Human Choice: Would you act unethically when you are alone on a deserted island?

Human Factors in HSE & CSR
By Arend van Campen, from his book; ‘Safety of Ethics’; which was nominated for the Energy Institute Award on Safety 2014.

Astronomer and well known scientist Carl Sagan spoke of the fact that we all live on earth, the only place we know where life is possible; ‘ we live on a speck of dust caught in a sunbeam.’ He spoke about the necessity to cherish and preserve our planet because everything we use and everyone we know lives on it. Everyone, including managers of tank storage and energy corporations, commodity traders, politicians or bankers depend on vital resources such as drinking water, food and shelter provided only by our earth.
Human choices or as they are often called in the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) world, ‘Human factors’ are decisive and ultimately responsible and accountable for ethical implementation of HSE and CSR policies. Human factors are a combination of human consciousness and human conscience. 
Despite an ever growing volume of HSE & CSR laws, rules, regulations and guidelines offered by organizations such as ISGOTT (International Safety Guide Oil Tankers and Terminals), SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea), OCIMF (Oil Companies International Marine Forum, IFC (International Finance Corporation) or ISO certification standards like ISO 31000 on risk management, ISO 26000 on social responsibility and ISO 14000 on environmental management, they are not a priority. The question is; ‘why?’
Our research found answers. It observed human choice and behaviour in ethical issues in real time against an increasing volume of rules of conduct concerning HSE and CSR policies.  Because economic gain or growth is often the main motivating factor, HSE and CSR policies are deemed useful only to contain risk or liability for the short term. They are often used as ‘window dressing’. 
The following shows a listing of safety, health, environment rules, guidelines and regulations compared with real life observations in the field:

HSE articles
Observations in the field
1.  Safety, Environment and health protection
Pumping off spec effluent in ocean
2.  Applicable laws compliance
Non-compliance, no gas flaring law exists
3.  Incident feedback/information
No proper communication about shore tank overflow incident
4.  Selection of industrial partners
Chain responsibility of hauled waste and treatment was questionable
5.  HSE risk management
Thousands of pages.  Proper pragmatic interpretation were visibly not adhered to in terminal
6.  HSE assessment
Only fix when broken attitude.  Sampling equipment not available
7.  Emergency procedures
Oil boom was not in operational condition
8.  Personal responsibility
Local staff welcomed the research because they felt that management had delayed needed action
9.  Social responsibility
Polluted rivers, blocked oil / water sewer systems endanger local communities
10.  Sustainable development
Solutions may have been developed, but they were not implemented, nor were they included in their planned investment. This was found to be the main cause of non-adherence to in house HSE / CSR regulation, guidelines and rules.

What we found in several other case studies in the storage terminal and energy industry is that the above observations are linked with the unwillingness to spend money for modernization of infrastructure or protection of the environment, health or safety, unless it is ordered by law, demanded by authorities, environmental protection agencies or required by international standards dictated from auditing bodies. Choosing from an innate and naturally provided conscience to protect human and non-human life has often been replaced by reluctance to comply only. To do more than just comply is considered to be an extra expense. This is a false assumption and too often proven by enormous costs at a later date.
Compliance costs more than self-aware prevention and anticipation which human ethics or morality gives us.  
This has led to several incidents and even closure of a large oil and chemical storage terminal in Rotterdam, Botlek. Here management knowingly continued operations despite HSE & CSR flaws and risks that were reported by personnel but were ignored for ulterior motives (i.e. to keep operational as long as possible to make money). They even engaged in new contracts by promising clients they’d be operational knowing they would not be ready with updating their obsolete HSE systems in time as contractually agreed
Leadership Ethics, CSR & HSE
Human conscience is morality and should be used for decisions. Not doing so will directly cause vulnerability as one will be found out and one will have to rely on others to keep their mouths shut. (whistle-blowers).
Business Ethics is now to be considered a science. This is explained by Dr.Joanne Ciulla, professor of Leadership and Ethics, University of Richmond.
Ciulla states that it could mean a completion of a re-integration process of physical science with moral philosophy (ethics).
Acceptance that ethics is indeed scientific supports that greed or economic growth is not a moral motive.  Neither can greed be the foundation of a character.  It can be acquired, cultivated by example (learned) or imitated.
Notions of the good have to be part of business ethics leadership. Ciulla confirms that Aristotle and Zeno’s virtues such as justice, temperance, fortitude and prudence create moral capital and how vices such as injustice, greed or fear of loss of money or status destroy it.  She categorizes moral assessment of leadership as follows:
·         The ethics of leaders themselves, the intentions of leaders and the personal ethics of leaders
·         The ethics of how a leader leads (or the process of leadership) –the means that a leader uses to lead (the ethics of the relationship between leaders and all those affected by his or her actions)
·         The ethics of what a leader does- the ends of leadership

Solutions to Human Factor leadership issues.
Bertrand Russell, Kierkegaard, Jean Paul Sartre, Immanuel Kant, Ayn Rand, Zeno, Plato, Aristotle and Joanna Ciulla suggest that human behaviour, moral or immoral can be tested by asking questions that give total answers. 
These answers must allow unfamiliar possibilities and acceptance of the whole picture.  The inquiry must aim at the principle purpose of knowledge. 
This line of questioning is essential to enable proper implementation and adherence to HSE and CSR guidelines. Philosophical questioning uses the rhetorical method that triggers human conscience to answer, preventing a tendency to hide the truth because lying would be considered illogical as that would damage the responder. 
Tendencies of greed or fear can as such, be detected as choices, rather than hereditary traits or genetic behaviour. Questions can be formulated in a manner that can only be answered by conscious reasoning guided by biological social traits that are inherent to man and not learned or acquired.  Lies could therefore be detected, because answers that sound contradictive to well-being or survival can be determined as untruths.
Practical use of the rhetorical method may be used as in the following example:
 ‘If damage would be suffered by yourself, would you continue being unethical?’ The answer would be ‘no’. 

Accidents such the Macondo Oil Spill in Louisiana or incidents like discharging of contaminated effluent into the Ocean can be triggered by a number of motivational human factors. 
They were called ‘metaphorical dominoes’ by Herbert William Heinrich in 1929.  Heinrich’s studies were used in their original form until they were updated in 1976, at which time Health Safety and Environment risks became important liability issues or in other words, started to cost more money.
Heinrich wrote that these human factors are passed along through inheritance or developed from a person’s social environment.  At the time of Heinrich’s study in 1929, it was widely accepted that character flaws could be hereditary or were considered genetic – ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’. 

Fault of Person – character flaws
·         Stubbornness
·         Greed
·         Recklessness
·         Inconsiderateness
·         Ignorance

These human factors are called metaphorical dominoes because the very nature of accidents mirrors the so-called domino effect. 
Accidents or incidents result from a chain of sequential events as if a line of dominoes are falling over that are mainly caused by human choice. 
This is in line with the theory of causality, the relationship between cause and effect. 
Human factors contribute to decision-making processes and have to be taken into account. The dominoes involved do not only include character flaws, but also account for outside influences such as social environment.  A more in-depth look at the nature of our game of dominoes is as follows:
·         Social environment – this deals with the personality of the person explaining that personality traits such as stubbornness, greed and recklessness can be passed along through inheritance, or develops from a person’s social environment.  Nature and nurture contribute to the faults of person.  (The ‘inheritance’ factor was generally accepted at that time and is to this day often used as an excuse) (Sapolsky, Robert, 2011).
·         Fault of person – bad temper, ignorance, recklessness lead to unsafe acts.
·         Unsafe act or unsafe condition – Heinrich defined four reasons why people commit unsafe acts; improper attitude, lack of knowledge or skill, physical unsuitability, improper mechanical or physical environment.
·         Accidents can be the result of the above.
·         Injury can be the result of the above.

However, actions, incidents or accidents deriving from these character flaws are dependent on and have impact on other persons and the environment.  An individual cannot develop these features on his own or totally alone, unless he or she chooses to do so out of greed, fear or acts out of unawareness. 
This research proposes an Island Theory  which is based on the following logical deliberation and on research earlier discussed about the necessity of interaction of unethical individuals or corporations with a community or society.  
It almost always involves a complementary reduction in other people’s outcomes.
Trying to survive on an island would mean that he or she would not be stubborn nor greedy and would not use ignorance as an excuse.  He or she would naturally know he or she will not and cannot survive allowing these traits (character flaws) to reign. Clinging on to learned character flaws when living alone on an island would harm him or her. To survive alone, people would be able and probably willing to choose to lose character flaws such as bad temper, recklessness or lack of skill, unless they choose not to survive or don’t care. The first human and natural reaction, rational or irrational, is self-preservation.
This led to the conclusion: Take away other people (tools), and unethical behavior stops, as it is not in his or her interest any longer to proceed.  His or her own reasoning faculty would tell that holding on to these flaws does not bring an intended pay-off, because no one is available to pay for it. 

The domino factors partly explain that it is human choice, often triggered by character flaws, motivated choice or ignorance that can create risk. These factors can be minimized by learning and training. Character flaws are learned but can be altered, despite the deeply rooted general understanding or acceptance that they can’t. Nurture and nature combined guides and creates human activity and forms the foundations for choice. There is a difference between being able to choose by contemplation, or to act automatically by animalistic instinct. There is a choice possible to use one’s rationally developed essence: human reason. The difference between an animal’s instinctive choice and man’s ability of reasoning before choosing is that man asks ‘why?’ 


Populaire posts van deze blog


Silencing Free Speech. Stifling Julian Assange

New Book for 2017: 'COLTAN, CONGO'S CURSE'