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Can an employee refuse to work in a dangerous situation?

Verified 21 January 2020 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

Yes. An employee has a right of alert and withdrawal..

Where the work situation presents a serious and imminent danger for his or her life or health, an employee may leave his or her place of work or refuse to move there without the consent of the employer.

The employer may then exercise his right to withdraw and discontinue his activities until the employer has put in place the appropriate preventive measures.

The origin of the hazard may be different, for example:

  • Defective vehicle or work equipment not meeting safety standards
  • Lack of collective or individual protective equipment
  • Hazardous Manufacturing Process
  • Risk of aggression.

The employee does not have to prove that there is a danger, but must feel potentially threatened by a risk of injury, accident or illness. The risk may be immediate or may occur within a short time.

The danger may be individual or collective.. The withdrawal of the employee must not, however, lead to a new situation of serious and imminent danger to others.

The employee then informs his employer or his supervisor by any means. Even if it is not mandatory, a written document (e-mail, personal mail against signature or registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt) is however preferable.. The employee may also address the staff representatives on the Economic and Social Committee (ESC).

FYI  

the employer cannot no payroll deduction, or sanction a worker or a group of workers who has exercised his right of withdrawal legitimately.