Disaster inquiries regularly contain a sad litany of what went wrong, procedures bypassed and ignored, and undue risks taken. It is clear in many of these cases that there were individuals in the know, who may have spoken up, but been over-ruled or silenced. Some more persistent individuals decide to speak up external to the organisation, and hence become whistleblowers. Their efforts, although virtually by definition in the public interest, have not always been well received, certainly by their employers, and the agencies to whom they resorted, while pleased to have received their information, have invariably not reciprocated by offering employment protection, or even upholding confidentiality. Disaster case studies are presented involving a variety of industries from the nuclear power to the petroleum, aircraft, space and oil industries. The stresses on the whistleblower are indicated, one being the controversy remaining over their role, with opposition from some business leaders. The law offers first line protection, although experience in the USA suggests that this is insufficient in itself. In the more unified and compact jurisdiction of the UK, new legislation, coupled with political will, seems likely to produce a more effective regime. Organisations need to internalise whistleblowing as part of their natural systems and procedures, and codes of practice assist in this regard, as long as they are more than window-dressing. Countries less advanced in their thinking and legislation are more at risk and, given the global consequences of the likes of an environmental disaster, need to be regarded as international pariahs.
Disaster Prevention and Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 1, 2000
Keywords: Disasters; Ethics; Codes of practice; Organizational behaviour; Employment law