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[Home] [2009 Editorials]

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September, 2009

DANCING ON THE EDGE
(SOME THOUGHTS ON ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT)

By Frank Kurz

ASTTBC's Practice Review Board (PRB) is charged with ensuring that the Registered Fire Protection Technicans (RFPT's) certified by ASTTBC conduct themselves in an "ethical, comprehensive, and professional manner" (1). An RFPT who is also an owner/partner of a fire prevention company is in a position where ethical conduct must remain above reproach. The company is a reflection of the owner/partner's own ethics and professionalism. The "Captain of the Ship" is responsible for steering it and (in equal portion) responsible for the "conduct of his crew".

(1) Taken from "The Suppress" (ASTTBC's Fire Protection Newsletter)

ASTTBC's PRB has often been forced to limit their responses and investigations when it comes to the way companies do business, and many RFPT's with questionable ethics or standards have managed to hide behind their corporate personas. I believe that this must change! It isn't enough that a registered technician "employee" should be held responsible for shoddy work, questionable practice or unethical behaviour. The guy that signs the paycheque (if he's an RFPT) should also take an equal share of the responsibility because he (usually) has the power to "direct" the technician in his employ for good or ill.

In many instances involving UNETHICAL owners the fiscal "bottom line" means ASTTBC's practice standard will yield to the preservation of the income stream and the all important customer base. While this increased pressure to perform by cutting corners may look to be as a result of our tough economic times, it is a sad fact that there has always been someone willing do the job "cheaper". As long as building owners and property managers continue to accept the lowest bid from anyone that will "tag off" on their project, and as long as there are fire protection technicians who are willing to compromise the inspection standards in order to get the work (as CEO's), or who will bow to those pressures that keep "the boss" happy, the industry will never achieve a "level playing field".

If you're working for a company, you're part of a "team". If you're an RFPT (or a recognized professional in the jurisdictions you work in), you're part of a greater "team". If you find yourself contemplating compromising the standards (I'm referencing the various inspection standards here) in order to satisfy a manager's (or employer's) financial "bottom line", it's important for you to realize that you're not doing yourself (or the people in the building you're inspecting) any favours.

What are you left with? What are your options?

  • You can say "no" and point out that what is being asked of you is in violation of ASTTBC's Practice Guideline (or whatever standard or code applies to the situation). You cannot be dismissed for this. The Labour Standards Act (in British Columbia at least) defends workers in this situation and subjects employers to harsh penalties for violations. Be prepared for other consequences, however. Many unscrupulous owners will "favour" the technician that IS willing to compromise and "reward" those that follow the rules with fewer hours (if you're paid by the hour, this will hurt you financially and "pressure" you into complying with the way the other technician "bends the rules"). The "up" side here (if you want to call it that), is that you'll be in a position to take another positive step in your career and...
  • You can find another employer. There are many highly respected companies out there that are actively seeking qualified individuals. You can visit our JOBS page for help in this.
  • You can file a formal complaint.

Now, the role of a "complainant" has always held an unwarranted stigma. The terms rat, fink, trouble-maker etc. are often used against the individuals that report illicit, illegal, or unethical activities. ASTTBC has recently issued their formal Practice Guideline.  It is an excellent document compiled by a unique committee of individuals that are represented by your peers, the local authority(ies), and other committed individuals.  It is extremely important for you to remember that, when filing a formal complaint, your anonymity is guaranteed and always will be.  You can find out more about the ASTTBC complaint process here.  Your own ethics may still require you to contemplate an "exit strategy" if you feel the situation where you work isn't going to improve.

What are your thoughts?  Care to share them with us?  Visit our GENERAL FORUM page and post your comments!  You can also call or email us directly.

 

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