Have you ever felt like not doing your job but still go ahead for fear of the unknown such as getting fired or getting disciplined? Trust me you are not alone. During the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, it became clear that those in the medical profession were at a higher risk of contracting Ebola than the rest of us. I was worried for my medical doctor friends. I contacted one of them just to check on his wellbeing and to plead with him to keep safe. Well it happened that he was more worried than I was. He worked for a large private hospital with at least 6 branches in Lagos but he wasn’t provided with any PPE (personal protective equipment) Whereas another my friend who worked in a bank was provided with gloves and mask. It was ridiculous to see her typing with her gloves on (to me that was taking things a little too far!). I advised my friend (the doctor) to stop work for a while seeing as he wasn’t protected and his employers didnt seem to care what happened to their staff. He said he needed to work to pay the bills. He ended up getting the protection he needed himself – this shouldn’t be the case.
However, here are 5 good reasons why you should say no to your employer.
- Your policy says you can. Surely you have a policy in place that says how you should conduct yourself at work? Surely your employers have on paper boasted about how much they care about you and will provide all that is required for you to carry out your job in a safe manner? Most even have a health and safety policy! Well if you do have a policy like this, then this is your ammunition. When your employer fails to do their part, you can also refuse to do your part.
You know it’s not safe. You are skilled and experienced at what you do. You know that machinery needs to be serviced before anyone else uses it. You noticed the brakes of that company vehicle has been acting up. You know that equipment was due for service weeks maybe even months ago. Don’t ignore these signs and warnings. It is not safe to assume all will be ok. Bad things can and do happen to good people. Everyone has a duty of care for themselves and others around them. Your life and that of others could be the price you pay for neglecting your duty of care. You have heard of instances where pilots insists a plane is not safe to fly but their employers push and push, the pilots give in and end up crashing and losing their lifes and that of their passengers.
You haven’t been provided with PPE. If you haven’t been provided with protective equipment then you must refuse to carry out that task. Where you are working with toxic fumes, there is the risk of you inhaling it and losing consciousness and possibly ending up hospitalised or even worse. There is also the risk of dermatitis in the case of chemicals getting on your skin for example hairdressers working with dyes and even cleaners, mesothelioma (aggressive cancer that affects the lungs) and asbestosis through inhaling asbestos fibres, occupational asthma (caused or worsened by exposure to substances at work) and hearing impairment from excessive exposure to noise. I will write a more detailed post on these occupational illnesses soon, so watch this space!
You haven’t been provided with the right equipment and materials for the job. It is an employer’s duty to provide all required materials and PPE to enable their employees carry out their work in a safe and efficient manner. However, where an employers fails to do this, do you know you can refuse to carry out that task? Yes you can. You have to if you want to stay healthy and alive.
You haven’t been trained. Ideally, everyone should have basic health and safety training. Most jobs require you to have some sort of training especially where it is a technical role. If you have not been trained or shown how to operate a machine, or perform a task, then you shouldn’t be doing it. For example, operating a forklift or fixing an electric switch. Read this post on employer and employee duties to learn more.
Should my doctor friend have refused to continue working? Yes he should have. But who would have paid his bills? How would he have lived from day to day without any income? That’s the situation of things in Nigeria. Seems only the multinationals bother with health and safety. I have come to realise things work very differently here in Nigeria. Most people don’t seem to care and it is worrying. Hopefully the “promised change” will come soon. Hopefully.