Ethical Principles

  • Autonomy is defined by the right to self-determination and respects the individual’s right to make informed decisions. Examples include:
    • Employees viewed as valuable assets and part of the decision-making.
    • Access to information about toxic exposures and their long-term consequences for safe decision-making.
    • Complete and full disclosure of work-related harm.
    • Worker notification, right to know, informed consent regarding health screening and surveillance activities.
    • Privacy and confidentiality of health records and information.
  • Nonmaleficence is often referred to as the “no harm principle” that is inherent in professional standards, licensure, and codes of ethics and with an obligation not to place employees at risk of harm without protection. Examples include:
    • Avoid placing workers in dangerous working conditions including technology with unknown/uncertain risks.
    • Do not offer hazard pay for dangerous work which may create bias for doing the work.
    • Aggressively address bullying, and physical and non-physical violence.
    • Avoid placing an employee with known health considerations (e.g., pregnant employee, known disability, asthma) into harmful exposure work conditions (Department of Justice. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 amended 2009).
    • Develop positive leadership and policy practices to prevent unsupportive work organization behavior.
    • Avoid creating too much stress where workers feel little or no control over the work, and where workers have poor interpersonal relationships with supervisors and co-workers, heavy workloads, long work hours, and poor wages.
  • Beneficence relates to mitigating or preventing harm and creating practices and environments that help others achieve their maximum health potential. Examples include:
    • Team walk-throughs to identify potential hazards and stress drivers and make recommendations for hazard abatement.
    • Health screenings that may identify early disease or disease interactive agents (e.g., noise exposure and presbycusis or age-related hearing loss).
    • Health protective programs like immunizations (e.g., influenza vaccine) or a back injury prevention program.
    • Management and workers’ obligations for an effective safety culture like safety compliance and reporting unsafe practices and non-compliance.
  • Justice is directed toward treating employees equally and without discrimination with regards to their health status, gender, ethnicity, social aspects, and the like. Examples include:
    • Non-punitive environment for incident/error reporting to improve work practice (hiring/firing practices).
    • Balancing costs and benefits and divided loyalties.
    • Not singling out workers or work groups to perform unpleasant or hazardous duties.
Page last reviewed: April 28, 2022