Legal Guides

We use plain and simple English to give you an overview of the most common areas of law.

What To Do If Your Working Environment Is Unsafe

At the moment, jobs can be hard to come by – unemployment is high and on top of that employers are trying to keep their costs low wherever possible. Unfortunately this situation inevitably leads to some employers not updating and replacing equipment as soon as they should, or not providing the right training and safety gear.

In other words, unsafe working environments are becoming increasingly common and as an employee you need to know your rights and stand up for them. Here’s how to deal with a difficult employment situation regarding safety:

Know Your Rights

First of all, you have the right to work in an environment where you are safe from unnecessary danger. Naturally, some jobs are more dangerous than other, but in the higher risk areas you should expect to be given appropriate training and equipment in order to minimise the risks.

If an employer knowingly fails to keep your working environment safe, they will be legally liable for any harm that befalls you. But you don’t want it to come to that do you?

If you are being forced to work in conditions that are not safe, you have the right to refuse to do certain parts of your job and if you are threatened with disciplinary action, again you may have the right to take legal action.

Don’t Create A Difficult Situation

In most situations the employer isn’t consciously making the situation unsafe, they are simply being unintentionally negligent. Your first course of action should always be to voice your concerns to the appropriate manager in the hopes that the situation is resolved.

By not reporting a problem that you are aware of, you may be implicated as partially liable should anything happen to yourself or any other member of staff.

Try not to be too confrontational if you can avoid it. Whilst you cannot be fired for making a complaint, causing animosity between you and your employer might make working conditions uncomfortable later and in today’s job market, finding employment elsewhere might not be easy.

Make Others Aware Of The Danger

If your employer fails to take action or worse, refuses to take action, you have every right to refuse to put yourself in danger. Additionally it may be a good idea to make other employees aware of the danger.

This will not only prevent anyone else from being injured, but it will also enable the workforce to show a united front and stop any single person from being singled out.

Report Your Employer

At the same time as informing other members of staff you should make a complaint to the relevant safety body where you live. You should do this as soon as it becomes clear that the problem is not going to be fixed.

  • In The USA – Report Issues To The OSHA
  • In The UK – Report Issues To The HSE

Once you have reported the issue, if you make it clear that it is and imminent danger, they should arrange an inspection as soon as possible.

Refusal To Work

Whilst you have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, it is important to note that this must be done in good faith. Some employees see this as an opportunity to shirk off and get out of working, or as a way to harass the employer.

When refusing to work, be sure to explain your reasons for doing so and ask to be given a different task so that you can continue to work but without the health hazard.


Josh Freeman

Pryers Solicitors

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to pryers solicitors directly.

Published on 28th June 2013
(Last updated 14th July 2023)