A Person Without Integrity Is Nothing
Some interesting thoughts By Phil La Duke on plagiarism in Safety – in what other “Profession” would plagiarism be so rife or considered an entitlement?
First published HERE (and republished with permission)
I don’t own a high white horse, so I won’t climb up on one. That having been said that I am again going to rave and rant about something that is troubling me. Those of you who have read my work know that from time to time I will write something audaciously provocative and after doing so I hunker down and wait for the proverbial excrement to hit the fan. I know that I am being provocative and I expect fall out. Last week, I shared with you the story of how an innocuous question posed in a LinkedIn thread resulted in an out pouring of support for plagiarism, selling work to which one does not have ownership, and a host of, if not illegal certainly unethical acts. I received threats of violence and a bomb threat. The threats of violence don’t trouble me; the shriveled testicles of the cowardly bastards who send threatening email prevent them from taking any real action. As for the bomb threat, given that the person who called me didn’t give a reason that they were going to bring a bomb to my house, I can’t definitively say that it was related to my writing (I did have some fun; when a door-to-door solicitor tried giving me his lame con that my neighbor orders some grizzled pony meat they were passing off as steaks I interrupted him by saying, “You’ll have to excuse me; I’m expecting a bomb”. For the record, the WORST idea for revenge is to warn the person of your intentions beforehand; it allows the intended victim to prepare to kill you as you attack.
What I learned from the threats, and the insults, (one half-illiterate called me a “stuffed shirt”), and the defensive of plagiarism, is that (steel yourself a big revelation is coming) the safety as a profession has more than its fair share of out-and-out thieves. One loud-mouth woman claimed that a professor friend of hers had 100% of his students admit to plagiarizing. I find that difficult to believe not because I have such faith in the honesty of college students, but at least at MY university if one was caught deliberately plagiarizing one would at least fail the class and most probably be brought before the Academic Review Board and potentially expelled; seems like a pretty big risk when all one has to do is cite his or her references. All I said was that safety people needed to stop plagiarizing and people lost their heads. Here are a couple of the defenses people used for stealing:
- “It’s For Safety and That Means It Should Be Free”. This is the kind of water-headed, aging hippie, goofball rhetoric that makes people outside the safety world think we are dopey, useless, bleeding hearts who will bankrupt the company. If you are one of these people, let me ask you something: do you collect a paycheck for the services you provide? If so you are violating your own argument. Safety isn’t free and that is why we have such a difficult time convincing leaders that they NEED to spend money on safety.
- “We All Got Into This Business To Help People” First of all, no we didn’t, and second of all to those who did I say, “so what?” Fireman, policemen, ambulance drivers, human resources professionals, IT help desk workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, and so on, all got into their professions to some degree, to help people that does not excuse theft and dishonesty.
- “Everybody Does It” Let me begin by saying that no, not everyone in safety is a crook. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 23,000 people read my post about the threats made to me simply because I said: “stop stealing”. The vast majority of the people who either publically or privately commented supported me and were disgusted by people’s reaction (except the one unbalanced shrew who repeatedly and bravely announced to 23,000 strangers that she was a thief and unethical. In keeping with not arguing with idiots I blocked her. I hope that every one of her customers and potential employers read her own words before deciding whether or not to work with her.
- “OSHA Material Isn’t Copyrighted” Many labor under the misconception that OSHA (or other governmental authorities) work is not copyrighted. Most countries recognize that a work is copyrighted the moment it is put into a fixed and tangible form: “Copyright protects the words, images, sounds, etc., used to express an idea. Copyright does not protect ideas or facts themselves. Copyright does protect the selection and arrangement of ideas:, i.e., their original and creative expression, as soon as they are fixed in some tangible form. What this means in practical terms is if you didn’t write it, pay someone to write on your behalf, or have some give you the rights to a work, it isn’t yours. You don’t own it, nor do you have the right to use it without referencing the original how hard is it to identify where you got your information? It’s actually quite simple unless you stole the material, or are repurposing material that no longer belongs to you. So while it is true that most safety programs have a shared root in OSHA or its overseas equivalent that does nothing to obviate your ethical responsibility to site yours source. There are a lot of good reasons for citing your source, not the least of which being that your source maybe a crackpot who just made things up. Do your own work and reference your sources, even in the source is a previous work you did.
- “It’s No Big Deal” If the unethical use of another’s material is no big deal, when does dishonesty and the lack of personal integrity become a big deal? Is it okay to falsify an incident report so that an injury becomes a reportable? Is it okay to mislead an OSHA auditor? Is it okay to lie under oath? Is it okay to conceal hazards from workers? Is it okay to use case management to deny an injured worker disability benefits? At what point can you no longer justify lying cheating and stealing? How much do you have to steal before it is wrong? How can an employer trust a safety hack who has such a fluid and flexible sense of morality?
For years I taught a course in Ethics and Legal requirements at a tier one global automotive supplier, and because of that, I became the defacto judge of what was and what wasn’t ethical. I got some interesting questions relative to ethics in a given situation. I would talk through the situation with the person and I don’t think I ever had to give anyone an answer. They KNEW right from wrong; why don’t so many people who work in safety have these same standards of ethics?
Those of you who would defend thievery, dishonesty, and unethical behavior in the name of safety, please indulge me this. Sit down with your child or grandchild and look him or her in the eye and tell them that you steal and why it’s okay to do so; if you can’t do that, than you KNOW what you are doing is wrong but you do it anyway. And that makes you every nasty name I’ve called you and worse.