Professionalism and Engineering Ethics

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Companies have the responsibility of ensuring the health of their workers through rigorous compliance with set health standards. Not only is this good for the workers at certain factories but it helps to develop ensure that the company portrays the right amount of corporate social responsibility in ensuring the health and well-being of those that work for it. While Benzene is regularly used by petrochemical or petroleum refining plants it is still considered a hazardous carcinogen due to the effects of long-term exposure which could result in leukemia, anemia, and various forms of myeloma. The reasoning behind the OSHA Benzene exposure rule is to ensure the workers that are subjected to environments where there is the possibility of exposure are not exposed to such high levels that it could possibly lead to health complications in the future (OSHA 70). While the ruling itself promotes better workplace health standards for employees the fact remains that it has a major loophole that can be abused by most companies. A recent case in Minnesota shows this particular loophole in that the Minnesota district court dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a family that supposedly claimed constant Benzene exposure was the cause of the death of their father. The company showed that it complied with OSHA regulations in terms of the appropriate level of Benzene exposure that employees could be subjected to and as a result, the courts ruled in favor of the company. So long as the company can prove that it has complied with the set regulations of the OSHA there is little that prosecutors can do to prove liability on the part of the company. The problem with the OSHA ruling is that it neglects to take into account the possibility of significant Time-weighted average limit of Benzene exposure over a prolonged period of time when at a significantly low dose (Tiefer 680). While numerous studies show the effects of high levels of Benzene concentrations on organisms there are few which indicate the possible harmful effects of low-level exposures over a prolonged period of time. My stance on this particular issue is that while companies can comply with the OSHA Benzene exposure rule the fact remains that they still subject their employees to certain levels of exposure to a known carcinogen. While some studies indicate that at such low levels the effect is harmless the fact remains that such studies are not definitive in that they do not fully indicate what could possibly happen over a prolonged period of time. Ethical theories such as the line drawing technique can be used to determine whether the actions undertaken by a company fall under either a positive paradigm or a negative paradigm in terms of how the actions are undertaken could possibly harm employees. The case of the family in Minnesota and the death of their father is a prime example of what could go wrong with the OSHA Benzene exposure rule and as such it should be subject to change in order to prevent future problems from occurring.

Malpractices in the vast Chinese manufacturing industry have appeared in the news lately due to the amount of speculation as to whether or not products originating from China are safe. It must be noted that over the past two decades China has grown exponentially as a manufacturing giant with numerous corporations such as Apple, Dell, and HP have outsourced their production facilities to various Chinese locations. Unfortunately, Chinese production standards are far different than those of U.S.-based companies with factors such as corporate social responsibility rarely being implemented in Chinese manufacturing processes. As a result, various factories expose their workers to nearly several times the recommended parts per million dosages of chemicals such as Benzene, Chlorine, Sulfur, and various other chemicals. Proper industrial waste disposal methods are nowhere near U.S. standards with rampant government corruption resulting in improper methods of disposal which affect local communities. This negligence has actually carried over into products produced by numerous companies with contaminated pet food, toys painted with lead-based paint, and other forms of faulty products being shipped to the U.S. which as a result has negatively impacted various consumers (Thredgold 13). The ethical issues that contributed to this problem stem from a need by Chinese manufacturers to keep their costs down to remain viable in a competitive global economy. The reason why U.S. companies outsource to China in the first place is due to the relatively cheap cost of labor and the fact that the Chinese government is not as strict when it comes to instituting particular safety measures as compared to the situation for companies in the U.S. As a result companies can produce items at a relatively cheaper cost since compliance to U.S. based regulatory standards adds additional costs to the manufacturing process. The ethical theories learned in the course helps to effectively set the actions of the companies involved against a particular framework of morals by which their actions can be compared against and measured to determine whether their actions fall either towards the positive or negative paradigm of the line drawing technique. As such it can be seen that the actions of the companies involved are wholly unethical and have actually resulted in deteriorating the health of their employees and endangering the lives of their customers with faulty products (Fremlin 1). It is recommended that stricter government controls be put in place such as a Chinese version of the OSHA in order to create a safer working environment for Chinese workers in factories and as a result prevent the production and distribution of possibly dangerous goods. Furthermore, it is also recommended that U.S.-based companies outsourcing their production facilities in China ensure that the products produced comply with the same product safety standards as seen in numerous U.S.-based companies so as to further enhance employee safety and ensure safe manufacturing procedures.

Negative paradigm
Negative paradigm
  • Negative Paradigm – Knowingly accepts expensive gesture in order to benefit oneself
  • Positive Paradigm – Accepts simple gestures in order to foster better relations
  1. The expese of gesture is very low (i.e cups, cheap corporate giveaways)
  2. The expense of fostering better relations is shared between the two (going out for lunch and each paying for their own way)
  3. The expense of gift is beyond normal (worth several hundred dollars)
  4. The expense of fostering better relations is wholly done by the other party and is at an expensive location
  5. Money is given by the other party with the intention of securing more orders in the future through bribery

Other scenarios

A representative offers to buy you lunch in a small fast food restaurant to discuss current business dealings versus the representative treating you to the most expensive restaurant in the city.

A supplier sends you a Facebook invite in order to stay in touch versus the supplier inviting you to their company sponsored party.

Works Cited

Fremlin, Grace Parke. “Careful Contracts Reduce Risk.” China Business Review 35.1 (2008): 34.EBSCO.

“OSHA limits exposure to benzene.” Monthly Labor Review 101.5 (1978): 70. EBSCO.

Tiefer, Charles. “OSHA’s Toxics Program Faces a Supreme Court Test.” Labor Law Journal 30.11 (1979): 680-688. EBSCO.

Thredgold, Jeff. “Made in China.” Enterprise/Salt Lake City 2007: 13 EBSCO.

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