Anyone who is familiar with previous posts here know that workers in New York have certain rights and legal protections.. It's important to emphasize that they don't have to keep working in the face of imminent danger until an accident happens. OSHA provides steps for taking action in such conditions.
First, OSHA considers an imminent danger something that "could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm" before the standard OSH Act provisions would normally address and eliminate it. By serious physical harm, the agency means harm that leaves part of the body partially or totally unusable.
There is a bit of a caveat regarding the "imminent" nature of the threat when dealing with health hazards like toxic substances. Here, a worker must reasonably believe that the exposure will substantially reduce "physical or mental efficiency" or life expectancy. In such cases, it's not necessary to demonstrate the risk of immediate harm.
When a worker does suspect imminent danger on the job, that worker can call OSHA's hotline to make a report: 1-800-321-OSHA. An inspector will respond. The agency may go so far as to seek a court order for the employer to remove an imminent danger to employees. Employees should not feel as if they have to continue to do their job when an imminent danger is present. State and federal safety regulations protect workers, and workers' compensation can support employees if an on-the-job accident does occur, and the worker is injured and unable to earn an income as a result.
Source: OSHA.gov, "Imminent Danger," accessed on Sept. 18, 2015