Professional Ethics. For the Health and Safety Professional June 2004 ASSE Conference Las Vegas. Dr. Peter Strahlendorf B.Sc., LL.B., LL.M., S.J.D., B.E.S., CRSP. Associate Professor School of Occupational and Public Health Ryerson University Toronto, Canada. Pick One.
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For the Health and Safety Professional
ASSE Conference Las Vegas
School of Occupational and Public Health
2. While people differ in their abilities, most people can improve their ethical decision-making through education and practice.
Aim to show several different ways to think through a problem in professional ethics, rather than merely describe what professionals say are their problems (sociology of ethics).
“Morality and the Professional Life”
Cynthia A. Brincat
Victoria S. Wike
Prentice Hall, 2000
1. Group identity
2. Shared education, training -- requirements for admission
3. Special uncommon knowledge
4. Knowledge used in the service of others… positive social need
5. Involves individual judgment, (some) autonomy in decisions
6. Adherence to certain values
7. Penalties for substandard performance
You are not a professional until you are a member of a group of colleagues who have articulated a set of standards and values and can enforce them, at the very least, by exclusion from the group.
1. Skill, competency in work
2. Relational element – work will be beneficial to others
Watch the language:
Be very careful not to embark in an exercise in ethical analysis when there is a clear legal rule in the situation that trumps the entire process of ethical analysis.
Be very careful not to assume that there is a legal rule for every situation. Often the gaps between legal rules require one to switch to an ethical analysis.
We do not seek to study professional ethics as a sociologist would, but to assist with choices about what one ought to do.
2002 British study by Burgess and Mullen:
77% of hygienists had witnessed ethical misconduct by colleagues within last 5 years.
Burgess and Mullen study. Most common cases:
Patricia Logan 2001, USA. Reported reasons for misbehavior, hygienists:
Two very different ways of reasoning. Descriptive, or scientific, studies of professional ethics help us identify issues that need to be included in Code of Ethics and in educational programs. Gives us our “case studies”.
The two are intimately related.
“universalizable” or “generalizable”
Judgments should apply to like cases and not be case-specific or subjective
“If it applies to me now, it should apply to anyone else in a similar position.”
Codes of ethics require objectivity, which means that there are principles and values outside of the individual that the members of the community share and that individuals will be measured against.
“Thinking reasonably is thinking morally.”
What would the reasonable peer do in the circumstances?
Reasonable person: mature, sane, sober, well-informed, well-intentioned, open-minded, calm, detached but empathetic …
Reasonable peer – add expertise.
Reasons explain a decision:
Reason + Reason + … Decision 1
Reason + Reason + … Decision 2
1. I should work late and finish the work I promised I’d finish.
2. I should leave and go to a party because I like parties and want to enjoy myself.
1. = universalizable, non-selfish, moral value (integrity, responsibility, promises…)
2. = non-moral reasons and decision.
Moral reason + reason +… = Decision 1
Moral reason + reason + … = Decision 2
relevant to decision
concern with person(s) most affected by decision
focussed on values of central importance
tends to be irrelevant
not concerned with person(s) most affected by decision
emphasizes peripheral valuesEvaluate Moral Reasons
use several perspectives (consequences, motives, rights, virtues, etc.)
considers all persons
fewer valuesEvaluate Moral Explanations
Is a broad perspective which:
Provide a Moral Explanation by:
Analysis … decision is already made
Decision-making … decision still to come
Values and Virtues
-- Wider issues of responsibility
-- Relations, context, conflicts, values not always the same
Brilliant, first class OHS professional … but he suggested a scheme many years ago … we would advise clients only solution to a certain regulation was purchase of a very expensive storage tank for which we and our third partner (unknown to client) would have sole vending rights …
A few years ago, heard that “Tony”, a former student was claiming that he was a professor in OHS at our university in his consulting adverts.
Investigated: His flyer said “engaged with instruction at Ryerson in OHS for 4 years” .. . Verbally interpreted as “teaching”.
“We like to order more copies of your training manual”
Never heard of the company; not a client.
“How did you get original training manuals?”
“Oh, Mr X used them when he did training for us last year.”
Bait and Switch:
Albert Einstein does the pitch but Gomer Pyle shows up to do the OHS work ….
Consultant promises to:
Or head office wants you, the employee, to agree to the above.
Member of a professional OHS group, certified by that group, set up his own designation and offered short courses for $ for people to obtain the designation. In his advertising, he said the new designation was “just as good” as the original, only half as expensive and 1/10 the time.
“Protect life, environment, and property.”
“Do not compromise.”
Are the values of equal priority when commitments come into conflict?
Your report shows areas of high risk, non-compliance, errors etc.
Your superior or client rewrites the report, eliminating your data and conclusions, or buries the report.
Duty to warn in conflict with ….
as incompetent person should not have been granted status, or should have been weeded out?
A few years ago, a well known member of the profession stated publicly that a failure to adopt behavior-based safety was professional malpractice (hence, unethical).
Insofar as BBS is “behavioral psychology”, we would be missing out on cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, evolutionary psychology, etc. etc.
Extremely important in a profession:
OHS professional transferred to company’s gold mine in South Africa. A large portion of miners were HIV positive, and life expectancy averaged 2 years. Company’s unstated position that spending on safety uneconomical due to short life span of workers? Solution?
Confidential information of:
Legal rules exist in many jurisdictions for both.
“You’ve won the contract but how about including these features of your competitor’s work – from his proposal -- into your services. We insist…”
Should you? Aiding in a breach of confidentiality by the client?
You signed a confidentiality agreement when consulting for a world class company - X. During the contract you learn many highly effective techniques. Later you are asked to give a talk at a PD conference on “X’s world class safety techniques”.
You signed a confidentiality agreement, and began contract. Discovered:
Human life versus property
Human life versus environment
1. What are alternatives?
2. Identify costs and benefits of each
4. Calculate net gain of each
5. Choose one with greatest net gain
1. Not all costs/benefits identified
2. Correct weight not given
3. Action may be greatest net gain but morally impermissible from another moral perspective
4. Appears “scientific” or “value free”; but not
5. Merely a utilitarian technique
1. Protect human interest in the environment, versus
2. Protect the environment “for its own sake”
-- “rights” for non-moral creatures?
-- universalizability of principles?
Codes of Ethics
1. Members of profession
2. Clients, employers
3. Agencies and regulators
4. Public at large
5. Professional “competitors”
3. Enforcement, self-policing
4. Resolve moral dilemmas?
5. Alert audience of expected standard of performance
1. Done to polish public image?
2. Protects professional monopoly?
3. Status symbol of emerging profession?
4. Can instill complacency (“we have a code of ethics, therefore we are ethical”)
5. Cannot create an ethics
6. Cannot truly codify ethics
7. Of marginal ability to resolve ethical dilemmas without collateral education
1. Protect people, property and the environment through the application of state-of-the-art knowledge.
2. Serve the public, employees, employers, clients and the Society with fidelity, honesty and impartiality.
1.Inform the public, employers, employees, clients and appropriate authorities when professional judgment indicates that there is an unacceptable level of risk.
“Certificants shall, in their professional safety activities, sustain and advance the integrity, honor, and prestige of the safety profession by adherence to these standards.”
1. Hold paramount the safety and health of people, the protection of the environment and protection of property in the performance of professional duties and exercise their obligation to advise employers, clients, employees, the public, and appropriate authorities of danger and unacceptable risks to people, the environment, or property.
2. Be honest, fair, and impartial; act with responsibility and integrity. Adhere to high standards of ethical conduct with balanced care for the interests of the public, employers, clients, employees, colleagues and the profession. Avoid all conduct or practice which is likely to discredit the profession or deceive the public.
3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner and only when founded upon knowledge of the facts and competence in the subject matter.
4. Undertake assignments only when qualified by education or experience in the specific technical fields involved. Accept responsibility for their continued professional development by acquiring and maintaining competence through continuing education, experience and professional training.
5. Avoid deceptive acts which falsify or misrepresent their academic or professional qualifications. Not misrepresent or exaggerate their degree of responsibility in or for the subject matter of prior assignments.
5. Continued …
Presentations incident to the solicitation of employment shall not misrepresent pertinent facts concerning employers, employees, associates, or past accomplishments with the intent and purpose of enhancing their qualifications and their work.
6. Conduct their professional relations by the highest standards of integrity and avoid compromise of their professional judgment by conflicts of interest.
7. Act in a manner free of bias with regard to religion, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.
8. Seek opportunities to be of constructive service in civic affairs and work for the advancement of the safety, health and well-being of their community and their profession by sharing their knowledge and skills.
And put on subject line “ethics talk”