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Philosophy Engineering Ethics

Engineers play a vital role in the society. It is their responsibility to use their specialized knowledge and skills in ways that would benefit their clients and the public while ensuring that they do not violate the trust placed in them. Their professionalism should stand out and manifest in all their projects which should be in accordance with professional standards, particularly in both the technical and ethical aspects. With these great expectations from them, being responsible and acting responsibly at all times is essential.

While it is true that, in Engineering, nothing is foolproof and that minimizing risk is essential, it does not follow that one should give in to the demands of the public or clients especially if he or she is aware of the potential harm or hazards that could come with it. A good and competent engineer has every right to refuse and say no to the demands of the client if it will go against the code of engineering ethics, possibly pose a threat to the well-being of the client or involve costly damage.

He or she should not compromise the quality of his work as well as his dignity just so that he can give in to client requests. Given the above-cited reasons, I do not believe that item #1 is a good argument. b. Some people tend to think that risk is a complement of safety. They believe that things which are not safe are considered risks. Regardless of whether risk is described as a probability or likelihood, it is a general fact that whatever, wherever, or whenever one faces anything in his or her life there is often that degree of risk.

How it is related to safety is when one judges some risks as acceptable. In engineering, risks are a part of everyday activities. Whether it is in planning, designing, building, or maintaining infrastructures, the possibility of hazards are always present. In order to safeguard people, assets, and the environment, risks should be controlled or eliminated through a risk assessment system. This will provide a basis for the engineer’s rational decision-making. At the workplace, engineers ideally come up with an early design of a system.

They analyze the design in order to detect what faults can occur, and then upfront propose safety requirements. In order to make the system safer, engineers implement changes as significant safety problems discovered late can be very costly. An example of controlling risk is careful consideration for public safety. Engineering projects, if not given conscientious efforts, may directly impact the safety of clients or the public. Engineers are obliged to inform their supervisors of project risks so that these risks can be communicated to the public.

Through this, the public or client is ensured of safety because efforts to prevent and eliminate risks are prioritized by engineers. c. Aside from having a professional obligation to conform to the standard operating procedures and regulations that apply to their profession, engineers are expected to fulfill their basic job responsibilities. There are times, however, that “despite practicing due diligence and conforming to the prescribed standard operating procedures and regulations, challenges and unforeseen problems in the workplace still arise (Petroski, 1985).

” In situations such as these, engineers are expected to satisfy a more demanding norm, the standard of care. “Particular situations can not be anticipated in all their relevant nuance, applying these standards require professional judgment (Harris, et al. , 1995). ” Government agencies as well as non-governmental organizations have set safety standards for engineers in the engineering code of ethics. These standards of safety and quality, however, still leave room for considerable engineering judgment.

While some engineering discretion results in errors, not all are acceptable and valid. Likewise, not all damages for every error should be blamed on the engineer. It is said that when one hires the services of an engineer, one also accepts the engineer’s normal failings, risks, and liability. However, if these shortcomings result from negligence, then the engineer could be held liable. When an engineer provides his professional services, he is basically using his judgment which he has gained from experience and learning.

He provides services in situations where a certain amount of unknown or uncontrollable factors are common, therefore, some level of error in those services may be allowed. One should expect to get services and not insurance that a project will be foolproof or perfect but only reasonable competence and care. In determining when and whether an engineer is responsible for a mishap at the workplace, it is critical that the case be reviewed thoroughly so as to verify the factors that have kept the engineer from being responsible.

For instance, an engineer who is found to be guilty of deception or ignorance can be held morally responsible if these factors lead to harm. Similarly, he or she shall be held liable when an action which resulted to harm is intentional or deliberate. In the same manner, an engineer’s reckless behavior shall hold him liable. This happens when he or she is not aiming to cause harm but is fully aware that harm is likely to happen. In such cases, an engineer is guilty of reckless attitude because the well-being of others is not topmost in his priorities.

“An engineer who manifests negligence may be held responsible in case of errors or mishap in the workplace (Johnson, 1991). ” If he or she overlooks something or is simply unaware of the factors that could cause harm, he or she could be responsible for the consequences because he has failed to exercise due care according to the recognized standards of his or her profession. While it is expected of engineers to do their best and anticipate failures and mishaps, it is also unrealistic for the public or client to regard all errors as a culpability of engineers.

It must be realized that “engineering standards and practices may be in a state of change, and they may not be able to keep pace with the advancing knowledge of risks in particular areas (Harris, et al. , 1995). ” Due diligence standards that apply in the above-cited situations include assessments of property conditions as well as construction monitoring. Engineers can regulate and enforce due diligence when they conduct property condition assessments for existing buildings.

They should have an established manual of practice and standard procedures in order to ensure high quality of service. They should have an allocation for immediate repairs cost estimates to make sure that the property or project is at all times in sound condition as well as replace equipment that has exceeded their useful life. Consequently, they should also be able to provide construction monitoring services for the construction of new building projects.

A regular review of the project documentation which includes specifications, drawings, budget, schedule, contracts, bonds, and insurance should be undertaken in order to assure that the project is feasible, well-priced, technically sound, and that the interests of the public or clients are reasonably secure. During the construction stage, regular visits should be conducted to confirm the percent progress at the site as well as make adjustments accordingly, to mention a few. 2. The good engineer is one who has traits of professional character that make him or her the best or ideal engineer.

He or she is one who practices by heart the engineering code of ethics, displays courage in alerting management of problems as well as technical expertise and sincere concern for public safety and health. He or she is an innovator and a problem-solver. On the other hand, an incompetent engineer is one who has no appreciation of the ethical context within which he or she serves. He or she violates ethics as well as standard operating procedures and regulations while compromising work quality either for his or her advantage or the clients. A good engineer and a good person always prioritize morality.

Common morality, the kind of belief accepted by most people, and personal morality are usually identical unless the latter is unclear or in an insubstantial condition. Having a clear understanding of this evaluation is essential. What makes someone both a good engineer and a good person is all in his or her ability to abide by the engineering professional ethics. It should be noted that professional ethics and personal morality are not always the same. Professional ethics, though, is built on common morality and paramount the public’s welfare as well as the environment.

Each engineer has a different frame of mind, beliefs, and approach to various situations, but when it comes to professionalism, he or she must learn to put moral beliefs aside, especially when it opposes the professional ethics and codes of conduct agreed upon. Resources: Charles E. Harris, Jr. , Michael Pritchard, Michael J. Rabins. Engineering ethics: concepts and cases. Belmont : Wadsworth Pub. (1995) Deborah G. Johnson. Ethical issues in engineering. Englewood Cliffs, N. J. : Prentice-Hall. (1991) Petroski, Henry. To Engineer is Human: the Role of Failure in Successful Design. St Martins Press. (1985)

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