By Randy Logsdon
Starfleet’s Prime Directive states that there can be no interference with the development of alien civilizations. Emphasis is added for primitive cultures (pre-warp drive) to prevent exposure to advanced technology and of knowledge that extra-planetary civilizations exist.
“Star Trek” boldly went where no man had gone before starting in 1966 and provided, from the start, a somewhat controversial approach to an interstellar utopian society. The social mores of the 1960s were challenged in nearly every episode. Fans of “Star Trek” (in any of its forms) will recognize the Prime Directive as one of those challenges. The Prime Directive was a simple statement of unfaltering values that took precedence over all other values – even those concerning life and death. When applied, emotional, ethical and moral dilemmas arose and were debated. But in the end, when followed, the Prime Directive and its wisdom prevailed. Invariably, chaos and disaster resulted from actions abridging the Prime Directive.
One need not look to science fiction to find an example of a prime directive. By some accounts, the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians and other health care professionals dates in one form or another to the 5th century B.C. In taking this oath, one swears (among other things) to uphold a professional code of ethics – to do no harm. The International Society of Mine Safety Professionals (ISMSP) developed a Code of Professional Conduct that starts with the protection of people, property and the environment. While not as established as the Hippocratic Oath, it is likely to be more applicable to mine-safety values.
So, the question is what value (or values) guides your organization? When issues arise and a course of action must be determined, what influences you and your organization to make the right decision – to take the ethical approach?
What is your Prime Directive?
You may already have a corporate mission statement or some other similar expression of values to rely on. Does it give clear guidance? Is it well known? Is it followed implicitly? Is it consistent with your values? Such a clear statement, not unlike the examples above, not only guides the decision-making process, but helps to relieve the anxiety associated with making an important decision. Even so, applying a values structure to decision-making is not always easy. It may direct you to make difficult or unpopular decisions. It may require considerably more effort or expense to follow your values. It may mean doing something you really don’t want to do. But then, what are values worth if compromised?
I’ve borrowed the following from the ISMSP application. It may be valuable in appraising or developing your statement of values.
As a Mine Safety Professional (MSP) I recognize my work has an impact on the protection of people, property and the environment. Therefore, I shall uphold and advance the integrity, honor and dignity of the mine safety, health and environmental profession by:
- Enhancing protection of people, property and the environment through leadership and understanding.
- Providing honest, impartial service to the public, employers and clients.
- Endeavoring to improve my competence and the competence of the mine safety profession.
- Never compromising my profession or what it stands for, and practicing only the highest degree of professional conduct.
- I shall hold paramount the protection of people, property and the environment.
- I shall advise employers, clients, employees or appropriate authorities when my professional judgment indicates the protection of people, property or the environment is unacceptably at risk.
- I shall endeavor to continually improve my abilities as a safety professional.
- I shall only perform professional services that I am competent to perform.
- I shall only issue public statements in an objective and truthful manner in accordance with the authority bestowed upon me.
- I shall act in professional matters as a faithful agent or trustee and avoid conflict of interest.
- I shall build my professional reputation on merit of service; and I shall assure equal opportunities for individuals under my supervision.
As a Mine Safety Professional, I shall comply with this “Code of Professional Conduct.”
Live Long and Prosper.