Safety professionals strive to maintain professionalism in all their varied activities. As the profession continues to mature in its acceptance by the public and private sector, competence must be married to ethical conduct. The engineering profession has for decades addressed ethical conduct issues involving their field of practice. Inherent to this history is a profound sense that professional ethics begins as a taught product in the various engineering schools. In preparing individuals for the safety profession, what can the safety profession learn from the engineering profession? The answer lies in accepting a primary tenet - "professionalism requires ethical conduct and ethical conduct requires professionalism". This is not circular thinking, but a premise for assuring any profession will not bring harm to those it serves.

The Engineering and Safety Professions - An Early Collaboration and Mutual Reliance

The engineering profession has a long history of existence. Going back in recorded history to the building of the pyramids of ancient Egypt there are ancient manuscripts that detail engineering practices, standards and processes that assured these great monuments would withstand the sands of time while being erected in the deserts adjacent to the Nile greenbelt.

Concurrently, ancient manuscripts also contained writings that would describe what would be called today as an organizational chart. There was a key leader called the Chief Designer who managed the entire project. There were the labor managers who assured manpower was available. There were specialists that assured materials and tools were available. There was the also a critical block on the organizational chart for logistics specialists - to assure everything happened in a sequence that made sense.

The modern safety profession, on the other hand, seems to not be similarly blessed with a long history of providing service to humankind - or does it? Most historical texts reflect that the safety profession really had its recorded birth at the beginning of the twentieth century. This would imply that safety professionals have barely 100 years of recorded professional history as a basis for their heritage. Surprisingly though, those same manuscripts that detailed the engineering activities of the building of the pyramids also revealed something very interesting - those ancient projects actually had our modern equivalent of on-site safety professionals. Equally interesting, there was a close relationship between the engineering personnel and the safety personnel. They were actually "married" as a cohesive unit - each depended on the other to assure a project was completed to the timetable and specifications of the Chief Designer.

Five thousand years ago, ethical conduct was essential to not only the livelihood of Egyptian engineers and safety personnel but their life as well.

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