Engineering Ethics Case Studies Oz Assignments

Engineering Ethics Case Studies Oz Assignments

Engineering Ethics Case Studies Oz Assignments

Introduction

Our role as engineers in the society cannot be overemphasized[ CITATION Stu18 \l 1033 ]. We are professionals who make decisions that have huge impacts on people’s day-to-day life[CITATION Wet08 \l 1033 ]. We are responsible for planning, designing, construction, manufacturing, operation and maintenance of different structures and products that are used by people every day, all over the world[CITATION Wha13 \l 1033 ]. As a result, our work should benefit humanity and avoid or minimize any likelihood of causing harm to the people or the environment[CITATION Sti11 \l 1033 ]. Engineers possess great power to bring real change to the society. However, the great power goes together with great social responsibility[CITATION Jos16 \l 1033 ]. This is where the code of ethics becomes very crucial in engineering. The code of ethics basically entails the attributes of conduct and morals of engineers both as individuals and as professionals. Most societal problems have numerous possible solutions and therefore it is the responsibility of engineers to make the best decisions based on integrity, honesty, equity, justice and without bias. In general, engineers should perform their duties by strictly observing the upmost principles of morals and ethical conduct[CITATION Smi141 \l 1033 ].

Canons of Engineers’ Code of Ethics

Engineers’ code of ethics has five fundamental canons[CITATION Nat081 \l 1033 ]. First, engineers should consider the health, safety and welfare of the general public when making decisions and also comply with sustainable development principles. This means that engineers should always give health, safety and well-being of people and environment a top priority in their decisions and actions[CITATION Bow10 \l 1033 ]. Second, engineers should only perform services in fields of their competence. This means that engineers should only accept and perform engineering assignments which they have adequate knowledge and competence. Third, engineers should ensure that any public statements they issue are true and objective. This means that before engineers share information with the public in form of public statements, reports, testimony, etc., they should ensure that the information is true and not exaggerated for whatever reasons.

Fourth, engineers should act for every client or employer as faithful trustees or agents, and should avoid potential or identified conflicts of interest. It means that engineers have to be open, loyal, truthful and faithful to their clients or employers as long as they are working for and/or with them. This can be achieved through disclosure of any relevant information, not accepting or soliciting any “gifts” from parties dealing with the employer or client, using clients/employer’s confidential information appropriately and not accepting any other professional employment with their current clients/employer’s consent. Fifth, engineers should shun away from deceptive acts. This means that engineers should not secure work or contracts through false means such as using fake qualifications, giving bribes or competing unfairly. They should also not falsely or maliciously injure their colleagues’ professional reputation, employment or prospects, or criticize the work of other engineers indiscriminately. Sixth, engineers should act in a manner that upholds and improves the integrity, dignity and honor of the engineering profession by avoiding corruption, bribery, fraud, dishonest and improper utilization of resources.

In 2017, engineers’ code of ethics was updated and three more canons were added to make them eight canons[CITATION Ame17 \l 1033 ]. Therefore the seventh canon is that engineers should continue with professional development and encourage those working under them to follow suit throughout their careers. One of the requirements for professional engineers to maintain their license is a particular number of professional development hours. Out of this number of hours, at least two are in ethics[CITATION New18 \l 1033 ]. This further emphasizes the importance of ethics for practicing engineers. Last but not least, engineers should promote equality, equity and fair treatment of all persons irrespective of their gender, national origin, race, age, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, disability, sex orientation, economic status or marital status. This code of ethics is applicable across all fields of engineering[CITATION Ame11 \l 1033 ].

Importance and Issues Related to Engineers’ Code of Ethics

The code of ethics is very essential in the engineering profession[ CITATION Yar09 \l 1033 ]. It provides a guideline on how engineers should behave and conduct themselves both as individuals and professionals[CITATION Doo12 \l 1033 ]. Engineers must observe their conduct at all times because the society does not separate their individualism from professionalism. For instance, if an engineer is found to be mischievous in his individual life, the public is likely to be suspicious about his integrity and capability to make critical engineering decisions that have huge impacts on the society. This is a tall order for engineers because just like any human being, they have a private life to live. Nevertheless, balance between personal/private life and being a professional is not a very difficult task for engineers who adhere to the code of ethics. This is because they are in full support of the code of ethics, they understand its importance and integrate it in their lifestyle. As a result, their personal life is not in any way affected by adherence to the engineers’ code of ethics.

Another major challenge that engineers face every other day is the aspect of money. It is worth noting that engineers are among professionals that work in very challenging and tempting environments. It is very common for parties involved in a project, whether public or private project, to try and influence engineers’ decisions and actions indirectly. For example, a key stakeholder’s representative may invite an engineer for a meeting to discuss genuine issues related to the project. Since the meeting is organized by the stakeholder’s representative, he organizes for everything related to the meeting, including paying for the venue, meals and drinks, and facilitating the engineer’s transportation. But there is nothing for free in this world and in most cases, such representatives end up trying to bribe the engineer by offering incentives, “gifts”, etc. The incentives or “gifts” are usually hefty and it only takes an engineer who is guided by the code of ethics to turn down the offer. Those who give in eventually compromise their decisions and actions in favor of the people from whom they received the deals. Engineers who strictly observe the code of ethics will always avoid such circumstances by ensuring that there is no room to find themselves in such circumstances. For example, they should make it clear to all stakeholders involved in the project that there shall be no private meetings between two parties only. If any meeting related to the project has to be organized, then all parties involved should be informed and requested to attend. At no point should a practicing engineer put personal interests or gains before public interest. In fact, employment opportunities, contracts and opportunities always come along the way of engineers who never violate code of ethics between at point is their reputation dented.

The engineers’ code of ethics also helps in whistleblowing. Although this is a controversial issue, whistleblowing can help prevent engineering disasters. There are situations where engineers have no other option but to blow the whistle. This has to be done when the engineer believes beyond reasonable doubt that there is a misconduct happening or has happened. If the However, the misconduct must be justifiable and should be reported to a suitable third party in a proper manner[ CITATION Mal10 \l 1033 ]. An example of a misconduct is a small error that is discovered during the late stage of design, mostly during approval of the designs. Considering the urgency of producing the product so that it can be delivered to the market or client earlier and also to avoid costs and delays associated with correcting the error, the management of a company may be curious to ignore the error on the basis that its consequences are insignificant. But from an engineering perspective, ignoring such an error is a looming disaster. In such a case, engineers who strictly adhere to the code of ethics should gather enough evidence to convince the company management to correct the error so as to prevent. If they do not get audience from the company then they should go ahead and report the matter to a relevant third party for an appropriate action to be taken. Unfortunately, many whistleblowers end up being victims of their decisions to raise the issue. There are several engineering case studies where whistleblowers ended up losing their jobs as part of the whistleblowing consequences[ CITATION Kle11 \l 1033 ]. Therefore engineers should promote adherence to code of ethics by all their colleagues at workplaces so that when such a case arises, they solve it together as a team instead of reaching a point where external third parties have to be involved[ CITATION Kuh08 \l 1033 ].

The code of ethics is also important in engineering profession because it helps in holding engineers accountable for their decisions and actions. Engineers are responsible for making critical decisions that have huge impacts on people’s lives. As a result, they must be responsible for their actions. If they make wrong decisions, people’s lives will be greatly affected. This may include destruction of property, inconveniences or loss of life. Violation of any of the engineers’ code of ethics has consequences. The consequences may include: losing trust from employers, clients or colleagues, losing your practicing license, losing a job or contract, damaging your reputation, etc. As aforementioned, the code of ethics prescribes a guide for engineers’ conduct. The code of ethics is also accepted by almost all professional engineering bodies, organizations and societies. This means that if engineers violate any of the canons itemized in the code of ethics, they may be deregistered from the relevant professional societies, organizations or bodies and therefore may find it difficult to get employed or continue with their professional development in their careers.

Another issue of interest to me is the impact of technology and sustainability on implementation of and adherence to the engineers’ code of ethics. These are two critical issues today and must be considered in almost all aspects of our life. We should use modern technology to enhance adherence to the engineers’ code of ethics and also ensure that these ethics make it easier to make engineering projects and products more sustainable.

Conclusion

As a practicing engineer, the code of ethics demands me to act and conduct myself in a certain manner so that the decisions I make will improve people’s lives and protect the environment for present and future generations. The code of ethics gives me a guideline on what I should do and not do as a practicing engineer. It is therefore my responsibility to ensure that I do not violate these ethics so as to avoid consequences and the impacts of the violation on humanity and the environment. The code of ethics reminds me that I should put public interest first and not my personal interests or gains. Most importantly is that it reminds me of consequences of violating any of the principles in the engineers’ code of ethics. The best way to adhere to the engineers’ code of ethics is to make it your lifestyle. Doing so ensures that all decisions I make are guided by the code of ethics hence the probability of violating any of them is almost zero. It is also important to learn and start practicing the engineers’ code of ethics during training so that once you start practicing, you are fully aware of all the ethics, their importance to yourself and the engineering profession, and also the consequences of violating them. As engineers, it is our responsibility to make decisions based on integrity, transparency, equity and equality, prioritizing the public interest, and be accountable for our decisions and actions.

References

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