Should a company force an employee into a dangerous job?

@foxyfire33 (10007)
United States
April 5, 2007 2:31am CST
Here's the situation at the plant my s/o works for. Thankfully he hasn't been approached yet. This plant works with a lot of chemicals so they have an on site "fire brigade". This supposed to be made up of employees who have VOLUNTEERED. A certain number of people must be on site at all times so they need people to volunteer from all shifts. The training for this "extra position" involves 3 weeks of out of town training to start and then one weekend a month of related "classes" in addition to regular work hours. The idea is that should a fire ever break out, these people will be on site already to begin controlling the fire and will then be available to assist the regular fire fighters in identifying the chemicals involved. I think we would all agree that fire fighting is dangerous anyway and the risks are even greater when explosive chemicals are present. Right now the number of people on the fire brigade is too low so they began asking for more volunteers. Apparently no one or at least not enough people signed up. So now the company is TELLING eligible employees that they MUST join. My s/o is 9th on the list for his area. The first person has already refused and disciplinary action is pending. The 2nd was just approached and does not intend to join either. It is possible that employees could be fired for being "insubordinate" if they don't agree to join. What do you all think? Besides the extreme potential dangers of this "voluntary" position, it also takes a great deal of time away from the employee's family (the people in my s/o's area already only get 2 weekends a month off, if they have to do this then it means only one weekend). Should a company force this on an employee? They're basically saying agree to join or get fired. What can these employees do about this? This is a non union company. As for my s/o, I'm just praying that being 9th on the list will keep him from being forced. I know I can't deal with him being gone for all that extra time. But the bigger problem would be for him, he's only truly terrified of two things...fire and water. He's been burned a couple times, once as a small child, and also as a small child his house almost burned down when a fire started in their garage. He has several other "fire incidents" that have left him scared of anything fire related. There is no way he could possibly do this.
1 person likes this
2 responses
@aliasad (1567)
• Pakistan
5 Apr 07
There are certain factors while some organizations hire the staff. Firstly, the need of staff (potential area), secondly deployemnt and strength, thirdly (skill), forthly (the compensation package & frienge benefits) & lastly the HR policy. As far as here in my country, HR is being implemeted in almost all the organizations and ISO standardization is being observed. I think the matter you have invited to discuss is quite genuine and I really feel good if somebody use mylot for real life problem solutions. While hiring the staff, there would certainly be some terms and conditions signing agreement. Go for those terms & conditions... Surely the job area you discussed is a skill based. If a separate department is there for fire fighting then your company should go for that department people and if "Hiring & Firing" policy is there then it can go for fire the staff. Is there some labor courts or laws in your country? Try the labor legal department if possible! Though I am not a vetran in this area of discussion but what I feel, I have expressed. Good Luck.
1 person likes this
@foxyfire33 (10007)
• United States
5 Apr 07
See that's the problem I have with them doing it this way. The people they are forcing to take this position did not join the company with intentions of also being on the fire brigade. It is supposed to be a voluntary program. Right now the list they've made is based solely on seniority meaning those that haven't worked there long are the first ones being asked. It has nothing to do with prior skills or knowledge of fire fighting. There are NO extra compensation packages or fringe benefits for being on the fire brigade (unless you count 3 weeks of training away from your family and an extra weekend each month of being gone for classes as a "benefit") There is a need for more members but the HR policy had been that this was voluntary position. There is a labor board available to deal with labor disputes like this so hopefully they can help but without union support it might be hard for each individual to get this problem recognized.
1 person likes this
@tinamwhite (3255)
• United States
5 Apr 07
This is truly a difficult one, Foxy. I am not sure that they can "force" him to join but it sounds like they are not really thinking about that at the moment. Basically, the idea that they have is a good one and makes alot of sense; however, to attempt to force an employee into this position does not make alot of sense to me either. I am sure that none of these people can afford to have disciplinary action taken against them at work because of it....however, I do not see it as insubordination. I would probably call a lawyer to see what my leagal rights were to protect myself...but that is just me. Hopefully, he will not have to do this since he also have personal phobias about "fire and water". That still does not make it right for the others though.
@foxyfire33 (10007)
• United States
6 Apr 07
I'm still not sure what "disciplinary action" they're taking against the 1st person from the list but I did get an update on the 2nd person. As it is right now they are going to "allow" him to move to another crew to get out of being on the brigade IF he can find another employee to take his spot on his crew and in the brigade. My s/o can think of one person who is available and might be willing so hopefully it will work out. Otherwise, they've told this employee if he doesn't "volunteer" or find someone to take his place, he will be out of a job. He has taken the rest of his week off and is contacting his lawyer. If the company has to keep going down this list they've made up, they'll have to ask 6 more people before getting to my s/o. I think this will give him a good enough cushion to not get asked. If not, he's already said he won't do it and will contact his lawyer. Quitting or getting fired isn't really an option for us but I know he would if there was no other choice. He won't even burn papers in a burn barrel because the idea of fire bothers him so much.
1 person likes this
• United States
6 Apr 07
I understand completely his reaction, that is how I would feel as well. I am not that fearful of fire but can understand that if he is that he would be more of a "hinder than a help" if a fire actually occurred. The fact that the company feel that it can make such unreasonable demands upon the employees is rediculous! As always, Hun, you and your family are in my prayers.