Health, Safety & Environment

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  • Safe Work
  • ILO
  • Geneva

Presentation Structure

  • Introduction.
  • ILO OSH information systems.
  • Chemical Safety at Work ILO approach.
  • Key activities and major products.
  • Inter-agency (international) cooperation.
  • Conclusion.


  • Direct relationship between magnitude of environmental pollution and world of work can be seen from major accidents.
  • Release of chemicals have been identified as the cause of long-term environmental damage.
  • Damage highest in agricultural, chemical and energy sectors.
  • ILO standard setting and technical assistance in chemical safety - 1919.
  • First binding instrument developed in 1921 (white lead).
  • Not only conventions but also COPs, Guides etc.
  • ILO list of occupational diseases - diseases from exposure to chemicals.

ILO OSH Information Systems

  • ILO active not only in chemical safety.
  • Website provides information on all instruments free of charge.
  • Specific information on chemical safety can be assessed.
  • Ongoing programme of uploading all documents free of charge on the website.

Chemical Safety at Work

  • ILO approach.
  • Historical background.
  • Activities and products.
  • Difficulties in chemical safety.
  • ILO response:

  1. Chemicals convention (No 170),1990.
  2. GHS.
  3. International chemical safety cards.
  4. ILO chemicals control toolkit.

ILO Involvement in Chemical Safety

  • White lead convention (No.13), 1921.
  • UNEP/ILO/WHO - IPCS, 1980.
  • Chemicals Convention (No.170), 1990.
  • Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents Convention (No.174), 1993.
  • UNCED and follow-up.

ILO Activities and Products

  • A series of programmes were started after Bhopal disaster in 1984.
  • Technical cooperation projects (India etc.).
  • Conventions (170 and 174).
  • Codes of practice (Chemicals, Major industrial accidents, asbestos).
  • Major hazard control: manual.
  • Training manuals: chemicals and agrochemicals.
  • Encyclopaedia on OHS.
  • International chemical safety cards (IPCS).
  • CIS information centres (>100 national and collaborating centres).

Difficulties in chemical safety

  • Each chemical has a different hazard.
  • Users usually cannot analyse hazards.
  • Safe handling cannot be ensured without safety information.
  • Information flow should be from suppliers (manufacturers, importers, distributors) to employers and then to the workforce.

Means for providing information

Labelling (concise information providing the intrinsic properties of the chemical on the container). Chemical safety data sheets (comprehensive safety information for use on the shop floor.

ILO Response

Chemicals convention (No. 170), 1990.
Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).
International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSC).
ILO Chemical Control Toolkit.

Chemicals Convention, 1990 (No.170).

Targeted and specific instrument.
Presupposes the existence of a system for assessing risks and setting limits.
No provisions on health surveillance, recording, notification and sanctions.
Instead, C170 provides a system for the sound management of chemicals.
Focussed on specific subject matter.

Key elements of Chemicals Convention (No.170)

  • National policy on chemical safety.
  • Classification systems.
  • Labelling and marking.
  • Chemical safety data sheets.
  • Responsibilities of suppliers.
  • Responsibilities of employers.
  • Duties and rights of workers.

GHS -Globally Harmonised System

Follow-up to the adoption of C170.
Development of a single, globally harmonised system to address classification of chemicals, labels and safety data. Work undertaken under the IOMC, focal points being ILO, OECD and UN SCTDG.
10 years to develop.


IOMC - The Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals was established in 1995 to strengthen cooperation and increase coordination in the field of chemical safety.
OECD -The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.UN SCTDG - This stands for the UN Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.

Need for harmonisation.
National implementation and trade requires a harmonised system for hazard classification and labelling.

Major systems were already in use:

  • UN Transport Recommendations.
  • EU Directives on substances and preparations.
  • Canadian and US requirements for Workplace, Consumers and Pesticides.

Requirements were different under each system, for example:

  • EU Class 1 cut off for acute toxicity was 25mg/kg (oral), whereas US systems was 50mg/kg (oral).
  • Hence all chemicals classified between 25 and 50 mg/kg were classified differently.
  • Labels were also different.

Need for harmonisation continued.

Adopted in December 2002.
Designed to cover all chemicals, including mixtures.
Provide for chemical hazard communication requirements for workplace, transport, consumers and
Truly harmonised and universal non-binding standard.
Progressive implementation of the GHS will have far reaching consequences.
Impact on national and international laws related to chemicals.
Facilitate trade in chemicals and ease global information exchange of hazards of toxic chemicals and preventive measures.

GHS Hazard classes.

International chemical safety cards (ICSCs).
Use at shop floor level by workers and OSH reps.
Use by employers when providing information and instructions to workers.
Special role in SME's.
1300 ICSCs available free in 16 languages.
1.5 million downloads/year.

International chemical safety cards (ICSCs).

Information provided conforms to C170 and R174 on safety in the use of chemicals at work. Not legally binding and should be seen as only an international reference to chemical safety information.
User should verify compliance of cards with relevant national requirements.

ILO Chemical Control Toolkit.

Scheme for Workplace Chemicals Control Kit designed for SMEs in developing countries. Work undertaken by experts from ILO, IOHA, USA, South Africa, HSE. Generic risk assessment based on GHS and task guidance sheets. Aim is to provide simple and practical means to prevent/reduce risks of chemicals.


Many substances used at work contain chemicals.
Guidance should be provided to ensure safe handling.
Does not cover process generated dusts and fumes.
Based on the HSE's COSHH Essentials kit.

Toolkit operation.

Five stages:

  1. Hazard classification.
  2. Scale of use.
  3. Ability to become airborne.
  4. Finding the control approach.
  5. Finding the task-specific control guidance sheet(s).

Stage 1: Hazard Classification.
Determination of the hazards presented by the chemicals (based on the GHS).6 hazard groups (A-E inhalation, skin contact). Simple 3-step reference table allows hazard group to be assigned to the chemical.

Stage 2: Scale of use .
Determines how much is used/handled.

Stage 3: Ability to become airborne.
Physical form of chemical affects how likely it is to get into the air.
Solids - 3 levels of dustiness (low-pellets, medium-crystalline, high powder).
Liquids - 3 levels of volatility:

  • High -Boiling point below 50oC.
  • Medium -Boiling point between 50oC and 150oC.
  • Low -Boiling point above 150oC.

Stage 4: Selection of the control approach.
Stages 1-3 enable the choice of control approach to be made using table.  4 control approaches possible.

Stage 5: Find the task specific guidance sheet(s).
General guidance sheet for each approach. Development of a range of simple and practice task specific control guidance sheets is planned.


ILO has provided impetus for the development of legal and technical instruments.
Instruments based on scientific research, especially risk assessment and toxicology. Transposing scientific work into regulatory mechanisms to prevent human and environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals.


This Convention is made up of six parts and thirty articles. 

Part 1 Scope and Definitions 

Articles 1 & 2

Article 1

The Convention applies to all activities involving exposure of workers to asbestos in the course of work. Particular branches of economic activity or undertakings can be excluded by the competent authority, having deciding upon the frequency duration and level of exposure and the type of work and conditions of the workplace.

Article 2 covers definitions:

  • Asbestos means the fibrous form of mineral silicates belonging to rock-forming minerals of the serpentine group, i.e. chrysotile (white asbestos), and of the amphibole group, i.e. actinolite, amosite (brown asbestos, cummingtonite-grunerite), anthophyllite, crocidolite (blue asbestos), tremolite, or any mixture containing one or more of these.
  • Asbestos dust means airborne particles of asbestos or settled particles of asbestos which are liable to become airborne in the working environment.
  • Airborne asbestos dust means, for purposes of measurement, dust particles measured by gravimetric assessment or other equivalent method.
  • Respirable asbestos fibres means asbestos fibres having a diameter of less than 3 micrometre and a length-to-diameter ratio greater than 3:1. Only fibres of a length greater than 5 micrometre shall be taken into account for purposes of measurement.
  • Exposure to asbestos means exposure at work to airborne respirable asbestos fibres or asbestos dust, whether originating from asbestos or from minerals, materials or products containing asbestos.
  • Workers includes the members of production co-operatives.
  • Workers' representatives means the workers' representatives recognised as such by national law or practice, in conformity with the Workers' Representatives Convention, 1971.

Part II General Principles

Articles 3-8:

Article 3 - National laws or regulations shall prescribe the measures to be taken for the prevention and control of, and protection of workers against, health hazards due to occupational exposure to asbestos. These shall be periodically reviewed in the light of technical progress and advances in scientific knowledge.
Article 4 - The competent authority shall consult the most representative organisations of employers and workers concerned on the measures to be taken to give effect to the provisions of this Convention.
Article 5 - The enforcement of laws and regulations shall be secured by an adequate and appropriate system of inspection.
Article 6 - Employers shall be made responsible for compliance with the prescribed measures,and shall cooperate whenever two or more employers undertake activities simultaneously at one workplace. Employers shall prepare procedures for dealing with emergency situations in cooperation with the occupational safety and health services and after consulting with workers' representatives.
Article 7 - Workers shall comply with prescribed safety and hygiene procedures relating to occupational exposure to asbestos.
Article 8 - Employers and workers or their representatives shall co-operate as closely as possible at all levels in the undertaking of the measures prescribed in the convention.

Part III Protective and Preventive Measures.

Articles 9-19: 

Article 9 - Exposure to asbestos shall be prevented or controlled by one or more of the following measures:
  • Making work in which exposure to asbestos may occur subject to regulations prescribing adequate engineering controls and work practices, including workplace hygiene.
  • Prescribing special rules and procedures, including authorisation, for the use of asbestos or of certain types of asbestos or products containing asbestos or for certain work processes. 
Article 10 - Where necessary to protect the health of workers and technically practicable, national laws or regulations shall provide for one or more of the following measures:
  • Replacement of asbestos or of certain types of asbestos or products containing asbestos by other materials or products or the use of alternative technology, scientifically evaluated by the competent authority as harmless or less harmful, whenever this is possible.
  • Total or partial prohibition of the use of asbestos or of certain types of asbestos or products containing asbestos in certain work processes. 
Article 11 - The use of crocidolite and products containing this fibre shall be prohibited.Article 12 - Spraying of all forms of asbestos shall be prohibited.
Article 13 - Employers shall notify the competent authority of certain types of work involving exposure to asbestos.
Article 14 - producers, suppliers and manufacturers shall be responsible for adequate labelling of containers and products that is easily understood by workers.
Article 15 - Limits of workers exposure to asbestos will be prescribed by the competent authority. The exposure limits or other exposure criteria shall be fixed and periodically reviewed and updated In all workplaces where workers are exposed to asbestos, the employer shall take all appropriate measures to prevent or control the release of asbestos dust into the air, to ensure that the exposure limits or other exposure criteria are complied with and also to reduce exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.
Article 16 - Each employer shall be made responsible for the establishment and implementation of practical measures for the prevention and control of the exposure.
Article 17 - Demolition of plants or structures containing friable asbestos insulation materials, and removal of asbestos from buildings or structures where asbestos is likely to become airborne shall only be undertaken by contractors who are recognized by the competent authority as qualified to carry out such work. The employer or contractor shall be required before starting demolition work to draw up a work plan specifying the measures to be taken, including measures to:
  • Provide all necessary protection to the workers.
  • Limit the release of asbestos dust into the air; and.
  • Provide for the disposal of waste containing asbestos in accordance with Article 19 of this Convention. 
Article 18 - The employer should provide appropriate clothing, which should not be worn outside the workplace where workers' personal clothing may become contaminated with asbestos dust. The handling and cleaning of work and special protective clothing shall be carried out under controlled conditions. National laws shall prohibit the taking home of such clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE.The employer shall be responsible for cleaning, maintenance and storage of work clothing, special protective clothing and PPE. Facilities shall be provided by the employer for those workers exposed to asbestos to take a bath or shower at the workplace.Article 19 - Employers shall dispose of waste containing asbestos in a manner that does not pose a health risk to the workers concerned, including those handling asbestos waste, or to the population in the vicinity of the enterprise. Appropriate measures shall be taken by the competent authority and by employers to prevent pollution of the general environment by asbestos dust released from the workplace.

Part IV Surveillance of the Working Environment and Workers' Health.

Articles 20 & 21 

Article 20 - The employer shall measure the concentrations of airborne asbestos dust in workplaces, and shall monitor the exposure of workers to asbestos at intervals and using methods specified by the competent authority. The competent authority shall prescribe the period of time for which the records of monitoring of the working environment and the exposure of workers to asbestos shall be kept. Employers, representatives and inspection services shall have access to these records.
Article 21 - Workers who are or have been exposed to asbestos shall be provided, with such medical examinations as are necessary to supervise their health in relation to the occupational hazard, and to diagnose occupational diseases caused by exposure to asbestos. The monitoring shall not incur a cost to the worker and be free of charge and take place in working hours. Workers shall be informed of their medical examinations and receive individual advice concerning their health in relation to their work. If it is medically inadvisable for a worker to continue to be exposed to asbestos then efforts shall be made to provide those workers with another means of maintaining their income. A system of notification of occupational disease caused by asbestos shall be developed by the competent authority.

Part V Information and Education

Article 22.

The competent authority shall:
  • Make appropriate arrangements to promote the dissemination of information and the education of all concerned with regard to health hazards due to exposure to asbestos and to methods of prevention and control.
  • Ensure that employers have established written policies and procedures on measures for the education and periodic training of workers on asbestos hazards and methods of prevention and control.
The employer shall:
  • Ensure that all workers exposed or likely to be exposed to asbestos are informed about the health hazards related to their work, instructed in preventive measures and correct work practices and receive continuing training in these fields.

Part VI Final Provisions

Articles 23-30

It is recommended that candidates familiarise themselves with the requirements of this convention.

The convention is available on this link.

R172 - Asbestos Recommendation, 1986 (No. 172) Recommendation concerning Safety in the Use of Asbestos

This recommendation supplements the Asbestos Convention, 1986 and is arranged in five parts:

1. I Scope and Definitions.
2. II General Principles.
3. III Protective and Preventive Measures.
4. IV Surveillance of the Working Environment and Workers' Health.
5. V Information and Education.

I - Scope and definitions.
The recommendation states that 'the provisions of the Asbestos Convention, 1986, and of this Recommendation should be applied to all activities involving a risk of exposure of workers to asbestos in the course of work. Measures should be taken, in accordance with national law and practice, to afford to self-employed persons protection analogous to that provided for in the Asbestos Convention, 1986, and in this Recommendation. Employment of young persons of less than 18 years of age in activities involving a risk of occupational exposure to asbestos should receive special attention, as required by the competent authority'.

Definitions contained in this recommendation are those which have been included in the convention.

However, the recommendation goes on to list activities involving a risk of occupational exposure to asbestos including:

  • Mining and milling of minerals containing asbestos.
  • Manufacture of materials or products containing asbestos.
  • Use or application of products containing asbestos.
  • Stripping, repair or maintenance of products containing asbestos.
  • Demolition or repair of plant or structure containing asbestos.
  • Transportation, storage and handling of asbestos or materials containing asbestos.
  • Other activities involving a risk of exposure to airborne asbestos dust.

It is recommended that candidates familiarise themselves with the requirements of this recommendation.

The recommendation is available on this link.

The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Philosophers today usually divide ethical theories into three general subject areas: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics. Metaethics investigates where our ethical principles come from, and what they mean. Are they merely social inventions? Do they involve more than expressions of our individual emotions? Metaethical answers to these questions focus on the issues of universal truths, the will of God, the role of reason in ethical judgments, and the meaning of ethical terms themselves. Normative ethics takes on a more practical task, which is to arrive at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. This may involve articulating the good habits that we should acquire, the duties that we should follow, or the consequences of our behavior on others. Finally, applied ethics involves examining specific controversial issues, such as abortion, infanticide, animal rights, environmental concerns, homosexuality, capital punishment, or nuclear war.

By using the conceptual tools of metaethics and normative ethics, discussions in applied ethics try to resolve these controversial issues. The lines of distinction between metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics are often blurry. For example, the issue of abortion is an applied ethical topic since it involves a specific type of controversial behavior. But it also depends on more general normative principles, such as the right of self-rule and the right to life, which are litmus tests for determining the morality of that procedure. The issue also rests on metaethical issues such as, "where do rights come from?" and "what kind of beings have rights?"

Metaphysics is the study of the kinds of things that exist in the universe. Some things in the universe are made of physical stuff, such as rocks; and perhaps other things are nonphysical in nature, such as thoughts, spirits, and gods. The metaphysical component of metaethics involves discovering specifically whether moral values are eternal truths that exist in a spirit-like realm, or simply human conventions. There are two general directions that discussions of this topic take, one other-worldly and one this-worldly.

Proponents of the other-worldly view typically hold that moral values are objective in the sense that they exist in a spirit-like realm beyond subjective human conventions. They also hold that they are absolute, or eternal, in that they never change, and also that they are universal insofar as they apply to all rational creatures around the world and throughout time.

The second and more this-worldly approach to the metaphysical status of morality follows in the skeptical philosophical tradition, such as that articulated by Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and denies the objective status of moral values. Technically, skeptics did not reject moral values themselves, but only denied that values exist as spirit-like objects, or as divine commands in the mind of God. Moral values, they argued, are strictly human inventions, a position that has since been called moral relativism.

A second area of metaethics involves the psychological basis of our moral judgments and conduct, particularly understanding what motivates us to be moral. We might explore this subject by asking the simple question, "Why be moral?" Even if I am aware of basic moral standards, such as don't kill and don't steal, this does not necessarily mean that I will be psychologically compelled to act on them. Some answers to the question "Why be moral?" are to avoid punishment, to gain praise, to attain happiness, to be dignified, or to fit in with society.

Normative ethics.

Normative ethics involves arriving at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. In a sense, it is a search for an ideal litmus test of proper behavior. The Golden Rule is a classic example of a normative principle: We should do to others what we would want others to do to us. Since I do not want my neighbor to steal my car, then it is wrong for me to steal her car. Since I would want people to feed me if I was starving, then I should help feed starving people. Using this same reasoning, I can theoretically determine whether any possible action is right or wrong. So, based on the Golden Rule, it would also be wrong for me to lie to, harass, victimize, assault, or kill others. The Golden Rule is an example of a normative theory that establishes a single principle against which we judge all actions. Other normative theories focus on a set of foundational principles, or a set of good character traits.

The key assumption in normative ethics is that there is only one ultimate criterion of moral conduct, whether it is a single rule or a set of principles. Three strategies will be noted here: (1) virtue theories, (2) duty theories, and (3) consequentialist theories.

Virtue Theories.

Many philosophers believe that morality consists of following precisely defined rules of conduct, such as "don't kill," or "don't steal." Presumably, I must learn these rules, and then make sure each of my actions live up to the rules. Virtue ethics, however, places less emphasis on learning rules, and instead stresses the importance of developing good habits of character, such as benevolence.

Duty Theories.

Many of us feel that there are clear obligations we have as human beings, such as to care for our children, and to not commit murder. Duty theories base morality on specific, foundational principles of obligation. These theories are sometimes called deontological - in view of the foundational nature of our duty or obligation. They are also sometimes called nonconsequentialist since these principles are obligatory, irrespective of the consequences that might follow from our actions. For example, it is wrong to not care for our children even if it results in some great benefit, such as financial savings.

Consequentialist Theories.

It is common for us to determine our moral responsibility by weighing the consequences of our actions. According to consequentialism, correct moral conduct is determined solely by a cost-benefit analysis of an action's consequences, Consequentialism: An action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favourable than unfavourable.

Consequentialist normative principles require that we first tally both the good and bad consequences of an action. Second, we then determine whether the total good consequences outweigh the total bad consequences. If the good consequences are greater, then the action is morally proper. If the bad consequences are greater, then the action is morally improper. Consequentialist theories are sometimes called teleological theories, from the Greek word telos, or end, since the end result of the action is the sole determining factor of its morality.

Applied Ethics

Applied ethics is the branch of ethics which consists of the analysis of specific, controversial moral issues such as abortion, animal rights, or euthanasia. In recent years applied ethical issues have been subdivided into convenient groups such as medical ethics, business ethics, environmental ethics, and sexual ethics. Generally speaking, two features are necessary for an issue to be considered an "applied ethical issue." First, the issue needs to be controversial in the sense that there are significant groups of people both for and against the issue at hand. The issue of drive-by shooting, for example, is not an applied ethical issue, since everyone agrees that this practice is grossly immoral. By contrast, the issue of gun control would be an applied ethical issue since there are significant groups of people both for and against gun control.

The second requirement for in issue to be an applied ethical issue is that it must be a distinctly moral issue. On any given day, the media presents us with an array of sensitive issues such as affirmative action policies, gays in the military, involuntary commitment of the mentally impaired, capitalistic versus socialistic business practices, public versus private health care systems, or energy conservation. Although all of these issues are controversial and have an important impact on society, they are not all moral issues. Some are only issues of social policy. The aim of social policy is to help make a given society run efficiently by devising conventions, such as traffic laws, tax laws, and zoning codes. Moral issues, by contrast, concern more universally obligatory practices, such as our duty to avoid lying, and are not confined to individual societies. Frequently, issues of social policy and morality overlap, as with murder which is both socially prohibited and immoral. However, the two groups of issues are often distinct. For example, many people would argue that sexual promiscuity is immoral, but may not feel that there should be social policies regulating sexual conduct, or laws punishing us for promiscuity. Similarly, some social policies forbid residents in certain neighborhoods from having yard sales. But, so long as the neighbors are not offended, there is nothing immoral in itself about a resident having a yard sale in one of these neighborhoods. Thus, to qualify as an applied ethical issue, the issue must be more than one of mere social policy: it must be morally relevant as well.

In theory, resolving particular applied ethical issues should be easy. With the issue of abortion, for example, we would simply determine its morality by consulting our normative principle of choice, such as act-utilitarianism. If a given abortion produces greater benefit than disbenefit, then, according to act-utilitarianism, it would be morally acceptable to have the abortion. Unfortunately, there are perhaps hundreds of rival normative principles from which to choose, many of which yield opposite conclusions. Thus, the stalemate in normative ethics between conflicting theories prevents us from using a single decisive procedure for determining the morality of a specific issue. The usual solution today to this stalemate is to consult several representative normative principles on a given issue and see where the weight of the evidence lies.

Issues in Applied Ethics

As noted, there are many controversial issues discussed by ethicists today, some of which will be briefly mentioned here.

Biomedical ethics focuses on a range of issues which arise in clinical settings. Health care workers are in an unusual position of continually dealing with life and death situations. It is not surprising, then, that medical ethics issues are more extreme and diverse than other areas of applied ethics. Prenatal issues arise about the morality of surrogate mothering, genetic manipulation of fetuses, the status of unused frozen embryos, and abortion. Other issues arise about patient rights and physician's responsibilities, such as the confidentiality of the patient's records and the physician's responsibility to tell the truth to dying patients. The AIDS crisis has raised the specific issues of the mandatory screening of all patients for AIDS, and whether physicians can refuse to treat AIDS patients. Additional issues concern medical experimentation on humans, the morality of involuntary commitment, and the rights of the mentally disabled. Finally, end of life issues arise about the morality of suicide, the justifiability of suicide intervention, physician assisted suicide, and euthanasia.

The field of business ethics examines moral controversies relating to the social responsibilities of capitalist business practices, the moral status of corporate entities, deceptive advertising, insider trading, basic employee rights, job discrimination, affirmative action, drug testing, and whistle blowing.

Issues in environmental ethics often overlaps with business and medical issues. These include the rights of animals, the morality of animal experimentation, preserving endangered species, pollution control, management of environmental resources, whether eco-systems are entitled to direct moral consideration, and our obligation to future generations. Controversial issues of sexual morality include monogamy versus polygamy, sexual relations without love, homosexual relations, and extramarital affairs.

Finally, there are issues of social morality which examine capital punishment, nuclear war, gun control, the recreational use of drugs, welfare rights, and racism.

The Ethical Organisation

Generally speaking there are four principles for highly ethical organisations:

1. They are at ease interacting with diverse internal and external stakeholder groups. The ground rules of these firms make the good of these stakeholder groups part of the organizations' own good.
2. They are obsessed with fairness. Their ground rules emphasis that the other persons' interests count as much as their own.
3. Responsibility is individual rather than collective, with individuals assuming personal responsibility for actions of the organization. These organisations' ground rules mandate that individuals are responsible to themselves.
4. They see their activities in terms of purpose. This purpose is a way of operating that members of the organization highly value. And purpose ties the organisation to its environment.

A high-integrity organisation exhibits characteristics which will probably include the following:

1. There exists a clear vision and picture of integrity throughout the organization.
2. The vision is owned and embodied by top management, over time.
3. The reward system is aligned with the vision of integrity.
4. Policies and practices of the organization are aligned with the vision; no mixed messages.
5. It is understood that every significant management decision has ethical value dimensions.
6. Everyone is expected to work through conflicting-stakeholder value perspectives.

Conflicts of Interest.

Conflicts of interest can be defined as any situation in which an individual or corporation (either private or governmental) is in a position to exploit a professional or official capacity in some way for their personal or corporate benefit.

Depending upon the law or rules related to a particular organisation, the existence of a conflict of interest may not, in and of itself, be evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, for many professionals, it is virtually impossible to avoid having conflicts of interest from time to time. A conflict of interest can, however, become a legal matter for example when an individual tries (and/or succeeds in) influencing the outcome of a decision, for personal benefit. A director or executive of a corporation will be subject to legal liability if a conflict of interest breaches his Duty of Loyalty.

There often is confusion over these two situations. Someone accused of a conflict of interest may deny that a conflict exists because he/she did not act improperly. In fact, a conflict of interest can exist even if there are no improper acts as a result of it. One way to understand this is to use the term "conflict of roles". A person with two roles-an individual who owns stock and is also a government official, for example-may experience situations where those two roles conflict. The conflict can be mitigated-see below-but it still exists. In and of itself, having two roles is not illegal, but the differing roles will certainly provide an incentive for improper acts in some circumstances.

An organizational conflict of interest (OCI) may exist in the same way as described above, in the realm of the private sector providing services to the Government, where a corporation provides two types of services to the Government that have conflicting interest or appear objectionable (i.e.: manufacturing parts and then participating on a selection committee comparing parts manufacturers). Corporations may develop simple or complex systems to mitigate the risk or perceived risk of a conflict of interest. These risks are typically evaluated by a governmental office (for example, in a US Government RFP) to determine whether the risks pose a substantial advantage to the private organization over the competition or will decrease the overall competitiveness in the bidding process.

Types of conflicts of interests.

The following are the most common forms of conflicts of interests:

Self-dealing, in which an official who controls an organization causes it to enter into a transaction with the official, or with another organization that benefits the official. The official is on both sides of the "deal."
Outside employment, in which the interests of one job contradict another.
Family interests, in which a spouse, child, or other close relative is employed (or applies for employment) or where goods or services are purchased from such a relative or a firm controlled by a relative. For this reason, many employment applications ask if one is related to a current employee. If this is the case, the relative could then recuse from any hiring decisions. Abuse of this type of conflict of interest is called nepotism.
Gifts from friends who also do business with the person receiving the gifts. (Such gifts may include non-tangible things of value such as transportation and lodging.).

Other improper acts that are sometimes classified as conflicts of interests are probably better classified elsewhere. Accepting bribes can be classified as corruption; almost everyone in a position of authority, particularly public authority, has the potential for such wrongdoing. Similarly, use of government or corporate property or assets for personal use is fraud, and classifying this as a conflict of interest does not improve the analysis of this problem. Nor should unauthorized distribution of confidential information, in itself, be considered a conflict of interest. For these improper acts, there is no inherent conflict of roles (see above), unless being a (fallible) human being rather than (say) a robot in a position of power or authority is considered to be a conflict.

Self-policing of any group is also a conflict of interest. If any organization, such as a corporation or government bureaucracy, is asked to eliminate unethical behavior within their own group, it may be in their interest in the short run to eliminate the appearance of unethical behavior, rather than the behavior itself, by keeping any ethical breaches hidden, instead of exposing and correcting them. An exception occurs when the ethical breach is already known by the public. In that case, it could be in the group's interest to end the ethical problem to which the public has knowledge, but keep remaining breaches hidden.

Insurance companies retain claims adjusters to represent their interest in adjusting claims. It is in the best interest of the insurance companies that the very smallest settlement is reached with its claimants. Based on the adjuster's experience and knowledge of the insurance policy it is very easy for the adjuster to convince an unknowing claimant to settle for less than what they may otherwise be entitled which could be a larger settlement. There is always a very good chance of a conflict of interest to exist when one adjuster tries to represent both sides of a financial transaction such as an insurance claim. This problem is exacerbated when the claimant is told, or believes, the insurance company's claims adjuster is fair and impartial enough to satisfy both theirs and the insurance company's interests. These types of conflicts could be easily be avoided by the use of disclosures. A person working as the equipment purchaser for a company may get a bonus proportionate to the amount he's under budget by year end. However, this becomes an incentive for him to purchase inexpensive, substandard equipment. Therefore, this is counter to the interests of those in his company who must actually use the equipment.

Representatives, in general, have different interests than their constituents. Thus, accepting bribes to vote a certain way is in their interest (assuming they don't get caught), while not in their constituents' interest. These actions are sometimes illegal, but often not, as in the case of a politician accepting large amounts of money for a political campaign, and in return, granting the contributor access to political leaders. This is often cited as an argument for direct democracy (the replacement of representatives' votes with referenda).
Revolving door (politics), government workers or elected officials quitting public service to work for the companies they used to regulate. Regulators are accused of using inside information for their new employers, or compromising laws and regulations in hopes of securing employment in the private sector. Ways to mitigate conflicts of interests.


The best way to handle conflicts of interests is to avoid them entirely. For example, someone elected to political office might sell all corporate stocks that he/she owns before taking office, and resign from all corporate boards. Or that person could move his/her corporate stocks to a special trust, which would be authorized to buy and sell without disclosure to the owner. (This is referred to as a "blind trust".) With such a trust, since the politician does not know in which companies he/she has investments, there should be no temptation to act to their advantage.


Commonly, politicians and high-ranking government officials are required to disclose financial information - assets such as stock, debts such as loans, and/or corporate positions held, typically annually. Certain professionals are required either by rules related to their professional organization, or by statute, to disclose any actual or potential conflicts of interest. In some instances, the failure to provide full disclosure is a crime.


Those with a conflict of interest are expected to recuse themselves from (i.e., abstain from) decisions where such a conflict exists. The imperative for recusal varies depending upon the circumstance and profession, either as common sense ethics, codified ethics, or by statute. For example, if the governing board of a government agency is considering hiring a consulting firm for some task, and one firm being considered has, as a partner, a close relative of one of the board's members, then that board member should not vote on which firm is to be selected. In fact, to minimize any conflict, the board member should not participate in any way in the decision, including discussions.

Judges are supposed to recuse themselves from cases when personal conflicts of interest may arise. For example, if a judge has participated in a case previously in some other judicial role he/she is not allowed to try that case. Recusal is also expected when one of the lawyers in a case might be a close personal friend, or when the outcome of the case might affect the judge directly, such as whether a car maker is obliged to recall a model that a judge drives. This is required by law under Continental civil law systems and by the Rome Statute, organic law of the International Criminal Court.

Codes of ethics

Generally, codes of ethics forbid conflicts of interests. Often, however, the specifics can be controversial. Should therapists, such as psychiatrists, be allowed to have extra-professional relations with patients, or ex-patients? Should a faculty member be allowed to have an extra-professional relationship with a student, and should that depend on whether the student is in a class of, or being advised by, the faculty member?

Codes of ethics help to minimize problems with conflicts of interests because they can spell out the extent to which such conflicts should be avoided, and what the parties should do where such conflicts are permitted by a code of ethics (disclosure, recusal, etc.). Thus, professionals cannot claim that they were unaware that their improper behavior was unethical. As importantly, the threat of disciplinary action (for example, a lawyer being disbarred) helps to minimize unacceptable conflicts or improper acts when a conflict is unavoidable.

As codes of ethics cannot cover all situations, some governments have established an office of the ethics commissioner. Ethics commissioner should be appointed by the legislature and should report to the legislature.

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