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Engineering Ethics from the Perspective of a Consulting Engineer Mike Bilderbeck, P.E., FASHRAE Pickering Firm, Inc. – Memphis, TN
ETHICS… Treat everybody like you want to be treated.
Who is perceived as having Good Ethics??
Public Perception of Ethical Conduct Among Professionals: • Nurses (83%) • Pharmacists (66%) • Medical Doctors (65%) • Policemen (63%) • Engineers (62%) • Dentists (57%) • College Teachers (54%) • Clergy (50%) • Chiropractors (34%) • Psychiatrists (33%) • Journalists (23%) • Bankers (19%) • State Governors (15%) • Lawyers (13%) • Business Executives (12%) • Advertising Practitioners ( 11%) • Senators (11%) • Insurance Salesmen (10%) • Stockbrokers (9%) • Members of Congress (9%) • HMO Managers (8%) • Car Salesmen (6%) Percent That Ranked The Profession “Very High” Or “High” In Ethical Standards
Professional Engineer Requirements • National Society of Professional Engineers code of ethics • Some states have codes of ethics. • Professional society code of ethics
NSPE Fundamental Canons • Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall: • Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. • Perform services only in areas of their competence. • Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner. • Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees. • Avoid deceptive acts. • Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputations, and usefulness of the profession.
Stay “Right” with the State Licensure Boards (Requirements Vary)
Some State Requirements • Your state board may not care about some ethical issues. • Firm cannot use “Engineer” (or form of the word) unless a PE works at that office. • Professional privilege tax • Register the firm with the Secretary of State to do business in the State. • Licensed staff in responsible charge in each office. • Register the firm with the state engineer licensing board BEFORE signing a contract.
Firm obtained agreement to do work in neighboring state. • Registered with Secretary of State • Obtained PE licensure of designers • DID NOT register the firm with the state engineer licensing board BEFORE signing a contract. • Signed design services contract with Client • Designed the Work • Payment dispute • Sued for arbitration under the contract
Client countersued that the contract was not valid because the firm was not registered with the state licensing board. • Court found that registration with state licensing board AFTER signing the contract is TOO LATE. • Engineer lost - big money.
Who Seals the Work? • Must exercise “responsible charge” or “direct supervision” • Regular and effective supervision • Must not be regularly and continuously absent from office where services are rendered. • Must be available on reasonable basis for consultation.
May stamp documents prepared by other registrants if they’re under responsible charge. • Partner or corporate office who has knowledge of the content of the work, and will be responsible for the work. • Registered professional and by the corporate director under whose supervision the work was done.
Primary Obligation is to Protect the Safety, Health, Property, and Welfare of the Public • Engineer proposes to design a dam for a municipality. • Because of potentially dangerous nature of implementing the design, engineer recommends full time construction phase on-site representative. • Owner decides against hiring the representative for full time CA because of cost.
Engineer proceeds with the design. • Engineer acted in a manner that suggests that the primary obligation was not the public, but the client’s economic concerns.
Writing a Letter May Not be Enough. A competent engineer walks away from a project that is destined to fail.
Design / Build Issues • If asked to participate on multiple design teams…get agreement of all the clients. • Your ideas belong to you and you may share them with all design teams. • Ideas brought up by a particular design MUST NOT be shared with other teams. • Sometimes it’s difficult to design it the way your client priced it. • Sometimes it’s a challenge to get your client to build it the way you designed it.
Friendship • Designers frequently rely on certain vendors or contractors to provide knowledge of equipment or systems. • Working together, designers often develop a friendship with certain vendors or contractors. • How do you deal with poor submittals / workmanship done by your friends?
Trips, Meals, Gifts • Avoid the perception (or the accusation) that you are “for sale”. • Avoid trips and gifts from vendors / contractors that are long on fun but have little technical content.
Avoid the Perception of a Conflict of Interest Use the “News at 11 Rule”
If it would cause you heartburn to hear the Newscaster say: • Local engineer accepts trip to Hawaii from vendor . . . • Local engineer accused of not enforcing the specifications regarding a submittal . . . • Local engineer divulges client’s proprietary information . . . • Local engineer recommends neighbor to build large project . . . • Local engineer attempts to cover up design error. • THEN DON’T DO IT!
ASHRAE BOD has adopted procedures for resolving ethical issues. • BOD may warn, censure, suspend, or expel a member or members found to have violated the ASHRAE Code of Ethics.