The first duty recognized by professional engineers is to the safety of the public. Engineers are expected to prioritize the safety, health and welfare of people and should follow the principles of sustainable progress in the process of their professional works. In the Engineering Code of Ethics, public safety is placed as its highest ethic. It is essential that engineers are always conscious of their responsibilities for the welfare and safety of the public. Conversely, an engineer’s duty to his or her clients can never supersede their responsibility for public safety.
If a client insists on something that will go against the standard operating procedures and could be a hazard to the public later on, the engineer has every right to refuse or turn down an offer. He or she should not get into activities which will compromise his profession as well as the quality of his work as these could pose a risk to the public and threaten their safety. It is true that nothing is foolproof and engineers should always try to minimize risks. There is a great need for the public to be informed and made aware of the consequences of engineer decisions while often keeping in mind the possible risks involved.
Engineers should not allow such risk-taking. Safety should always come first and it is the engineers’ job to lessen such risks despite what the public insists. When something goes awry, engineers could be held liable. They are the ones with the skills and technical know-how as well as the ability to forecast probabilities of consequences. The public should trust the engineer’s decision as well as judgment and realize that it is all for their own welfare. 1b. There is an inversely proportional relationship between risk and safety.
In order to lessen risk, safety should always be prioritized. Engineers plan, design, build, maintain, and decommission infrastructures and structures. At the same time, they safeguard people, environments, and assets from natural and man-made dangers. The activities that engineers do help develop the society, control risks due to natural disasters, accidents, ignorance, and malevolence. Similarly, through their gained knowledge and experience, they are able to model the real world to the best of their ability.
They must shape their decisions based on the costs and benefits that it will have on their models. But with insufficient data and subjective experiences, these models of the real world are not perfect and are varied and carry with it several uncertainties. These uncertainties are the risks that engineers must always keep in mind. Engineers must minimize risks; therefore they must go the extra mile with their safety measures. c. Engineers should always be on top of their projects, knowing and anticipating everything that can go wrong during the construction.
It is critical that engineers prove their designs with the correct calculations based on probable stresses, material strength and effectivity, and techniques in construction. Recent cases reveal that “there is a crisis of public confidence in engineering ; engineers are being held responsible for the bad consequences of technology (Schaub & Pavlovic, 1983). ” Despite the engineers’ best efforts, designs may still fail due to extreme stresses beyond what was anticipated, defective materials, construction shortcuts made, or design age with little to no maintenance.
The engineer is not responsible for the said causes unless these were intentional, like failing to inspect the materials to be used & allowing construction shortcuts to be done. It should therefore be understood that not all errors arising from risks taken can be blamed on engineers. Engineers are hired for their invaluable services. While engineers have a sincere desire and commitment to deliver excellent service, results of this service may not be perfect and foolproof. What is critical and essential is their exercise of reasonable care and due diligence in the services they provide.
The practice of “due diligence” is exercised so engineers will not be held liable for unanticipated mishaps or accidents that may occur at the workplace. Due diligence is the disclosure of all information and things that the public needs to know regarding the construction. Due diligence includes knowing the risks, reducing the exposures, and nailing down the costs. The public should be generally aware and acknowledge all the materials used (including its quality), any construction shortcuts done, and other risks taken.
Professional engineers should always advise the public of what is most safe and proper for the construction. If an accident happens under the engineer’s watch , another professional engineer would step up to analyze the incident. He would investigate, if it is of human error or a machine problem. Whichever the reason, it is the responsibility of the engineer to act upon it and create solutions immediately. There are different attitudes and frames of mind that can contribute to irresponsible actions, whether it is intention, recklessness, or negligence (Harris, et al. , 1995).
Self interest, self deception, fear, ignorance, and egocentric tendencies are some of the many frames of mind that produce such accidents and mishaps. 2. The competence of an engineer is primarily based on his or her training or education. An engineer who has taken further learning and greater specialism or broadening of knowledge can significantly yield great benefits as he/she is exposed to a variety of situations and knowledge areas that lead to innovations. However, in reality, “engineers will most likely be driven by shorter-term objectives of their employers (Clark & Thompson, 1999).
But competence does not only end there. One’s ethics is of central importance in engineering professionalism. An incompetent engineer, on the other hand, is one who lacks experience, knowledge, and professional ethics. “A good engineer has aspirational ethics and professional character. An engineer has a substantial level of freedom in how he or she encourages public welfare (Harris, et al. , 1995)”. Rules such as holding paramount public safety can only aid the engineer to some extent. It does not motivate the engineer to act positively, nor does it help in making decisions that require great caution.
Similarly, the traits of professional character make up an ideal engineer. An engineer with professional character is confident with his or her high level of expertise and experience. He or she is socially aware with the technology he or she may consider using and its effect on the society. It should be noted that personal morality and professional ethics are not always the alike. “An engineer might have personal objections to working on military projects, but avoiding such work is not something upheld by professional ethics.
Professional ethics requires engineers to protect the environment, regardless of their personal moral fervors (Harris, et al. , 1995). ” Professional ethics are the standards implemented by professionals that guide and aid others to act professionally. One’s personal moral beliefs are usually similar to the principles of common morality. However, one’s morality may differ in some areas, especially where common morality is vague or in “a state of change” (Harris, et al, 1995). Although technical competence is a big factor in a good engineer, one’s morality should also be taken into consideration.
An engineer’s moral beliefs do not excuse him of taking any risks. Such evaluations are hard to put to action since one’s personal morals almost always, sometimes subconsciously, come first. It is like nature to them as people to follow or make decisions based on what they believe in. These evaluations become difficult to do especially when one’s personal beliefs contrast professional ethics. An engineer should always prioritize professional ethics as an engineer before his own.
Professional ethics are built on common morality, to safeguard people and the environment and are absolutely for the common good. References 1. Clark, R. & Thompson, J. Creating the Competent Engineer: An Evaluation of Integrated Graduate Development in Northern Ireland. Int. J. Engineering Edition Vol. 15 (2), 124-150. (1999) 2. Harris, C. , Pritchard, M. , & Rabins, M. Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases. Belmont: Wadsworth Pub. (1995) 3. Schaub H. James. & Pavlovic, Karl: Engineering Professionalism and Ethics. Malabar, Fla. : R. E. Krieger Pub. , (1983).