Occupational Safety and Health Ethics

The major factors affecting ethics related to safety and health are character and culture. If safety and health is not a value within the company culture, then a safety and health professional with all the character in the world cannot be effective. Safety and health must have support within the company; then, a safety and health professional can do what is right. This means that the professional must ask himself/herself the following trite questions:

  • • Would you be embarrassed if your friends and family found out what you did?
  • • What if this happened to you?
  • • Is it legal, and does it comply with regulatory requirements?
  • • Does it feel right?

If these question cannot be answered in the positive, then do what is right. This means that safety and health professionals must do the following:

  • • Really care about the welfare of everyone; it will show.
  • • Treat everyone and all aspects of safety and health equally.
  • • Treat everyone with respect and dignity.
  • • Take all concerns by employees seriously, and respond in a timely and professional manner.
  • • Try to avoid the gray areas concerning values and expectations.
  • • Set up acceptable standards for behavior regarding right and wrong safety and health issues.
  • • Lead by example.
  • • Do not accept unsafe acts or behavior.
  • • Continue to build trust and commitment.
  • • Reprisal is never an appropriate response.
  • • Hold themselves and others accountable for safety and health practices in an evenhanded and fair manner.

Ethics are the moral principles and values that govern the actions and decisions of an individual or group. Operating a company according to the law does not necessarily mean that the practice is ethical. Again, the cornerstones of ethics are character and culture.

Further Readings

Reese, C.D. Accident/Incident Prevention Techniques (Second Edition). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2012. Reese, C.D. Occupational Health and Safety Management (Third Edition). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2016.

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