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| Saunders and Walker

For too many years I have confronted judges and juries who appear to believe that a worker should simply have refused to perform a particular work assignment because he or she could plainly see it was unsafe. Confined Space posts an article that expresses my frustration with the so-called voluntary assumption of the risk by employees.

“Do what you’re told, or take the chance of being fired.”

If you listen to the rhetoric spewing forth from OSHA and MSHA these days, you’d think that all employers and workers need is a little more information on how to work safely. A few more fact sheets, a couple more web pages, maybe a speech or two, and all will be well.

Actually, in all too many workplaces, that’s not how it happens. Workers are given the choice between doing the job unsafely or losing their jobs, also known as job blackmail — your job or your life. In these situations, people often blame the workers: “Well, if he knew it was dangerous, why didn’t he just quit?”

In one case the employer had intentionally removed the automatic safety cut-off switches on at least 6 giant filling machines. In another, a safety guard had been dismantled. All in the name of greater production.

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