I normally use this space to highlight our industry standards. My last update centered on getting our Regional Plant Appraisal Committee formed and working. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a delay in this, and is affecting us all personally and professionally. So, I thought it appropriate to revisit the way we approach our work and talk a little about ethics.
The topic of ethics was a focal discussion at the last ASCA conference in regard to tree appraisal. Some folks proposed that ethics would result in arborists on opposite sides of a legal valuation producing identical appraisals. Some insinuated that all other arborists besides themselves are biased and let their agendas influence everything from tree work sales to risk reports. Of course, this only makes sense if every arborist making that claim is the most-skilled, intelligent, bravest, boldest, and baddest arborist in the room!
Ethics are moral principles that govern our behavior and activities. They come into play when there does not seem to be a rule or law dictating exactly what to do. When there is law, our actions and behavior may simply be labeled legal or illegal. And if the law is clear, any moral ambiguity disappears. Some things are so obvious that they are illegal in every culture - murder, theft, and fraud come to mind. Other laws are clear but perhaps not so easily applied.
Speed limits are a classic example of clear law that we deal with day in and day out. Do you always obey the speed limit? What if everyone else is going ten miles per hour over? What if in obeying the speed limit you are causing disorder on the highway?
Questions like these apply to our lives as arborists.
We have nine parts to the ANSI A300 and the Z133 safety standard that cover good and safe work, yet we may still find ourselves wondering how to act. For example:
- A crew member is working unsafely - do you talk to him? Do you report him to your boss?
- Your boss is under reporting worker’s comp? Is it your problem?
- A long-time client wants an otherwise healthy and sound tree removed but city code requires it to have a high risk rating before issuing a permit. Do you write that report?
Let’s also consider our current climate during the coronavirus pandemic. How do you behave when the governor orders people to stop working and shelter in place? Do you work or not? Do you report others who may be endangering community health and safety?
These can be tough questions and situations. It would be foolish to assume that the answer is always clear.
At the end of the matter, it may come down to your conscience. I often reason this out by asking myself how I will feel about a decision later. If I recognize that one course of action is going to trouble me, then I’ve probably figured out what not to do.
When restrictions on social distancing are lifted and we are all back to work, let’s be healthy, and safe… and ethical.