Mentoring Corner: Discussion Topic – Ethics

Pick out an ethical dilemma at work that the mentee recently had to deal with (preferably of a technical nature).  What was the situation, how did they deal with it, and what was the outcome. Which philosophical approach did they take, if any?  Consequentialism, Deontology (rights-based), or Applied Virtue Ethics.

Supplemental questions to consider:  How do you define ethics?  Are there codes of conduct for my profession that I have to follow?  How will/do you FEEL about your decision?

If the mentoring pair needs guidance in applying the three major philosophical approaches to Ethical Decision-Making or for any other reason, please contact the Joint Industrial Hygiene Ethics Education Committee (JIHEEC).  A committee representative can help guide the discussion as necessary.  One note of caution:  The JIHEEC is careful to avoid offering “prescriptive”  solutions or advice other than in general terms.  For example, JIHEEC Committee Members try to offer thought provoking scenarios but not provide specific guidance.  They welcome the opportunity to provide educational assistance, but are very careful to not render “judgments”.

The AIHA publication, “Ethics for the Safety and Health Professional:  Approaches and Case Studies” is an excellent resource that can be used to facilitate this topic.

If the mentee doesn’t have an ethical dilemma at work or prefers not to discuss specific ethical decisions they are currently faced with at work, here is a sample case study the mentoring pair can analyze instead.  If the mentoring pair has access to the publication mentioned above, they can choose to discuss any of the case studies mentioned in that book.

Case Study: An industrial hygienist working in a foreign country is using sampling and analysis methods which are legal for the country but not consistent with best practices.*

Lorne, an industrial hygienist working in Shanghai, is tasked with determining worker exposures to naphthalene by determining airborne concentrations of naphthalene vapor.  He ignores the fact that naphthalene may also be airborne as dust.  According to good industrial hygiene practices, he should have measured particulate naphthalene as well.  However, the results from measuring only the vapor phase are acceptable to the local authority because it is the “legal” specified method for measuring naphthalene in China.  Lorne is utilizing a Chinese industrial hygiene laboratory to analyze the samples.

Dilemma: Is Lorne doing the right thing in reporting only vapor-phase naphthalene?  What obligation does Lorne have to go above and beyond a host country’s legal requirements for sampling and analysis for this analyte?

*Source:  “Ethics for the Safety and Health Professional:  Approaches and Case Studies”

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