Workers have right to vacate dangerous working conditions – LRI

The Labour Rights Institute (LRI) has appealed to workers to exercise their rights under the Labour Acts to stop work and vacate their workplaces when they find themselves in conditions that threatened their health and safety.

The institute gave this advice on Tuesday in a statement signed by Mr. Mohammed Affum, Executive Coordinator, and issued in the aftermath of the Melcom Shopping Mall disaster.

The statement said workers should take this action after they had reported the life-threatening condition to their supervisor.

“This right of workers is derived from section 119 of the Labour Act which provides that when a worker finds himself/herself in a situation at the workplace which he/she has reasonable cause to believe presents an imminent and serious danger to his/her life, the worker shall immediately report this fact to his/her supervisor and remove himself/herself from the situation,” it said.

“If the workers of Melcom Shopping Centre were aware of their rights and had stopped working in the shop, after a report of cracks in the building was made to their supervisor, those who died would have been alive today,” said the statement.

It said the rights of workers provided for in the Labour Act included the right to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions.

“That is why the Labour Act has, in addition to making employers largely responsible for ensuring a safe working environment, given workers the right to vacate health and life-threatening situations as protection from possible injuries or death from work place accidents,” the statement said.

The statement said  the Labour Act had made it unlawful for any employer to instruct workers who had vacated dangerous and life-threatening conditions to return to work.

“So where an employer orders workers, who have vacated dangerous working conditions at the work place to return to work, the workers should refuse such orders and such refusal will not amount to insubordination because the order itself will be against the Labour Act, and therefore, unlawful,” the statement said.

According to the statement, the Labour Act had also made it unlawful the dismissal, termination of employment or non-payment of wages of workers who had removed themselves from dangerous and serious situations at the work place.

The Institute advised workers who are threatened with sanctions for refusing to work in conditions that threatened their health to report to their trade unions, the Labour Department or the National Labour Commission for the employer to be called to order.

Source: GNA

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