AIHA Survey: IHs Pressured to Make Unethical Decisions

Nearly three-quarters of industrial hygienists (IHs) responding to a recent survey said they have been asked to conduct themselves in a manner contrary to the ethical canons of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

It is not clear how representative the survey is of pressures felt by most IH professionals, however. An explanation of the results posted on AIHA's Web site states that although the survey site received a fair number of "hits," only 19 members filled out the complete survey form.

AIHA has developed six "Canons of Ethical Conduct," that offer general guidance to ethical issues faced by IH professionals. These canons along with more detailed "interpretive guidelines" can be found on AIHA's Web site at www.aiha.org/Committees/html/Ethics/jiheec-code.htm.

In some cases the canons may seem to underscore, rather than resolve, genuine ethical dilemmas. For example, canon three states an IH shall: "Keep confidential personal and business information obtained during the exercise of industrial hygiene activities, except when required by law or overriding health and safety considerations."

Among the other results of the apparently unscientific survey:

  • 63 percent of respondents refer to the canons at least "somewhat routinely;"
  • 79 percent think the focus on ethical conduct within the IH community needs enhancement;
  • 37 percent believe the canons are deficient and could be improved;
  • 47 percent think additional resources should be made available for review and possible enforcement of the canons.

The survey was conducted by AIHA's Ethics Committee, and despite the few respondents, the results are thought to be of value both to the committee and AIHA's membership, according to Jeff Throckmorton, a former member of the Joint Ethics Education Committee. The joint committee brings together AIHA and three other professional associations of industrial hygienists: the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH), American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), and the Academy of Industrial Hygiene (AIH).

The survey has been left open and members of these organizations may still participate by going to www.aiha.org/Committees/surveys/EthicsSurvey.asp.

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