Let me introduce myself.
I am the instructor of this course – Thea Dunmire.
I’d like to start by telling you a little about how this course came into being and how I came to be teaching a web-based course on ethics for occupational health and safety professionals.
This course is the outgrowth of many years of involvement in developing, interpreting and teaching about professional codes of ethics.
My Initial Interest in Ethics
In 1992 to 1994, I was a member of the IH Code of Ethics Task Force and I provided extensive comments on the “Code of Ethics for the Practice of Industrial Hygiene” for the American Academy of Industrial Hygiene. At that time, I was an attorney with the law firm Dickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen & Freeman in Chicago. I got involved with the IH task force based on the interest in ethical obligations I developed when I was required to pass an “ethics exam” in order to pass the bar exam so I could practice as an attorney.
What is Old is New
In reviewing my correspondence and notes from the 1990’s, I realized that many of the ethical issues we were concerned about then are still important today. One of the documents I found was a letter I put together in 1992 listing what I thought were the major issues with the code of ethics being proposed. These included –
What is the scope of practice to which the Code of Ethics applies?
Now, as then, industrial hygienists often do more than just industrial hygiene. They manage integrated safety and environmental programs. They advise on product stewardship. They develop employee wellness programs. In other words, they wear multiple hats. These different hats may come with differing – and potentially conflicting – ethical obligations.
To which stakeholders do health and safety professionals own their primary duty?
The question then – as now – is whether their primary responsibility is owed to their clients or employers, to workers or to the public at large. There is no problem if the interests of all stakeholders are aligned. There is potentially a major problem when they are not.
What are the obligations for disclosure of confidential information in “endangerment” situations?
Do health and safety professionals have a right, and perhaps even a duty, to disclose information a client or employer wants kept confidential? Under what circumstances is disclosure appropriate?
It is interesting to me that these same issues are still important and challenging today!
ABIH Ethics Training Requirement
In 2009, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) added an ethics requirement to their certification program. Both those applying for certification and those applying for re-certification as Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) are required to document that they have completed at least two hours of coursework in ethics.
In order to help its members meet this requirement, the Florida Local Section of AIHA asked me to put together an ethics training class. I taught the first class for them in 2009 and have been teaching ethics classes ever since. These in-person classes have been structured to primarily focus on evaluating a series of case studies that raise ethical dilemmas.
Structuring a Web-Based Interactive Class
This web-based class is an outgrowth of those in-person ethics classes.
The challenge in developing this class has been to retain the case study focus in a virtual classroom. In order to accomplish this, the completion of a case study exercise is an important component of this course. The case study “discussion” that students found useful in the in-person classes is accomplished virtually in this class through the completion of survey questions and the use of posted commentary. Once you complete your analysis of a case study, you will have the opportunity to add to your views to the case study discussion as well as see the comments made by others.
This is not the same as a discussion in real time but it should prove interesting.
I look forward to seeing you in the virtual classroom and I hope you enjoy the course.
p.s. If you want to know more about my qualifications, click here for a copy of my resume.
For history buffs, click here if you are interested in taking a look at the case study I developed and helped present at the AAIH Conference (now the Fall Conference) in Fort Lauderdale, FL in October of 1994.
The issues raised in this 1994 case study are still relevant today. I have used this case study to develop one of the case studies that is included in this course.
Note – The Academy has since merged with the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). Today, AIHA does not have a separate code of ethics but instead references the code of ethics of the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH).