What Does Reasonable Grounds to Believe Mean?
In the context of workplace hazards, “reasonable grounds to believe” is an evidentiary threshold used in various legal systems, and describes a situation in which an individual has the legal right to take a specific, legally-defined action. Within the context of occupational health and safety, “reasonable grounds to believe” is primarily used as a threshold to establish:
- When it is legally permissible for a worker to file a complaint with an OHS authority (e.g., OSHA).
- When it is legally permissible for a worker to file a complaint with an OHS authority (e.g., OSHA) to refuse work.
- When it is legally permissible for an OHS authority to conduct an investigation into a workplace.
Generally speaking, an individual can be said to have reasonable grounds to believe something when they have seen material evidence or otherwise obtained empirical facts about unsafe conditions in the workplace.
Safeopedia Explains Reasonable Grounds to Believe
The term “reasonable grounds to believe” (RGB) is used as an evidentiary threshold in numerous legal contexts, including both criminal law and occupational health and safety law. It can be contrasted against the “reasonable grounds to suspect” threshold, which is a weaker threshold not often used in OHS contexts.
The standard interpretation of reasonable grounds is the existence of empirical evidence, such as an employee observing the existence of an uncontrolled workplace hazard; however, regulatory changes in some jurisdictions have altered the amount of evidence required to meet the threshold while retaining the term, so the functional meaning of the term can vary between jurisdictions.
According to OSHA, reasonable grounds for belief that workplace conditions are unsafe requires both that the belief be grounded in good faith, and that another reasonable person would also believe that the conditions are unsafe. In other jurisdictions, such as in various Canadian provinces, good faith is the only requirement for reasonable belief.
In the context of work refusal, a worker that voices reasonable belief that they are being exposed to unsafe work is entitled to protection from reprisals such as firing; however, in the United States, workers are not protected from discipline or firing unless exposed to imminent danger—refusal to work due to potential danger may result in firing. In contrast, workers in Ontario, Canada may refuse work without fear of being fired so long as they believe the work endangers them.
Employees that voice their reasonable belief that a workplace’s conditions are unsafe are required to follow specific legal procedures. These typically include steps such as immediately notifying the employer/supervisor that they are refusing to work, and staying available to the employer/supervisor while their situation is being investigated.