Safety and Risk Due Diligence as a Moral Activity
Some excellent additional resources and free videos at the end of the article………….
There are checklists that abound that give the impression that Due Diligence is either a mathematical equation or ‘tick the box’ exercise. However, this distorts the meaning of Due Diligence. One can complete every function of a Due Diligence checklist and still not exercise Due Diligence. At the foundation of Due Diligence, even in the regulation is the expectation that one will do all that is ‘appropriate’ to keep employees safe and capable of managing risks. (The word ‘appropriate’ is the most common word in the regulation on Due Diligence – https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/laws-and-compliance/electrical-safety-laws/due-diligence ). In other words, the extent to which one can exercise Due Diligence is completely subjective. What one person thinks is ‘appropriate’ to manage a risk is entirely different from the person beside them who thinks something else is ‘appropriate’. This leaves us with a moral problem not so much a legal problem.
The topic of moral virtue or moral duty is rarely raised in safety, this is because the safety curriculum (https://www.safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/) excludes education on ethics and the nature of personhood. Yet, the foundation of Due Diligence places a moral obligation on Managers and leaders to ‘care’ for employees. This is because moral ‘agency’ is an essential characteristic of human personhood. The care for persons is an essential of Due Diligence. Due Diligence is about ensuring what is ‘good’ for persons in the process of organizing. Accountability and responsibility in leading morally is the challenge of Due Diligence.
Persons are agents for whom things matter. There is a huge difference between being diligent about finances or machines than the well being of persons. Persons have a conception of self that is constituted by an array of concerns that have no analogue with non-person agents. Human persons are self interpreting and participate in shaping their own understanding, purpose and meaning. This is why Due Diligence also includes issues such as mental health, well being and social psychological factors at work. This is why de-personalising and de-humanising the workplace in risk and safety is an act of negligent. It is a piece of cake to trot out slogans and mantras but quite another to actually demonstrate moral accountability for persons.
The moral good of creating a healthy and safe workplace for everyone frames coherence in purpose and commitment for leaders. This is why a model of following-leading is the most effective model for tackling risk (http://www.humandymensions.com/product/following-leading-risk/ ). Without a model of mutuality and reciprocation in risk (emphasized by the hyphen) one is simply trapped in the daunting cycle of the hero myth. When Due Diligence becomes a shared moral activity (as specified by the WHS Act) then what is ‘appropriate’ is characterized by negotiation and reciprocation. A shared understanding of the ‘common good’ is an essential characteristic of Due Diligence. A hierarchical approach to Due Diligence is always doomed to fail.
Putting a bunch of policies, mantras and checklists in place as a response to Due Diligence actually demonstrates that one has not been diligent. One can have all the checklists and policies in place but still lack a fundamental respect for persons. Indeed, a climate of narcissism, sociopathy and bullying overrides any mantras or checklists as a demonstration of negligence. When one understands Due Diligence as a sense of ‘common good’, then one is more easily able to exercise the ‘spirit’ of Due Diligence in the workplace.
If you want to read more on the nature of the moral good then MacIntyre is most helpful (After Virtue, a study in moral theory).
If you are interested in a presentation workshop on the legal and social psychological essentials of Due Diligence, you can download details here:
Rob Long and Greg Smith are also available for keynote presentations where they chat together on stage similar to their video but with a more targeted focus on organizational context. (https://vimeo.com/162493843).
Rob and Greg’s book Risky Conversations is available here: http://www.humandymensions.com/product/risky-conversations/