It’s a dilemma for any employee – your boss or another senior member of staff asks you to do something which you are not contractually obliged to do. In most circumstances it might be a bit of extra overtime, assistance planning an office party, or dealing with an unfamiliar client – not that big an issue. But what happens when someone asks you to perform a task which is not only above and beyond your employment terms, but could actually put you at risk of serious injury?
Examples could include being asked to help carry heavy or large pieces of furniture or equipment during an office move around, driving a vehicle which you are not qualified to operate, or dealing with chemicals which you have no experience of and are unsure of how to handle safely. Moral issues aside – do you want to work for someone with such a disregard for your personal safety?
There are legal implications here too. As difficult as it might be to refuse a request (no-one wants to disagree with their senior at work, no matter what their profession), you are well within your rights to do so – and remember that your employer is actually breaking employment law by putting pressure on you to perform potentially hazardous tasks which are not in your contract.
So how should you go about refusing a workplace request?
Try and avoid any discussion becoming too heated by explaining in a reasonable and polite way that you do not feel comfortable doing whatever the task is. This is better than simply expressing your anger or being personally offensive to anyone.
Point out the potential dangers to you if you carry out the task – a colleague may not be aware that you do not have the relevant training to operate a certain piece of machinery, and therefore may not realise that they are making an unreasonable request.
If you feel that your point is being ignored then it might be time to bring the law into it – is your employer really prepared to make you perform a task which could lead to their prosecution?
You are ultimately responsible for your own personal safety and any decisions regarding jobs in the workplace should be made with your health and safety in mind. If you are ever unsure about how to deal with a workplace situation remember you can always contact a solicitor for employment law advice.