Human beings make ethical decisions on a daily basis, where they have to make choices that affect their morality. This is as a result of the societal norms that govern our lives. Such norms determine what is good or evil, and as human beings we have to make these decisions on a regular basis.
Ethics, which is also, known as moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that seeks to address questions of morality. These include concepts such as, right, wrong, good, bad, evil, virtue and justice (Badiou, 2001).
Nabor (2003, p. 2) defines ethics as the study of the nature and morality of the human acts. This raises the question of what makes a moral action in the first place. Nabor (2003) further argues that study of ethics deals with types of questions, one critically normative and the other theoretical. The paper is based more on what is seen to be critically normative.
Consider a situation where a safety consultant in private practice who has experience working in the field for about two years. In one instance you get to consult for an organisation where workers' compensation cost for personnel in one of the buildings is extremely high.
The consultant evaluates the situation and finds out that only restricted personnel are allowed in the building, hence little supervision for the management personnel. The consultant also discovers routine dumping of toxic substances in a nearby stream and disposal of large amounts of benzene in the same sewer. This leads to severe cases of heavy metal poisoning, and the workers have no sense of the health hazards.
The consultant submits the report to the human resources director and informs the director about the case of metal poisoning. The director tells the consultant to keep quiet on those findings as they are the result of competitive pressure and promises regular consultancy work for the consultant.
From the above scenario we can deduce a case of morality, which is within the realms of ethics. The consultant finds a problem in an organization, but is promised an increase in payment and future work if he keeps quiet on the case. Many people find themselves in this situation on a regular basis.
The consultant finds himself in a situation where he has to make what Rae (1995) calls moral choice. He could choose to cooperate with the human resources director, and keep secret his findings. This will be to the detriment of the innocent staff suffering the consequences of metal poisoning which they have no knowledge of. He could also opt to report the case to the relevant authority, in this case starting with the top management of the organization, or the legal authority that regulates the workers’ rights and agents monitoring environmental pollution.
The consultant will have made an ethical decision in either way, including keeping quite on the problem. Ethics is concerned with the study of situations as the case study shows, where the consultant has to make a moral decision that will affect many people.
Ethics which is concerned with making moral decisions affects many people on a daily basis. This is where people have to make moral decisions that will affect both others and themselves. Such decisions are governed by the regulations within the society where one lives.
Based on the case study described above, it is observed that the human resource director was aware of the hazardous conditions the staffs were working in, but was ready not to initiate any changes. On the other hand, the consultant who discovered the problem in his investigations had the duty and responsibility to alert the relevant authorities.