Scroll down – or click on the links below – for additional information on the following topics:
- Ethics in General
- Decision-Making Approaches
- Competence & Qualifications
- Social Responsibility & Sustainability
- Plagiarism & Copyright Infringement
- Ethics and Employee Protection
- Confidentiality of Medical Records
The field of ethics is very broad. As mentioned in lesson 1, there are so many separate entries in Wikipedia that there is an index to the ethics-related entries.
This training class primarily focuses primarily on the use of the ABIH Codes of Ethics to assist occupational health and safety professionals in resolving ethical dilemmas.
Click here to access the Code of Ethics of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP).
Click here to access the Code of Conduct of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).
For more information about codes of ethics and to access the codes of ethics for many different organizations, check out the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Profession at http://ethics.iit.edu/research/codes-ethics-collection.
For an interesting op-ed article discussing the use of codes of ethics, check out the New York Times editorial by David Brooks – The limits of empathy. In it, he states – “If you want to make the world a better place, help people debate, understand, reform, revere and enact their codes. Accept that codes conflict.”
Making ethical decisions is part of making good decisions in general.
There are a number of books that discuss decision-making. Two of my favorites are –
- The Signal and The Noise – why so many predictions fail but some don’t by Nate Silver
- The Power of Habit – Why we do what we do in like and business by Charles Duhigg
For additional guidance on ethical decision-making, check out How Good People Make Tough Choices by Rushworth Kidder. It focuses on resolving right vs. right ethical dilemmas and includes a number of safety-related examples.
Competence & Qualifications
Competence is defined as the “ability to apply knowledge and skills to achieve intended results.” Qualified is defined as “meeting the proper standards and requirements and training for an office or position or tasks.”
Many codes of ethics, including those of ABIH and BCSP, contain ethical standards regarding competence, qualifications or both.
Click here for general information about professional certification programs.
Whistleblowing is a term that is used to cover two different types of disclosure that are actually quite different –
- Disclosing information about the actions of an organization (e.g. government agency, corporation, nonprofit) to outsiders.
- Reporting on the conduct of other individuals to an organizational “enforcer”
Organizations often encourage the second; but punish individuals who engage in the first.
For more information about whistleblowing, check out the following website: http://www.whistleblowerlaws.com/
For an interesting article on whistleblowing in the nursing, click here to access Whistleblowing as a Failure of Organizational Ethics by James J. Fletcher, Jeanne M. Sorrell and May Cipriano Silva. It appeared in the December 31, 1998 issue of online journal of issues in nursing.
Many codes of ethics prohibit activity that is characterized as bribery. One of the challenges related to these prohibitions against bribery is that there is not universal agreement on what conduct should be considered bribery and whether it should even be considered unethical at all.
For an interesting article on this topic – click here to go to The Ethics of Bribery by Murray N. Rothbard.
The determination of what is considered unacceptable behavior varies both geographically and by industry. Click here to review an article from the Tampa Bay Times reporting the results of a 2013 survey of officers and employees of large companies in 36 countries.
In additional to ethical prohibitions against bribery, there are also laws that make certain kinds of bribery unethical. Click here for more information about U.S. federal laws prohibiting bribery.
Social Responsibility & Sustainability
Social Responsibility and Sustainability are sometimes characterized as organizational ethics.
Click here to download (as a pdf) an article – Ethics for Environmental and Sustainability Reporting co-authored by Thea Dunmire and Jacob Cremer (2013).
Another interesting article on corporate ethics and the role for OH&S professionals is Managing Best Practices: The corporate ethics eruption by Dan Markiewicz.
Plagiarism & Copyright Infringement
Ethical issues can arise related to the use of intellectual property.
Typically these issues related to either –
- Plagiarism – the passing off the ideas or words of another as one’s own.
- Copyright violation – using materials owned by someone else without their permission.
Copyright violation is both unethical and illegal. It can result in significant financial penalties. It has become a much more significant problem with the availability of information on the internet.
Click here to download a link to a paper that explains the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement.
Want to see how much you know about plagiarism, click here to access a 10 question quiz to check your knowledge.
Ethics and Employee Protection
Ethical issues can arise related to the OH&S Professional’s obligations to protect employee and the public.
These issues can be related to –
- The need to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information, such as medical records
- Responsibility to protect individuals from conditions were injury or damage are reasonably foreseeable
- Responsibility to report situations of imminent danger
Click here to access the article entitled Ethics the Absurd Yet Preferred Approach to Safety Management by Jan K. Wachter (Professional Safety June 2011).
Confidentiality of Medical Information
The need to maintain the confidentiality of medical records is also impacted by legal and contractual requirements.
In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) establishes rules for the release of medical records. Although HIPPA does regulate many health-related records, it does NOT regulate employers or employment-related health or occupational health records. Records that are not protected include exposure records, medical records related to workers compensation claims and certain drug testing results. Click here to go to a blog post on this topic – HIPAA not always is applicable to occ-health.
It is also important to recognize that many individuals routinely sign releases that provide that organizations – including their employers and medical services providers – do not have to maintain the confidentiality of their medical records. In this case, the information may no longer be subject to HIPAA protection.
The protection of medical information is lost when an employee submits a claim for worker compensation benefits. Click here to access an article about a decision of the Georgia Supreme Count providing that companies can obtain such medical information. (Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc. v. McRae, 292Ga.243, decided Dec. 2012)