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Ethics in Engineering Concepts and Cases

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1 Ethics in Engineering Concepts and Cases
Copyright All rights reserved.

2 Introduction What do we mean by Ethics? “a body of moral principles”
A set of rules and behaviors Standards, rules and guidelines Socially approved conduct Respect for people and rights Distinguished from matters of legality In the literal context, ethics can be defined as “ a body of moral principles”. Professional ethics and conduct constitutes a set of rules and behaviors which facilitates effective interaction on professional matters. In this respect, ethical rules are very much like laws or standards that govern social and professional interactions. Ethical behavior may broadly be equated with the respect for one’s colleagues, and for their rights. Of course, ethical rules do not have the force of law. The sanctions against unethical behavior are much less formal. Unethical behavior may lead to the loss of an individual’s reputation for professional conduct or the loss of a professional engineering license.

3 Professional Ethics Who decides
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Professional Ethics Who decides Standards adopted by professional community and established companies NSPE, ASME, ASCE, etc May conflict with personal ethics Case studies used to set examples, standards Professional ethics are not just a personal preference established and governed by the individual engineer. Because of the importance of professional behavior, most companies and professional societies have drafted codes of ethics to which the engineers are required to commit. Overall, the codes tend to be very similar. Some of the professional societies are NSPE – National Society of Professional Engineers, ASME – American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and ASCE –American Society of Civil Engineers. Because of the subjective nature of this topic, sometimes the individual’s personal ethics may actually conflict with the organization’s code of ethics. Consequently, there are numerous classic case studies that are used as examples for ethical decision making. Case studies also exist for role playing difficult situations. Many of these case studies are based on real situations which have resulted in loss of life, profit and respect for a company or engineer

4 NSPE Fundamental Canons
Engineers, in 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. The National Society of Professional Engineers has developed its own code of ethics. The 6 fundamental canons from this code state that: (Read Slide)

5 NSPE Fundamental Canons, cont’d
Engineers, in fulfillment of their professional duties, shall: 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, reputation, and usefulness of the profession. (Read Slide)

6 Social Contract Service Self-regulation
Promoting well being of general public Ensuring competence of professionals Self-regulation Create and enforce high standards Autonomy As engineers, the decisions we make will have a direct effect on many parts of society. For example, we may provide a form of transportation for the general public, appliances for everyday use, or medical equipment. The services we provide promote the well-being of the general public and the confidence in the profession. Therefore , it is imperative that we maintain a high level of ethical standards in the profession. Much of this is done through self-regulation. As was mentioned previously, each professional organization has a code of ethics for its members. In addition, many companies design their own ethical standards and guidelines based on their particular area of work. In the practice of the profession, it is the individual engineer who must adhere to these high principles of ethical conduct on behalf of the public, clients, employers and the profession.

7 Responsible Engineering
What we do matters a great deal Public health at stake Environmental impact Accidents are costly Minimal legal standards Acknowledgement of fault Above and beyond call of duty Public health justice Ethics Often times, engineers have a direct effect on the safety of the public health and the impact on the environment. The degree of safety of a design and the effect of a byproduct on the environment are major considerations in all designs decided by the engineer. Accidents from inadequate or poor design can have considerable consequences personally, professionally, financially, and socially. When accidents occur it is the responsibility of the engineer to acknowledge his/her role in the design process. It is our responsibility to ensure to the public that our designs are safe. This may involve going above and beyond the call of duty in order to ensure the safety of a design. responsible care

8 Introduction to Moral Thinking
Reflect expectation of public and professionals Experience – education, work, relationships Personal and Common Morality – religion, family religion work relationship professionals family personal education public Experience Expectation Ethical standards are not laws, and are therefore written on the basis of moral decision making. These generally reflect the expectations of the public and professionals in the engineering field. The basis for an individual’s moral standards is created and shaped from a variety of sources. Most of what we have come to expect with regards to moral standards is due to our experience in education and in the work environment. These ideas, combined with the belief systems of our families and religions, have created a standard within each of us of what is morally right and wrong. Morality

9 Tests in Moral Problem Solving
Prudence - Is it justified because it is in our own best interest? Cost / Benefit Is the most economic decision the most moral? Rights Just because it is legal, is it right? Freedom, well-being, moral, legal, laws Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have done to you” Handling ethical dilemmas and making ethical decisions are very important elements of being a professional. In order to deal with dilemmas in an organized manner we need to begin thinking about the definitions of terms such as good, bad, right, and wrong. These may force difficult moral choices. There are several tests one can use to begin a discussion about the morality of a choice. Some considerations are questions of Prudence, Cost/Benefits and personal and collective Rights. Is an action justified because it serves our own best interest? If it is the most economical, is the the most moral decision? Just because a decision is legal, it is right? One could apply the “Golden Rule” when considering the morality of a choice, “do unto others as you would have done to you” ***Information provided by the Murdough Center for Engineering Professionalism Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas Good Right Legal Illegal Wrong Bad Ref: Murdough Center for engineering Professionalism

10 Honesty, Truth, Reliability
Accurate and complete technical knowledge Unreliable judgment worse than none at all Deliberate deception Lying Failure to seek truth Engineers are expected to provide accurate and complete technical knowledge to the best of their abilities. It is a common mistake for engineers to believe that providing unreliable or unjustified information is better than providing none at all. An ethical and professional engineer must be familiar with the scientific and engineering principles underlying any opinions or conclusions that he/she provides to the customer. Likewise, an ethical engineer should never attempt to deliberately deceive the customer/client. A lie is a statement believed to be false or seriously misleading, made with the intention to deceive. Failure to seek the truth in favor of the convenience can also be considered a form of deliberate deception. Without honesty, the value of engineering services is undermined.

11 Problem Solving in Engineering Ethics
State the Problem Get the Facts Defend Viewpoints The problem solving method developed here is from the book What Every Engineer Should Know About Ethics, by Kenneth K. Humphreys. Various types of professionals, including engineers, often express significant differences of opinion when faced with cases requiring an ethical solution. The objective of these next few slides is to provide a framework for reconciling differences of opinion as we address the question, “what is the right thing to do?” in circumstances involving ethical issues in the engineering profession. ***The problem solving method developed here is from the book What Every Engineer Should Know About Ethics, by Kenneth K. Humphreys. The problem solving model developed here involves five steps. It is a systematic approach to moral deliberation that is designed for groups of individuals, but can be used by individuals with some minor adjustments. As seen from the figure, the steps for problem solving in engineering ethics include: (read slide) Formulate Opinion Qualify Recommendation Ref: What Every Engineer Should Know About Ethics, by Kenneth K. Humphreys

12 State the Problem Clearly define exact nature of ethical problem or dilemma. Need to be clear so that we can anticipate the kind of solution that is required. Want to provide an answer that is relevant to the interests at stake. The first step of the problem solving method is to “State the Problem”. At this stage, one should clearly define the exact nature of the ethical problem or dilemma. It is extremely important that the problem is clear and understandable to all so we can anticipate the kind of solution that is required. The goal is to provide an answer that is relevant to the interest at stake.

13 Get the Facts Want to make an informed decision.
Must possess and understand the relevant facts. Must make clear any interpretations of factual matters or the values that underlie conflicting moral viewpoints. The second step is to “Get the facts.” In order to make an informed and conscientious decision, we must possess and understand all the relevant facts. Difficulties occur when there are problems with interpretation of factual matters or the values that underlie conflicting moral viewpoints.

14 Identify & Defend Competing Moral Viewpoints
Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of competing moral viewpoints Begin by identifying what we believe to be the most compelling reason for the course of action We must be able to justify the course of action The 3rd step is to “identify and defend competing moral viewpoints”. We must assess the strengths and weaknesses of competing viewpoints as carefully and critically as possible. We begin by identifying what we believe to be the most compelling reason for the various courses of action. It is not enough to just identify and list why we think a course of action is right or wrong. We must also be able to justify them as well.

15 Formulate an Opinion As engineers we do not have the luxury of postponing questions or leaving a question unresolved Decide which of the plausible viewpoints is the most compelling The committee approach (voting) is advantageous because the decision is representative of the general public The 4th step is to “formulate an opinion”. As engineers we do not have the luxury of postponing questions or leaving a question unresolved. We must decide which of the plausible viewpoints is the most compelling. If a single individual conducts this problem solving process, it would simply be a personal estimation that is clearly very subjective. The committee approach can be very advantageous because we can expect the decision to be representative of the general public.

16 Qualify the Opinions or Recommendations
Committees must qualify the recommendations they make by describing the level of consensus that was received Should include the voting distribution and any dissenting opinions Finally, committees must qualify the opinions and recommendations that they make by describing the level of consensus that was received. This should include the voting distribution and any dissenting opinions.

17 Case Studies Engineering ethics is often times best explained through the use of case studies. Case studies allow examples of good and bad decision making in a real world context. These selected case studies have been selected from among the various rulings of the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. These case studies are readily available on-line at (Read Slide) For each example, the case is presented, the ethical questions and debates are stated, then the NSPE’s ruling on the case is listed. *** These case studies have been selected from among the various rulings of the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. Ref:

18 NSPE Case No. 92-1 Credit for Engineering Work
Introduction Engineer A is designing a bridge as part of an elevated highway system. Engineer B is asked to help with the design and helps design critical elements of the bridge. Engineer A enters the bridge design into a national competition and wins, but fails to credit Engineer B for her part in the design. ***The following case studies are maintained by the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (http://onlineethics.org). These cases have been evaluated by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and reference the 1995 NSPE Code of Ethics. An example of an engineering ethics case involves credit for engineering work. (Read Slide) Ref:

19 NSPE Case No. 92-1 Credit for Engineering Work
Question Was it ethical for Engineer A to fail to give credit to Engineer B for her part in the design? (Read Slide)

20 NSPE Case No. 92-1 Credit for Engineering Work
NSPE Code of Ethics References Section 1.3.:Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner. Section 11.3.a.:Engineers shall be objective and truthful in professional reports, statements or testimony. They shall include all relevant and pertinent information in such reports, statements or testimony. Section :Engineers shall avoid all conduct or practice which is likely to discredit the profession or deceive the public. Section a.:Engineers shall not accept financial or other considerations, including free engineering designs, from material or equipment suppliers for specifying their product. Section IlI. l 0.a.:Engineers shall, whenever possible, name the person or persons who may be individually responsible for designs, inventions, writings, or other accomplishments. The NSPE has recommended the following codes of ethics as references for this case.

21 NSPE Case No. 92-1 Credit for Engineering Work
NSPE Discussion “Basic to engineering ethics is the responsibility to issue statements in an objective and truthful manner (Section 1.3.) The concept of providing credit for engineering work to those to whom credit is due is fundamental to that responsibility. This is particularly the case where an engineer retains the services of other individuals because the engineer may not possess the education, experience and expertise to perform the required services for a client.” The following discussion regarding this case was published by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. (Read Slide)

22 NSPE Case No. 92-1 Credit for Engineering Work
NSPE Discussion, continued “While each individual case must be understood based upon the particular facts involved, we believe that Engineer A had an ethical obligation to his client, to Engineer B, as well as to the public to take reasonable steps to identify all parties responsible for the design of the bridge.” The discussion continue that… (Read Slide)

23 NSPE Case No. 92-1 Credit for Engineering Work
NSPE Conclusion “It was unethical for Engineer A to fail to give credit to Engineer B for her part in the design.” The conclusion given by the Board of Ethical Review was that… (Read Slide)

24 NSPE Case No. 82-5 An Engineer’s Right to Protest
Introduction Engineer A works as an engineer for a defense contractor reviewing the work of subcontractors. Engineer A discovers that certain subcontractors have made submissions with excessive cost, time delays or substandard work. ***The following case studies are maintained by the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (http://onlineethics.org). These cases have been evaluated by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and reference the 1995 NSPE Code of Ethics. This next case study illustrates an Engineer’s Right to Protest. Kim is an engineer who works for a large defense contractor. Part of Kim's job requires reviewing the work of subcontractors the company employs. Kim discovers that certain subcontractors have made submissions with excessive costs, time delays, or substandard work. He advises management to reject these jobs and require the subcontractors to correct the problems. Ref:

25 NSPE Case No. 82-5 An Engineer’s Right to Protest
Introduction, continued Engineer A advises management to reject these jobs and require subcontractors to correct the problem. After an extended disagreement about the subcontractor’s work, management places a warning in Engineer A’s file and places him on probation, warning of future termination. ***The following case studies are maintained by the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (http://onlineethics.org). These cases have been evaluated by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and reference the 1995 NSPE Code of Ethics. After an extended period of disagreement with Kim over the issues, management places a warning in Kim's personnel file and places Kim on three months' probation, with a warning about possible future termination. Kim believes that his company has an obligation #1) to ensure that subcontractors produce acceptable work, and #2) cut unnecessary costs to the government. Finally, Kim requests an opinion on the matter from the NSPE Board of Ethical Review.

26 NSPE Case No. 82-5 An Engineer’s Right to Protest
Question Does Engineer A have an ethical obligation, or an ethical right, to continue his efforts to secure change in the policy of his employer under these circumstances, or to report his concerns to proper authority? ***The following case studies are maintained by the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (http://onlineethics.org). These cases have been evaluated by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and reference the 1995 NSPE Code of Ethics. (Read Slide)

27 NSPE Case No. 82-5 An Engineer’s Right to Protest
NSPE Code of Ethics References Code of Ethics- Section II.1.a.: "Engineers shall at all times recognize that their primary obligation is to protect the safety, health, property, and welfare of the public. If their professional judgment is overruled under circumstances where the safety, health, property, or welfare of the public are endangered, they shall notify their employer or client and such other authority as may be appropriate." Code of Ethics- Section III.2.b.: "Engineers shall not complete, sign, or seal plans and/or specifications that are not of a design safe to the public health and welfare and in conformity with accepted engineering standards. If the client or employer insists on such unprofessional conduct, they shall notify the proper authorities and withdraw from further service on the project." ***The following case studies are maintained by the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (http://onlineethics.org). These cases have been evaluated by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and reference the 1995 NSPE Code of Ethics. The following references are listed by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review as being important and directly related to the issues of this case.

28 NSPE Case No. 82-5 An Engineer’s Right to Protest
NSPE Discussion “Here the issue does not allege a danger to public health or safety, but is premised upon a claim of unsatisfactory plans and the unjustified expenditure of public funds.” “As we recognized in earlier cases, if an engineer feels strongly that an employer's course of conduct is improper when related to public concerns, and if the engineer feels compelled to blow the whistle to expose the facts as he sees them, he may well have to pay the price of loss of employment.” The following discussion regarding this case was published by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. (Read Slide)

29 NSPE Case No. 82-5 An Engineer’s Right to Protest
NSPE Discussion, continued “We feel that the ethical duty or right of the engineer becomes a matter of personal conscience, but we are not willing to make a blanket statement that there is an ethical duty in these kinds of situations for the engineer to continue his campaign within the company, and make the issue one for public discussion. The Code only requires that the engineer withdraw from a project and report to proper authorities when the circumstances involve endangerment of the public health, safety, and welfare.” The discussion by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review continues. (Read Slide)

30 NSPE Case No. 82-5 An Engineer’s Right to Protest
NSPE Conclusion “Engineer A does not have an ethical obligation to continue his effort to secure a change in the policy of his employer under these circumstances, or to report his concerns to proper authority, but has an ethical right to do so as a matter of personal conscience.” The following discussion regarding this case was published by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. (Read Slide)

31 NSPE Case No. 87-5 Complimentary Seminar Registration
Introduction The ABC Pipe Company is interested in becoming known within the engineering community and, in particular, to those engineers involved in the specification of pipe in construction. ABC sends an invitation to Engineer X announcing a one-day complimentary educational seminar to educate engineers on current technological advances in the selection and use of pipe in construction. ***The following case studies are maintained by the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (http://onlineethics.org). These cases have been evaluated by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and reference the 1995 NSPE Code of Ethics. This next case studies involves complimentary seminar registration (Read Slide) Ref:

32 NSPE Case No. 87-5 Complimentary Seminar Registration
Introduction, continued ABC will host all refreshments, a buffet luncheon during the seminar, and a cocktail reception immediately following. Engineer X agrees to attend. ***The following case studies are maintained by the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (http://onlineethics.org). These cases have been evaluated by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and reference the 1995 NSPE Code of Ethics. (Read Slide)

33 NSPE Case No. 87-5 Complimentary Seminar Registration
Question Was it ethical for Engineer X to attend the one-day complimentary educational seminar hosted by the ABC Pipe Company? ***The following case studies are maintained by the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science (http://onlineethics.org). These cases have been evaluated by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and reference the 1995 NSPE Code of Ethics. (Read Slide)

34 NSPE Case No. 87-5 Complimentary Seminar Registration
NSPE Code of Ethics References Code of Ethics- Section II.4.c.:"Engineers shall not solicit or accept financial or other valuable consideration, directly or indirectly, from contractors, their agents, or other parties in connection with work for employers or clients for which they are responsible." Section III.5.b.:"Engineers shall not accept commissions or allowances, directly or indirectly, from contractors or other parties dealing with clients or employers of the Engineer in connection with work for which the Engineer is responsible." Section III.11.a.:"Engineers shall encourage engineering employees' efforts to improve their education." The following references are listed by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review as being important and directly related to the issues of this case.

35 NSPE Case No. 87-5 Complimentary Seminar Registration
NSPE Discussion “The Code unequivocally states that engineers must not accept gifts or other valuable consideration from a supplier in exchange for specifying its products. (See Sections II.4.c.; III.5.b.) However, in this case we are dealing with a material supplier who is introducing information about pipe products to engineers in the community and has chosen the form of an educational seminar as its vehicle.” The following discussion regarding this case was published by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. (Read Slide)

36 NSPE Case No. 87-5 Complimentary Seminar Registration
NSPE Discussion “We view the buffet luncheon and cocktail reception immediately following the seminar as falling within the minimal provisions noted in previous cases, and thus it would not be improper for Engineer X to participate in those activities. We note, however, that had Engineer X agreed to accept items of substantial value (e.g., travel expenses, multi-day program, resort location, etc.) our conclusion would have been quite different.” The discussion continues. (Read Slide)

37 NSPE Case No. 87-5 Complimentary Seminar Registration
NSPE Conclusion “It was ethical for Engineer X to attend the one-day complimentary educational seminar hosted by the ABC Pipe Company.” The Board of Ethical review has concluded that: (Read Slide)

38 Engineering Disaster The Ford Pinto Case
Crash tests reveal defect in gas tank rear-end collisions over 25 mph resulted in rupture and explosion Cost benefit analysis estimation One of the most classic engineering ethics cases in the United States involves the story of the Ford Pinto. Designed in the mid-sixties, the Pinto was to help fill the rising demand for subcompact cars in the market. During crash testing the gas tank repeatedly ruptured when the car was rear-ended at speeds higher than 25 mph. This resulted in an explosion that was potentially fatal. One of the tools that Ford used to argue for the design was a "cost-benefit analysis" of altering the fuel tanks. Ford estimated that it would cost them about 49.5 million dollars to pay for the injuries. Whereas, the cost to fix the hazard would total about $137 million. Consequently, Based on these two numbers, Ford continued to manufacture the Pinto, well aware of its faulty design. Cost to pay for injuries 180 Deaths, 180 Injured, 2100 Burned Cars = $ 49.5 million Cost to make safe cars $12.5 million cars x $11/car = $137 million

39 Ford Pays Over 500 documented deaths related
to rear-end collisions in the Pintos Lawsuits and personal injury cases totaled over $450 million even as Ford continues to argue the car was safe if driven correctly Company nearly folded after the lawsuits and low sales due to lack of trust in Ford products Ultimately, there were… (Read Slide)

40 Challenger Explosion O-ring Sealing problems
Engineers argued against launch at low temperature Management over-ruled the engineers warnings Shuttle exploded minutes into the flight 7 Lives lost Another famous case was the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. This disaster was the product of poor and unethical decision making. On January 28, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle was scheduled to take 6 astronauts and one civilian teacher to the moon. NASA managers were anxious to launch the Challenger for several reasons, including economic considerations, political pressures, and scheduling backlogs. Engineers argued that the cold weather could exaggerate problems with the joint rotation and O-ring seating. From previous testing, the engineers believed but did not have data to prove that the boosters could experience O-ring erosion at low temperatures. The managers saw the inconclusive data as insufficient reason to stop the launch; consequently they over-rode the engineers arguments and approved the launch to continue. During the launch, the solid rocket booster O-rings failed to seat properly and allowed hot combustion gases to leak from the side of the booster and burn through the external fuel tank. Consequently, the Challenger exploded only minutes after blast-off with fatal results.

41 Ethical Questions Were the decisions made unethical?
Who is to blame for these disasters? What were the ethical obligations for management? For the engineers? Ethical questions to be considered in these two cases are: (read slide)

42 Ethical Summary Professional ethics for engineers
Set of rules and guidelines for professional behavior for engineer. For personal, moral, social, professional and environmental well-being of individuals and the communities that we serve. Do the right thing!!! In this presentation, we have discussed many aspects of professional ethics for engineers. Ultimately, the rules and belief that we possess will help guide us to a higher level of respect and professionalism. Good ethics will only help us better serve the people and communities around us. As an individual and a professional engineer, we should always strive to “do the right thing”

43 Credits This module is intended as a supplement to design classes in mechanical engineering. It was developed at The Ohio State University under the NSF sponsored Gateway Coalition (grant EEC ). Contributing members include: Gary Kinzel……………………………………..Project supervisors Jim Piper and Rachel Murdell ……………….. Primary authors Phuong Pham and Matt Detrick ……….…….. Module revisions L. Pham …………………………………….….. Audio voice References: Murdough Center for Engineering Professionalism, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and reference the 1995 NSPE Code of Ethics What Every Engineer Should Know About Ethics, by Kenneth K. Humphreys

44 Disclaimer This information is provided “as is” for general educational purposes; it can change over time and should be interpreted with regards to this particular circumstance. While much effort is made to provide complete information, Ohio State University and Gateway do not guarantee the accuracy and reliability of any information contained or displayed in the presentation. We disclaim any warranty, expressed or implied, including the warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. We do not assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, reliability, timeliness or usefulness of any information, or processes disclosed. Nor will Ohio State University or Gateway be held liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information described and/or contain herein and assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information. Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacture, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement.


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