Research Paper on Bhopal Disaster

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1778 Words
Date:  2022-06-23

Part I: Case Narrative

The Bhopal disaster happened in Madhya Pradesh state, India, in 1984 and involved the leak of approximately forty-five tons of methyl isocyanate gas (MIC). The company involved an insecticide plant owned by Union Carbide Corporation. The dangerous chemical gas dispersed over the heavily populated neighborhoods of the plant leaving thousand dead and an immediate panic that resulted in a humanitarian crisis as people freed the area (Diamond, 2018). In fact, it is documented that the ultimate death toll ranged between fifteen and twenty thousand people. Also, approximately million survivors experienced various illnesses including eye irritation or blindness, and respiratory problems to mention a few.

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To date traces of industrial waste can be found on the site given that neither the state not the Dow Chemical Company, the new owner of Union Carbide Corporation since 2001 has been able to adequately clean the area. Besides, the Bhopal region is faced with water and soil contamination which is largely blamed various chronic health problems and high birth defect incidences (Diamond, 2018).

Involved parties:

  • This case involves the State - played the role of the regulator
  • Union Carbide Corporation - the Company whose subsidiary caused the leak
  • Management and Employees - were responsible for acting professionally
  • The community- incurred injuries directly

The current case is a tragedy, and as a result, there were no parties that benefited since even in a recent court case, the Supreme Court in 2004 ordered the state government to supply clean drinking water to the residents of Bhopal owing to contamination of groundwater. Similarly, all former Union Carbide's India subsidiary executives were convicted for negligence while there have been continuous protests from victims and interested parties about the corporate and government mishandling of the disaster.

Causes of the Tragedy

Investigations showed that the leaked tank's refrigeration system that was intended to keep the liquid MIC from changing into gaseous form had been removed some times back and was never replaced. Further, the scrubbing system had also been switched off at the time of the tragedy while the flare system purposed to incinerate any gas was not large enough to handle the kind of gas that was formed during the incident. Further, although the local alarm system was activated following the incidence, company policy at the time did not allow them to activate the public warning system which could have sent a warning to the neighborhoods. As such, people living near the firm only realized about the gas leak when it was already too late, and this was a major reason for the high death toll.

To this effect, it can be observed that the decision by the firm and through its agents had numerous moral significances. Indeed, there is evidence that the company acted negligently about securing the chemical which resulted in the disaster. Further, the inaction of employees in regards to activating the public alarm system was unethical, or it lacked a moral backing given the known danger that the leaked gas causes. The above actions were critical since had the parties involved taken action appropriately, the disaster would have been contained. For example, maintaining the plant/storage facility to the required standards would have ensured that the chemical did not turn into the gaseous form. Also, if the alarm had been activated on time people would have been evacuated from the path of the gas and fewer deaths would have been reported. Finally, had the government agency responsible for continuous checks on standards of such facilities played its role fully, the disaster would have been avoided. Therefore, acting ethically and morally is crucial for all employees and the firm in general since it helps not only to reduce damages, but it also gives companies and their officials a good reputation.

Part II: Value Analysis

Better Actions / Decisions

As outlined above, various players including the firm, its executives, and employees as well as specific government agencies acted unethically and in negligence. They failed to observe the set ethical, moral and professional standards consequently leading to the undesired outcomes in the case. It can be argued that although Union Carbide's India had employed professionals to run the plant, it failed to put in place strict polices to guide employees. For instance, the investigation into the cause of the disaster showed that although the manager was informed by some employees about the leak, he ignored the advice and only said they would act after the tea break. More so, the various systems that were never replaced on the holding tank should have been replaced immediately as a precautionary measure. These two events show that the company lacked an effective mechanism for implementing policies and this should be discouraged.

Further, another area that needed to be managed more efficiently regards activating the public alarm. It should be with the company's practices to mind the safety and welfare of the community. Noting the type of product that the company was handling, it should not restrict employees from activating the public alarm, but on the contrary, it should encourage them to do so especially when the danger is imminent. Accordingly, since individuals may tend to perceive issues differently when making ethical decision-making processes, it is important for firms to develop organizational cultures that encourage moral and ethical thinking. Often, individuals judge each situation on six elements namely, the probability of effect, the magnitude of consequences, temporal immediacy, the concentration of effect, social consensus and proximity.

Consequently, these factors are further used to decide whether to act ethically or not and hence it is upon the organization to encourage ethics practices at the workplace. Thus, if the company had encouraged ethical practices among employees and within its culture employees would not have acted negligently at any time, and hence the disaster would have been avoided. Specifically, this case has many elements of social consensus where it is presumed that ethical standards are put into effect through what society considers appropriate. Everyone agrees that the most moral thing to do in a similar situation is to evacuate as many people as possible (Diamond, 2018). Hence, in this case, the company failed to create moral awareness among its employees in addition to failing to enforce behavioral standards of ethical norms through policies and ethical codes of conduct.

Better Values

Values are important to persons and organizations since they help in making a decision(s). Values are crucial since they help people to work effectively as a team and in consideration of other parties. For instance, values like integrity, discipline, diligence, accountability, and perseverance are often used people to guide than in the decision-making process. However, for purposes of this paper, ethic and professionalism, moral reasoning, as well as moral frameworks will be the guide values(Martin & Schinzinger, 2010). From the Bhopal disaster case study, it is evident that the management as well as the entire employees' body failed to adhere to these key values. The discussion above illustrates numerous instances where employees, as well as the management, failed to act ethically and professionally. In addition, the discussion has revealed instances where the company failed to enforce ethical codes of conduct or even layout an effective guide to moral reasoning through established moral frameworks.

In the case, it is evident that had the company, and its employees closely observed these values, the outcome of this situation would have been totally different or even there would not have been a disaster at all. For instance, had each employee acted professionally it is expected that they would have also been guided by the set of ethical codes. In addition, ethics and morals are inseparable. Hence, it is obvious that and ethical person is also virtuous, endeavors to do that which is right, and they perform their duties professionally.

Moral Lessons

The case Bhopal Disaster is rich on information regarding the engineering profession and the need for individuals in this sector to act professionally, ethically and morally at all times. However, this may not always be the case especially if people from different cultures or even occupations are involved. Often under such circumstances, the underlying assumptions, values, and practices may clash since each has their set of "common sense" that is unique to them(Hoban, 2012). Thus, where two parties do not meet communication norms about their communication patterns and as well as expected behaviors they often clash. The reasoning is that each one of them will hold the belief that their ways of thinking and doing things is the best and hence they consider the other's practices and way of thinking as strange inferior, or morally wrong.

In the Bhopal disaster case, it is evident that the management and the employees failed to hold similar ethical standards and therefore they were unable to apply same moral reasoning and frameworks. This is well illustrated in the scenario where the manager failed to act immediately even after being informed about the leaks(Diamond, 2018). Whereas the employees felt they had an ethical obligation to report the leak, the manager did not hold equally moral reasoning to act immediately. The same can be said concerning the replacement of the refrigeration systems and several other systems mentioned. Further, although the employees held strong moral reasoning about activating the alarm system the company used a different moral judgment that restricted employees from activating the public alarm system. Thus, there is evidence of moral and value conflict between the management and the employees.

Lessons Learnt

The lesson learned from the discussion above is important because it informs on the need for organizations to hold and enforce common and similar ethical codes, to encourage professionalism and enforce similar moral reasoning and moral frameworks. Importantly, under certain circumstances, engineers ought to whistle-blow. Although company executives are expected to hold a higher moral and ethical standards, the general organizational culture should be one to encourage every player to act ethically, professionally and morally(Martin & Schinzinger, 2010). Accordingly, moral frameworks must define what is virtuous, right as well as explain the duties and responsibilities of each player within the organization through the set codes of conduct. Thus, the overall lesson learned is that under certain circumstances, engineers ought to whistle-blow. If the defects identified after the investigation of the causes of the Bhopal disaster had been addressed or the engineers had brought the defects to the attention of relevant bodies outside the company the disaster would have been avoided.


Diamond, S. (2018). The Bhopal Disaster: How it Happened. Retrieved from

Hoban, J. (2012). The ethical warrior: Values, Morals & Ethics: For Life, Work and Service. Spring Lake, NJ: RGI Media and Publications.

Martin, M., & Schinzinger, R. (2010). Introduction to Engineering Ethics. London: The McGraw-Hill.

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Research Paper on Bhopal Disaster. (2022, Jun 23). Retrieved from

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