Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Hazard or Hardship: Crafting Global Norms on the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

Document type Book
Author Hilgert, Jeffrey
Publisher Cornell University Press; Ithaca, NY
Date 2013
ISBN 978-0-8014-5189-8 978-0-8014-6924-4
Pages 224 pages


Today, hazardous work kills 2.3 million people each year and injures millions more. Among the most compelling yet controversial forms of legal protection for workers is the right to refuse unsafe work. The rise of globalization, precarious work, neoliberal politics, attacks on unions, and the idea of individual employment rights have challenged the protection of occupational health and safety for workers worldwide. This book presents the protection of refusal rights as a moral and a human rights question. The book finds that the protection of the right to refuse unsafe work, as constituted under international labor standards, is a failure and calls for a reexamination of worker health and safety policy from the ground up. The current model of protection follows an individual employment rights framework, which fails to protect workers against the inherent social inequalities within the employment relationship. To adequately protect the right to refuse as a human right, both in North America and around the world, the book argues that a broader protection must be granted under a freedom of association framework.