NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search
The right to know in the workplace. The moral dimension.
Ann NY Acad Sci 1989 Dec; 572:113-123
The nature of moral rights as it impinges on the right to know of workplace hazards was discussed. Two basic views on moral rights, consequentialist and nonconsequentialist were presented. The consequentialist theory indicated that a right exists if recognition of the right would produce the best outcome for all those affected by the exercise of that right. The nonconsequentialist theory said that rights can and do exist even if recognition of them does not produce the best general outcome. A case was presented in which retrospective cohort mortality studies produce the finding of a risk of some sort for the cohorts involved. Such findings were published in the scientific literature and elsewhere. The question then remained as to whether NIOSH, the investigating body in this case, should make the risk known to each individual member of the at risk cohort or not. Consultation with the Office of General Counsel of the Public Health Service and the CDC Ethics Committee produced two opposing views on whether to inform individuals. Various sections of the Occupational Safety and Health Act were described which deal with the worker's right to know. The author concludes that the framers of OSHA intended for workers to be informed of their risks. It is better by far for reasons of stable public policy that one build a general public consensus among the well informed and well meaning citizenry.
NIOSH-Publication; NIOSH-Author; Legislation; Occupational-exposure; Industrial-hazards; Risk-factors; Regulations; Worker-health; Occupational-health
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Page last reviewed: May 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division