Professional ethics and the Lessons of ValuJet 592 -Reply

Subject: Professional ethics and the Lessons of ValuJet 592 -Reply
From: Lisa Comeau <COMEAUL -at- CSA -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 29 May 1998 13:41:07 -0400

<SNIP>
>>> Penny Staples <pstaples -at- AIRWIRE -dot- COM> 05/29/98 01:20pm >>>

There are hazard warnings there too (in three languages), but they are hidden in 5 point type...legal people are satisfied because if something did happen, we can point to the product and say "See, it was clearly labelled."

To my mind, just being covered "legally" isn't good enough. We also have an ethical responsibility.

I'm thinking of adding a section to our manual called "Potential Hazards",
where we can describe potential hazards honestly.
<SNIP>

I agree with the ethical responsibility portion of this statement IF this product is hazardous when "slightly" misused. Now let me clarify.

If I can light a lighter too close to my freshly hair-sprayed hair, and blow myself up, I need to know this. Ethically, someone involved in the making of the product should make it available for me to read. (This I would consider "slight" misuse... not particularly obvious to someone who has never used a lighter or hairspray...) :-)

If I could burn an entire building down by lighting the lighter next to a dog in heat on the second Thursday of the month with a full moon falling on the third day (you get the picture), this is so close to not ever occurring that I couldn't know it needed to be a warning, so ethically, am I wrong for not putting it in print? Where do we draw the line?

Penny, I think your idea about a "potential hazards" section is a good one, because, IMHO, 5 point type is not big enough to tell someone they could maim, injure, or kill themselves by doing "stupid" things people do. Just because it is there, doesn't mean someone will read it, but if they want to read it but can't see it, that has other legal implications. What about someone who has bad eyesight? Glaucoma? Is blind?

And here's a question, what about illiterate people who can't read the documentation at all? Does that make us ethically or legally responsible for them because we didn't put pictures in the documentation?

Just some food for thought...

Lisa Comeau
IS Super-User/Trainer
Canadian Standards Association
comeaul -at- csa -dot- ca
"Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime, as long as he can understand the documentation."




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