Involving moral and ethical principles in safety management systems

Paul Lindhout, Genserik Reniers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Some organisations, and some individual humans, violate moral and ethical rules, whether or not they are written down in laws or codes of conduct. Corporate transgressions, as this behaviour is called, occur because of the actions of those in charge, usually bright and dedicated people. Immoral and unethical conduct can adversely affect the safety of workers, the general public and the environment. A scoping review method for a literature search is used to explore morality and ethics in relation to health and safety management. Our findings show that controlling the risks associated with misconduct and corporate transgression is not usually seen as a responsibility allocated to safety systems but is left to general management and corporate governance. The moral and ethical principles, however, can be applied in safety management systems to prevent misconduct and transgression-related safety risks. Our results show that ethical leadership, ethical behaviour, sustaining an ethical climate and implementation of an ethical decision-making process emerge as key preventive measures. The discussion presents a proposed way to include these measures in safety management systems. Conclusion and recommendations underline that unwanted behaviour and transgression risks can be brought under control, starting from a set of best practices. Not only the managers themselves but also board members, independent external supervisors and government regulators need to embrace these practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8511
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Ethical principles
  • Fairness
  • Misconduct
  • Precautionary
  • Prevention
  • Safety management system
  • Transgression


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