Safety and Health Ethics

Certainly, it seems that ethics is not a topic to discuss when occupational safety and health (OSH) surfaces as a subject. But, this is why it is part of the big picture in giving legs to the relevance of OSH. The answer as to why ethics is a key principle to OSH is as follows:

  • • Safety and health must be a set of ethical and moral values.
  • • Failure to set standards and values degrades safety and health credibility.
  • • Loss of safety and health credibility will be hard to recover from.
  • • OSH is held to a higher standard.
  • • Commitment to safety and health is demonstrated by actions.
  • • Safety and health values or attitudes are exhibited in behaviors toward safety and health.
  • • What is done in the name of OSH speaks louder than what is said.
  • • Much can be lost when no true value is placed on safety and health.
  • • A simple failure to ethically represent OSH does much to decrease its stature.

There is an old saying that goes like this: "Credibility is a lot like virginity," in that once it is lost, it is gone. Credibility, once lost, is nearly impossible to regain, and in this statement, the same holds true for the ethics of safety and health conduct. If a company or the person responsible for safety and health (i.e., safety manager) breaches the ethics regarding safety and health of workers, the words "ethical behavior" may just as well be a foreign language. The trust or credibility that existed is gone and will take a great deal of effort to recover.

Safety and health is viewed as a profession that has at its core responsibility for the health and welfare of people. This puts the safety and health professional on a similar pedestal as a medical professional. Safety and health professionals are expected to function under a code of ethics and exhibit behavior that is compatible with that code.

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