properly?

Aug 25, 2021

Notify your supervisor right away. Whether or not you continue using defective equipment or refuse depends on a lot on the situation. Some equipment failures just make your job harder or less efficient, while others can potentially jeopardize your safety. Your employer should never demand you use broken, unsafe equipment that poses a serious risk for injury or death. You have the right to refuse.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), if you ever run into this situation in the United States, you should:

  1. Request your employer fix the dangerous equipment or reassign you to another task until it can be fixed
  2. If that fails, refuse to use the equipment or perform the task until the equipment is either fixed or you’re provided with a safe alternative for completing the work
  3. Don’t leave your jobsite until ordered to do so by your employer

You have a legal right in the state of Georgia and throughout the United States to refuse to do something or use equipment you know poses an imminent risk to your safety or health. If your employer retaliates against you for refusing to put yourself in danger, you should contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Retaliation in these scenarios often include things like firing an employee or threatening to dock their hours or pay just because they refuse to do something they know to be hazardous. Those actions are technically illegal, and your employer is opening themselves up to not only fines from OSHA but potentially civil and criminal legal action.

It’s important to heed step three. Even if you are refusing to do work you’re still on your company’s time. If you walk off a job site or leave without being dismissed that may give your employer justifiable cause to fire you. It may be awkward but it’s important to wait until the end of your shift and follow all your employer’s rules.

What Is and Isn’t a Dangerous Situation?

Not every situation or equipment failure gives you the right to refuse to do a task. A couple factors need to be confirmed before you have the legal right to refuse to work due to dangerous equipment.

  1. If possible, you need to request your employer fix the danger and give them a chance to do so before filing a complaint
  2. You need to be able to prove you refused to work in good faith, which means you must truly believe using the equipment or doing the task as requested poses a serious risk for injury or death
  3. Any reasonable person who saw the situation would agree that a real threat of serious injury or death exists 
  4. Time constraints or inability to use normal enforcement channels prevent you from acting on your own to get the situation resolved

These rules don’t give workers permission to simply not do work they deem to be hazardous and escape employment consequences.

It’s important to give your employer the opportunity to rectify the situation either by fixing the hazard or replacing the equipment. You might face termination or other employment repercussions if you just refuse to do a task because of dangerous equipment.

Number four on that list might also be a little confusing. Essentially, you need to make an effort to call OSHA or the Georgia Department of Labor to get the problem addressed through official channels. Failing to do so might also leave you open to legal termination or workplace penalties. If there’s no time or you lack the ability to do that, then you can refuse to do the work.

Doing everything right might not protect you from termination. These situations need to be investigated by the relevant governmental authorities before any action will be taken, which can take time. In the meantime, you may want to contact an employment or civil rights attorney about the workplace discrimination or employer retribution you suffer.

How Much Protection Do I Really Have?

OSHA’s rules are a little bit convoluted, and employers that knowingly put their workers in dangerous situations often aren’t above dishonesty when they’re being investigated. A lot of workers, especially those who might not be in the country legally, are often afraid to refuse when tasked with performing dangerous work.

You have rights, regardless of your immigration status. One of those rights is to workers’ comp coverage. If you’re ever injured while performing your assigned job duties, it’s important to file a workers’ comp claim. There are rules you’ll need to follow, like reporting your injury to your supervisor within thirty days and there are restrictions as to what doctors you can see.

If you have a legitimate workplace injury, followed all the rules and your claim is still being denied, it’s likely in your best interest to speak with a workers’ comp attorney. A workers’ comp lawyer will fight to ensure your legal rights are respected and you receive the compensation you and your family need to cover medical expenses and lost wages.


Call the Dressie Law Firm at 770-756-6333 for a free consultation about your workplace injury case.