Dave’s Health & Safety Minute: Ethics

DF SafetyHSE Compliance, Management and Leadership

Dave Ferro

Just for fun, I thought I would say a few words on ethics when it comes to Occupational Health and Safety. This subject is near and dear to me: I have had the privilege of providing a guest lecture to the NAIT Occupational Health and Safety Diploma students every year for the past three years. Here are some of the things that I like to pass on to them.

We work in a comparatively small industry. Word gets around quickly, and a few bad decisions can follow your career for a long time. As a result, the most successful people I know in this industry are honest and have integrity. Sooner or later, any one of us can, and will, find ourselves in a position where our reputation and history will be your only defense. Conduct yourself with integrity and honesty at all times.

You need to know what your personal code of ethics and guiding principles are before a crisis. Developing these ideas takes active thought. When the pressure is on, if you have a well-developed sense of ethics, you will make good decisions. If you do not, you will flounder. When you are in the fire, it is not the time for quiet reflection.

My Personal Code of Ethics

  1. Always be honest in your dealings. This is one that I took from my father. He always said that an honest man can sleep well at night. I agree with him. In the safety industry, this can manifest itself in many ways. Be honest when performing investigations. Be honest in your billings. Use your time efficiently when someone is paying for it.
  2. Admit your shortcomings. Always admit your errors and screw ups. Own them, and correct them!
  3. Protect the worker, the supervisor, and the organization, in that order. Happily, all of these goals are linked, and actions taken to protect one also protects the others.  
  4. Deal in fact, not opinion. This one I take from a safety mentor who taught me this early in my career. You can never go wrong with the facts.  Sometimes, when things are cloudy — in a complicated incident investigation where there are different opinions or positions, for example. It pays to simply list the facts as you know them. Put the rest to the side, and things will become clear.
  5. Everyone gets a basic measure of respect for simply being human. Additional respect is earned. This one comes from a Superintendent I worked with many years ago. Treat others well, always.  
A couple of other tips I give all students:
  1. The secret to success is being able to objectively rate your own performance. It is amazing how many people cannot do this. Have you ever seen someone fired for obvious poor work, and they leave thinking they were awesome, and the company would flounder without them? Objectively measure your own performance!
  2. Public and private life are no longer separate. Watch what you post on social media and how you contribute to public forums. When talking about your private life, know your audience and their sensibilities.

Questions? I am happy to answer them by email. Please contact me at: dave.ferro@dfsafety.ca.