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The Scaffold Plank Incident

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In the case prepared by Stewart C. Malone and Brad Brown of the University of Virginia, an ethical dilemma is presented involving White Lumber Company’s obligation to sell, or not to sell, below-grade lumber that may be used for scaffolding. The stakeholder involved in this dilemma that is affected the most by the outcome of the final decision is Stan Parrish, the lumber buyer at Quality Lumber. His stake in this incident takes priority over that of the other stakeholders for several reasons. Parrish had considered purchasing below-grade lumber that would be unsuitable for use as scaffolding- from a regulatory sense. His behavior of knowingly breaking a code of regulation could potentially involve Quality Lumber in criminal proceedings. His job, and the jobs of his superiors and colleagues, would be in jeopardy. By enabling the code of regulation for scaffolding planks to be broken, there are also injuries, accidents, property damage, and other property damage that could be the result of using sub-par lumber planks.

Stan Parrish’s actions affect not only himself and Quality Lumber, but also the reputation of Bob Hopkins and White Lumber Company, the buyers of the account with which Stan Parrish is trying to strike a deal, the sellers of the lumber product, and ultimately the safety of the contractors and employees who will eventually be the final users. The second most important stakeholder in this incident would be John White, the proprietor of White Lumber Company. His participation in unethical lumber-trading behavior could potentially affect the livelihood of all of his employees, and he could ultimately lose his business. John White could also be held accountable for any injuries or violations made as a result of selling lumber that is below grade. “To analyze an issue using the utilitarian approach, we first identify the various courses of action available to us. Second, we ask who will be affected by each action and what benefits or harms will be derived from each. And third, we choose the action that will produce the greatest benefits and the least harm.” (Velazquez)

Using this criteria, Bob would deduce that the pros and cons of going ahead with the sale of the under-regulation planks. Considering the fallout that would result from engaging in unethical activity may not be as much of a priority to Bob as the impact that could be made from the loss of profits that would result from not being able to strike a good deal with Quality Lumber. From a utilitarian standpoint, the greater good could be more realistically devastated if Bob does not sell the below-grade lumber to Stan Parrish at Quality Lumber. Using the justice ethical decision-making criteria, Bob should most definitely not participate in knowingly selling sub-standard planks of wood that he suspects may be used for scaffolding. Justice ethical decisions are non-bias ad impartial, and maintain and uphold the integrity of laws and regulations that have been put into place to benefit the greater good. In this case study, the ethical perspective that should be followed by Bob is a decision determined by using justice ethics. Regardless of the conditions of the economy, the livelihood of the business, and the potential loss of profits that could have been gained by selling the lumber to Quality Lumber, it is still not worth the potential disaster that White Lumber Company, and Quality Lumber could face if the violation of scaffold plank use regulation is broken.

Stan Parrish- lumber buyer at Quality Lumber.
John White- leader of White Lumber Company.
Bob Hopkins- lumber trader employed at White Lumber Company. Mike Fayerweather- lumber trader employed at White Lumber Company, partner of Bob Hopkins. Works Cited
Velazquez, M., Andre, C., Shanks, T., S.J., Meyer, M. (1996). Thinking Ethically: A Framework for Moral Decision Making. Issues in Ethics V7 N1. Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/thinking.htmlHill, C. W. L. & Jones, G. R. (2001). The Scaffold Plank Incident. Cases in Strategic Management. (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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