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Ethics Analysis Paper

In: Business and Management

Submitted By ajf8894
Words 974
Pages 4
Adam Fye
Dr. Melo
MGT 313-07
23 October 2015
Ethics Analysis Paper April 5, 2010 was a day that forever changed the lives of 29 coal miners from southern West Virginia, and their families. These twenty-nine men who worked at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) coal mine owned by the Massey Energy Corporation all perished in the largest mining disaster in over four decades. The dilemma that I will analyze in my paper is whether Massey Energy acted in an ethical manner with regards to the events at the UBB mine. The dilemma will be analyzed using two different ethical principles, the principle of lawfulness and the principle of harm. Along with the ethical principles, Massey will be subject to two different methods of ethical reasoning. These two methods are the human rights and utilitarian methods. After analyzing their actions in accordance to these principles and methods, I concluded by all accounts that Massey did not act in an ethical way. Ethical principles are society’s guide to moral behavior. They are basic behavioral rules that are considered essential for the preservation and continuation of organized life. One principle for ethical and moral behavior is the principle of lawfulness. This principle states that individuals are to not violate the law in order to act in an ethical fashion. Massey Energy Corporation was known for not adhering to governmental mandates that ensured the safety of the environment. Two years prior to the disaster at UBB, Massey violated policies in the Clean Water Act, and was forced to pay $20 million. The corporation received hundreds of citations in regards to site violations at the UBB site alone. The second ethical principle I will use to judge the actions of Massey is the principle of harm. This principle simply requires individuals to do no harm to others. Massey does not uphold this ethical principle for the sole fact that due to negligence of their management, 29 of their workers died in their facilities. The disregard for their employees’ safety was not limited to this one occasion; in fact Massey had a worker fatality rate that was sixteen times higher than the rest of the coal industry. Based on the two ethical principles that I previously highlighted, it can be concluded that Massey Energy did not act in an ethical manner. The human rights method of ethical reasoning is the first method of ethical reasoning I will consider when drawing a conclusion on whether Massey Energy acted in a moral and ethical way. According to the rights method, a person or group is entitled to something or to be treated in a certain way. There are a few basic human rights recognized in this method of ethical reasoning including: life, safety, and free speech. Denying individuals or groups those rights or failing to protect those rights, is considered unethical. Massey failed to protect their employees right to safety in numerous ways. After investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, it was found that the UBB mine did not take the proper precautions when cleaning rock dust from the facility. Rock dust is extremely flammable and was a major reason for the fireball that killed 29 workers. Management only designated two workers to clean the entire facility, and they were often times called away to do other jobs. It was also found that they had one dusting machine that was old and dilapidated. Because the corporation neglected to provide a safe work environment and ultimately violated their right to life by doing so, it can be concluded that Massey did not act ethically. Utilitarian reasoning is the second method I will use is the utilitarian approach to ethics. This method of reasoning deems an action ethical depending on its utility, or the overall amount of good that can be produced. This type of reasoning is a cost-benefit analysis because it must weigh the good and the bad of each action on the economy, society, and humanity. The events surrounding UBB mine explosion make it challenging to do this cost-benefit analysis. This is because it is hard to put a value on less tangible items like the value of human life. I would argue that the value of 29 human lives is more valuable than the possible economic proceeds that Massey would receive from continuing operations. One of Massey’s actions easier to determine the ethical value is their pollution of the local environment. They were fined for violating the Clean Water Act, and also caused $50 million in pollution to nearby Big Sandy and Ohio rivers. Hundreds of miles of these rivers were contaminated from activities related to mining coal. The damage their negligent actions caused to the environment make their actions unethical. Don Blankenship’s attorney released a statement following his indictment for conspiracy to violate safety laws, as well as several other offenses. In the statement, the former Massey CEO’s attorney calls Blankenship a ‘tireless advocate’ of mine safety. The testimony given by former employees and family members of those killed in the mine explosion seem to show his character from a different viewpoint. Workers and family members testified that workers were made to feel intimidated if they questioned management about safety. One foreman was actually disciplined when he told his workers to not run coal while a problem with the site ventilation was being fixed. Also, after investigation of the UBB site, it was discovered that management was keeping two separate sets of records; one was for inspectors while the other was used to document hazards at the mine. These hazards are in fact required by law to be kept in the records shown to inspectors. Due to this gross negligence and disregard for worker safety, I would argue that any punishment assigned by a court of law is justified for Mr. Blankenship.

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