Your Company (the “Company”) has over 1000 employees. The Company has a Battery Division that has been in the battery manufacturing business for almost fifty years, and the Company has maintained ongoing efforts to improve industrial safety through measures designed to minimize the risk lead poses to those directly involved in the manufacturing of batteries. In fact, the Company employs fourteen people to implement a corporate health and safety program.
The steps that the Company has taken to regulate lead exposure have not been focused merely on complying with governmental safety regulations, but originate from their long-standing corporate concern for the danger lead poses to the health and welfare of their employees, their employees’ families and the general public. During the period of the late 1960’s and 1970’s when OSHA’s regulation of employee exposure to lead was virtually non-existent, the Company initiated a large number of innovative programs in an attempt to control and regulate industrial lead exposure. For example, in 1969, Dr. Craig Fish, M.D., instituted programs for monitoring employee blood lead levels. In an attempt to manage lead exposure, other safety programs were initiated at the Company including a lead hygiene program, respirator program, biological monitoring program, medical surveillance program and a program regulating the type, use and disposal of employee work clothing and footwear to minimize lead exposure. The Company transferred employees out of high lead environments whenever a physician’s medical evaluation report established that the individual had a high blood lead level. In the case of such transfers, medical removal benefits were provided to the employee before OSHA required such compensation. The Company has continued to address their serious concern for industrial safety through efforts to design and regulate lead manufacturing areas to reduce employee lead exposure. For example, laminar flow pumps constantly supply a down publish of low velocity clean air to improve the environment of workstations where employees deal with lead. Central vacuum systems and powered floor scrubbers and sweepers are used to keep the manufacturing area as clear of lead dust as possible. Since 1978, the Company has spent approximately $ 500 million on environmental engineering controls at its battery division plants.
Medical research has shown that a woman’s exposure to lead can cause ill effects on the health of her unborn child because the lead absorbed in the mother’s blood as the result of this exposure can cross the placenta and mix with the child’s blood. This has been acknowledged by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Medical research also shows that a risk to the unborn child’s health is present at a much lower blood-lead level than an adult. The ill effects to the unborn child can occur during the early stage of pregnancy, before the mother is aware that she is pregnant, and can continue throughout the pregnancy.
The Company established its first policy regarding fetal protection from lead exposure in 1977 as part of its comprehensive efforts to protect its employees from exposure to lead. The Company’s announcement of the policy in a memorandum to battery plant and personnel managers stated:
” This change [the announced policy] has come about slowly as more and more medical opinion and evidence is persuasive of the risk to the unborn, developing child. We have stopped short of excluding women capable of bearing children from lead exposure, but do feel strongly that those women who are working in lead exposure . . . and those women who wish to be considered for employment be advised that there is risk, that we recommend not working in lead if they are considering a family, and further that we ask them to sign a statement that they have been advised of this risk.”
In its 1977 “Statement of Risks,” the Company also observed that at that time scientific and medical evidence had not as yet conclusively established the risk lead exposure posed to the unborn. However, after noting possible risks the 1977 policy statement read:
” We would have to say that it is, medically speaking, just good sense not to run that risk [lead exposure] if you want children and do not wish to expose the unborn child to risk, however small, and so recommend that you counsel with your family doctor and advise us of your wishes to transfer.”
However, this voluntary policy established in 1977 has not achieved the desired purpose: protecting pregnant women and their unborn children from dangerous blood lead levels. During a 4-year period, at least six Company employees in high lead exposure positions became pregnant while maintaining dangerously high blood lead levels. In addition, at least one of the babies born to this group of employees later recorded an elevated blood lead level.
Therefore, the Company is considering a new policy that requires complete exclusion of women with childbearing capacity from high lead exposure positions.
To date neither the Company nor any other battery manufacturer has been able to produce a lead free battery, or to utilize engineering research and technology to implement a system or procedure capable of reducing the lead exposure of its employees to acceptable levels for fertile women. Excluding only women who are planning a pregnancy does not appear to be an adequate protection for unborn children because there are some unplanned pregnancies. Excluding women after they discover a pregnancy is not adequate protection because there is the very definite possibility that lead exposure will occur between conception and the time the woman discovers her pregnancy. In addition, reduction of blood lead levels following removal from a lead exposure area requires a significant length of time that frequently extends well into the pregnancy term.
The chief reason why an unborn child’s lead exposure is of such great concern is that it has been medically established that lead attacks the fetus’ central nervous system and retards cognitive development. Unlike physical birth defects, lead’s sometimes subtle damaging effects may not fully manifest themselves until the child is diagnosed as having learning problems in a school setting some five to six years after birth. Probably the worst aspect of lead’s influence upon an unborn child’s future intellectual development is that its effects have frequently been found to be irreversible. Further, the most recent research suggests that the unborn child may be affected at lead levels previously believed safe. Lead exposure can also pose other physical threats to the unborn child such as reduction of the infant’s birth weight, premature delivery, and stillbirth. Lead may also affect the other vital fetal organs including, but not limited to, the liver and kidneys.
You are in charge of making the decision about whether the Company should enact the new policy that requires complete exclusion of women. A good way to analyze this is stakeholder theory. Please address the following in your first Discussion Board posts:
A. Make a list of ALL stakeholders affected by your decision.
B. Explain the effect of this decision on each of those stakeholders.
C. Weighing the interests of all of the stakeholders (and keeping in mind the goal of achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number), what would you decide? Explain
D. Would excluding all women violate any laws? Explain.
E. Would excluding just the pregnant women violate any laws? Explain.
F. Describe alternative actions you could take,
G. Analyze consequences of each of the alternative actions. Apply an ethical model (formalism, consequentialism, or stakeholder theory) to decide which of the alternative actions is best. Explain how your will monitor the future consequences of your decision.
H. What would you do?