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Introduction to Engineering Ethics. School of Engineering Design , Technology and Professional Programs. Credit for Engineering Work - Design Competitions.

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introduction to engineering ethics

Introduction to Engineering Ethics

School of Engineering Design , Technology and Professional Programs

credit for engineering work design competitions
Credit for Engineering Work - Design Competitions

Engineer A is retained by a city to design a bridge as part of an elevated highway system. Engineer A then retains the services of Engineer B, a structural engineer with expertise in horizontal geometry, superstructure design and elevations to perform certain aspects of the design services. Engineer B designs the bridge's three curved welded plate girder spans which were critical elements of the bridge design. Several months following completion of the bridge, Engineer A enters the bridge design into a national organization's bridge design competition. The bridge design wins a prize. However, the entry fails to credit Engineer B for his part of the design.

Was it ethical for Engineer A to fail to give credit to Engineer B for his part in the design?

what is ethics
What is Ethics?
  • Ethics (dictionary) “the philosophy of morals or the standard of character set by any nation or race”
  • Morals (dictionary) “pertaining to action with reference to right and wrong”
  • Engineering ethics:

“Study of Moral Values, Issues and Decisions as they relate to Engineering Practice”

personal common and professional ethics
Personal, Common and Professional Ethics

Set of standards adopted

by professionals

Moral ideals shared

by most members of

a culture or society



Set of one’s own ethical commitments

usually given in early home or religious


professional societies and codes of ethics
Professional Societies and Codes of Ethics
  • Provide a common agreed-upon standard for professional contact
  • Do not provide new ethical principles but incorporate a lot of what is found in common morality
  • Various Engineering Societies have their own code of ethics

“Provide a set of guidelines of how engineers should behave with respect to clients, the profession, the public, and the law”

asme code fundamental principles
ASME Code: Fundamental Principles

Engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor, and dignity of the engineering profession by:

  • Using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare;
  • Being honest and impartial, and serving with fidelity the public, their employers and clients; and
  • Striving to increase the competence and prestige of the engineering profession
engineering societies codes of ethics
Engineering Societies Codes of Ethics
  • Subject to interpretation by different individuals arriving at different conclusions for the same ethical dilemma
  • Very useful for students when applied to case studies where the students can determine what was/should have been the appropriate course of action
  • Are subject to revision periodically, reflecting new attitudes in the human condition
preventive ethics
Preventive Ethics
  • Analogous to Preventive Medicine
  • Engineers must be PROACTIVE in their approach to Engineering Ethics
  • Core Elements
    • Stimulating the Moral Imagination
    • Recognizing Ethical Issues
    • Developing Analytical Skills
    • Eliciting a Sense of Responsibility
    • Tolerating Disagreement and ambiguity
stimulating moral imagination
Stimulating Moral Imagination
  • Engineers must use technical expertise and experience to look at design alternatives and evaluate consequences
  • Must only work on projects where they are technically competent

“Engineers shall undertake assignments only when qualified by education or experience in the specific field involved”

Only by being technically competent can an engineer stimulate their Moral Imagination

recognizing ethical issues
Recognizing Ethical Issues
  • Ethical Issues are not always obvious
  • Example (Class Exercise):

Team of Engineers working on the next generation of hand guns. Should they integrate new safety features, for example child safety locks, directly into the weapon, or should they omit such features leaving the safety of the weapon as relates to minors, in the hands of the gun owner?

developing analytical skills
Developing Analytical Skills
  • No, not Quantitative skills - Engineers are good at that
  • Qualitative analytical skills to analyze ethical situations
  • Involves qualitative measures such as
    • Utility
    • Rights
    • Duties
  • Case studies provide an excellent mechanism to develop these skills
responsibility health and safety
Responsibility - Health and Safety

“Engineers are morally responsible for harms they intentionally [knowing and deliberately], negligently [unknowingly, but failing to exercise due care] or recklessly [aware that harm is likely to result] cause”

Harris et al. [4]

responsibility health and safety hyatt regency16
Responsibility - Health and Safety: Hyatt Regency

If engineers had

evaluated consequences

of design change


114 deaths would

have been avoided

responsibility whistle blowing
Responsibility: Whistle-blowing
  • Definition depends on who is defining:

“ Whistle-blowing' - the act of a man or woman who, believing that the public interest overrides the interest of the organization he[sic] serves, publicly ``blows the whistle'' if the organization is involved in corrupt, illegal, fraudulent, or harmful activity”

- Textbook

responsibility whistle blowing18
Responsibility: Whistle-blowing
  • Definition depends on who is defining:

“ Whistle-blowing' - the act of a man or woman who, believing that the public interest overrides the interest of the organization he[sic] serves, publicly ``blows the whistle'' if the organization is involved in corrupt, illegal, fraudulent, or harmful activity”

- Textbook

“ Some of the enemies of business now encourage an employee to be disloyal to the enterprise. They want to create suspicion and disharmony and pry into the proprietary interests of the business. However this is labeled - industrial espionage, whistle-blowing or professional responsibility - it is another tactic for spreading disunity and creating conflict.”

- Roche (GM Chairman, 1971)

responsibility whistleblowing
Responsibility: Whistleblowing
  • Means of last resort!!
  • Only go through if there is imminent grave danger to public health and safety and if all ‘proper channels’ have been exhausted
  • Companies and organizations usually view ‘whistleblowing’ as a betrayal
  • Probably result in loss of employment:
    • MORAL DILEMMA: Moral Duty vs. Practical Consideration