Ethics and Scope of Work 
Editor’s note: The case studies in this article are fictitious and are intended to highlight ethical issues in the practice of industrial hygiene. Any resemblance to real people or organizations is coincidental. Please send your responses to The Synergist. Responses may be printed in a future issue as space permits.
This month’s ethics scenarios place industrial hygienists in a position of deciding between a realistic assessment of their technical capabilities and a concern for their financial sustainability.
ALAN LEIBOWITZ, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, is the president of EHS Systems Solutions LLC, a member of the Joint Industrial Hygiene Ethics Education Committee, a current ABIH Board member, and a past Board member of AIHA. Send feedback to The Synergist.
SCENARIO 1: INTELLECTUAL HONESTY AND SCOPE OF PRACTICE Chloe graduated from a prestigious university with a Master of Science degree in chemistry in the 1980s. Her first job was in the safety department of a major poultry supplier where she was quickly recognized as a rising star and asked to obtain her CIH to provide more flexibility in the areas she could address. She studied hard and passed on her first try. For the next 20 years she worked in positions of ever-increasing responsibility for a variety of food and beverage firms. Her responsibilities focused on food safety and sanitation to control employee exposures and prevent potential product contamination.  As she gained greater professional recognition and experience, she decided that she would like to try working for herself. She opened an independent consulting practice, which continued to focus on the food industry. Initially her industry contacts and reputation enabled a lucrative and professionally satisfying book of business. Over time, however, an increasing number of her clients decided to use larger firms with in-house laboratories. Her business began to struggle.  A neighbor, aware of the challenges Chloe was facing, informed her of a major solicitation her employer had put out for bid, relating to lead paint sampling and analysis, that required a CIH. The neighbor suggested that she was in a position to influence the decision and ensure that Chloe was selected. Chloe was torn: she had no experience with lead contamination, but how hard could it be to address such a basic IH concern?  For discussion: Should Chloe take on such a serious project despite having no experience in this area? Doing so may not provide the level of performance the contract clearly anticipates, but Chloe could study the basics of the issue and meet the minimum contract requirements. Should Chloe allow her neighbor to influence the awarding of the contract in her favor? Consider the possible obligations of a consultant to ensure appropriate behavior by a potential client. What ethical issues should Chloe consider as she does her analysis? What is Chloe’s primary ethical responsibility?
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SCENARIO 2: PRODUCT CERTIFICATION  Ivan has had a long and successful industrial hygiene career at Nuclear Notions, Inc. (NNI), a supplier of luxury home fallout shelters. While the company does not build the shelters themselves, they provide a full range of interior finishes and furnishings. These shelters are almost always buried underground and have sophisticated ventilation systems to filter incoming air and to maintain a safe and comfortable living environment for what might be long-term occupants. All products are selected for minimum impact on these ventilation and filtration resources.  Historically, many of the products NNI installs came with rigorous, but not legally required, certifications. These certifications document that they are safe and do not pose a risk to occupants from potential compromise of the ventilation due to off-gassing from the materials used in their construction. As part of an initial effort to reduce costs, NNI has identified a less expensive international supplier for one of their product lines who has committed to meet all previous standards. However, they do not have an EHS professional to certify products. Ivan’s boss asks him if he would be a “team player” and sign the certification since the product specifications would not be changing with this new supplier.  Ivan does not have experience in such analyses but is familiar with the existing process and accepts that if the products are identical to existing stock, then there is no new risk to consumers. His budget cannot support complete outside laboratory analysis, but he does have various sampling devices that he would use to test similar products in the work environment.  While he is uncomfortable with his options, Ivan is aware that the company needs to become more profitable if it is to survive. He believes that the company’s leadership is committed to providing safe products and that this expansion of his role is evidence of their confidence in his professional capabilities. He also believes that his career at NNI depends, in part, on his being seen as a “team player.” For discussion: How does an IH determine when to verify information provided by a third party? Can an IH certify the safety of consumer products? Does Ivan have an obligation to go beyond legal requirements to ensure that new products meet historic internal standards? Given that this is the initial instance of what is promised to be a broader cost-saving effort, how should Ivan ensure that future cost-saving efforts properly address IH concerns? What ethical issues should Ivan consider as he does his analysis? What is Ivan’s primary ethical responsibility? 
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Ethical Principles  Consider the following excerpts from the AIHA/ACGIH ethical principles (PDF) when discussing the scenarios presented in this article: II.A.2: II. Responsibilities to Clients, Employers, Employees and the Public.
A. In order to provide ethical professional services, members should:
2. Recognize the limitations of one’s professional ability, and provide services only when qualified. The member is responsible for determining the limits of his/her own professional abilities based on education, knowledge, skills, practice experience, and other relevant considerations.
3. Provide appropriate professional referrals when unable to provide competent professional assistance.
5. Properly use professional credentials and provide truthful and accurate representations concerning education, experience, competency and the performance of services.
6. Provide truthful and accurate representations to the public in advertising, public statements/representations, and in the preparation of estimates concerning costs, services, and expected results.
8. Affix or authorize the use of one’s seal, stamp or signature only when the document is prepared by the certificant/candidate or someone under his/her direction and control.
C. In order to satisfy organizational policies and legal requirements concerning public health and safety, members should:
1. Follow appropriate health and safety procedures in the course of performing professional work to protect clients, employers, employees, and the public from conditions where injury and damage are reasonably foreseeable.