Must worker do a job he’s afraid is unsafe?

No way am I going to clean those tanks without special spiked shoes," declared Maintenance Department Utility Worker Jon Chan after being instructed by Foreman Bill Saunders to clean the sludge from two tanks in the lab.
By Raymond Dreyfack March 1, 2000

No way am I going to clean those tanks without special spiked shoes,” declared Maintenance Department Utility Worker Jon Chan after being instructed by Foreman Bill Saunders to clean the sludge from two tanks in the lab.

“Other guys do the job wearing ordinary work shoes. What makes you an exception?”

“I’ve got common sense,” Chan replied. “The job’s unsafe. I have seen too many accidents. Peterson ended up in the hospital.”

“An accident can occur on any assignment. Peterson’s the only one who has been hurt in those tanks.”

“There was another accident a year ago. I’m not risking my butt on that job.”

“I’m not gonna stand here arguing with you. The rule says do the job that’s assigned and register your beef later if you wish.”

When Chan refused to back down, Saunders ordered him to clock out. Next day, his boss informed him he was suspended.

Chan threatened to fight for his rights.

Question: Is Chan within his rights in refusing the assignment? Can he overturn the suspension?

Fenster’s decision: “Chan’s entitled to refuse that assignment if he’s afraid of it,” Plant Engineer Aaron Fenster told Saunders. “Ordinarily a worker’s required to do the job and grieve afterwards. But where the objection is based on fear for his safety or health, it’s another matter entirely. Only one restriction applies. The refusal must be supported by evidence that lends credence to his anxiety. The accidents referred to in this case should be sufficient to legitimatize Chan’s refusal. Those spiked shoes should have been issued long ago. If they’re not on hand, order them.”

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