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Ethics in Engineering Concepts and Cases The Ohio State University

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1 Ethics in Engineering Concepts and Cases The Ohio State University
Copyright All rights reserved. The Ohio State University Dr. Gary Kinzel, Dr. Blaine Lilly, Dr. Tony Luscher Jim Piper and Rachel Murdell

2 Introduction What do we mean by Ethics? “a body of moral principles”
Standards, rules and guidelines Socially approved conduct Distinguished from matters of legality A set of rules and behaviors Professional ethics and conduct constitute a set of rules and behaviors which facilitate effective interaction on professional matters. In this respect, ethical rules are very much like laws, which are rules which govern social interactions. 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. Ethical behavior may broadly be equated with the respect for one’s colleagues, and for their rights.

3 Professional Ethics Who Decides?
Standards adopted by Professional Community NSPE, ASME, ASCE, etc. May conflict with personal ethics Case studies used to set examples, standards Because of the importance of ethical and professional behavior, most professional societies have drafted codes of ethics. These tend to be very similar. In addition, there are numerous classic case studies that are used as examples for ethical decision making. Many of these case studies have actually occurred, resulting in loss of life, profit and respect for a company or engineer. Case studies also exist for role playing difficult situations. NSPE – National Society of Professional Engineers ASME – American Society of Mechanical Engineers ASCE – National Society of Civil Engineers

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 NSPE has developed its own code of ethics. The 5 fundamental canons from this code state that: (Read Slide)

5 NSPE Fundamental Canons, continued
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 You are the professional
Promoting well being of general public Ensuring competence of professionals Self-Regulation Create and enforce high standards Autonomy You are the professional As an engineer, the decisions we make will have a direct effect on many parts of society. We may provide a form of transportation for the general public, appliances for everyday use, or medical equipment for example. It is imperative that we maintain a high level of service and safety for the general public. 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 their profession, engineers must perform under a standard of professional behavior which requires adherence to the highest principles of ethical conduct on behalf of the public, clients employers and the profession.

7 Responsible Engineering
What we do matters a great deal Accidents are costly Public health at stake Environmental impact Minimal legal standards Acknowledgement of fault Above and beyond call of duty Often times what we do has a direct effect on the safety of the public or health of the environment. When accidents occur it is the responsibility of the engineer to acknowledge his/her role in the design process. The degree of safety of a design or the effect of a byproduct on the environment is decided, primarily, by the engineer. It is our responsibility to ensure 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.

8 Introduction to Moral Thinking
Experience – education, work, relationships Personal and Common Morality – religion, family Ethical Sensitivities Questions Problems Analysis 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. Education introduced us to such concepts as plagiarism, but professionalism as well. Work has introduced us to the knowledge that what we do will have a direct effect on the public. 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.

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? Golden Rule “do unto others…” Rights Freedom, well-being, moral, legal, laws Just because it is legal, is it right? 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 procedures and tests one can use to begin a discussion about the morality of a choice. Information provided by the Murdough Center for Engineering Professionalism Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas

10 Honesty, Truth, Reliability
Accurate and complete technical knowledge Unreliable judgment worse than none at all Lying Deliberate deception Failure to seek truth 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 should be familiar with the scientific and engineering principles underlying any opinions or conclusions. A lie is a statement believed to be false or seriously misleading, made with the intention to deceive. We we think of dishonesty, we think of lying. And without honesty, the value of engineering services is undermined.

11 Problem Solving in Engineering Ethics
State the Problem Get the Facts Defend Viewpoints Formulate Opinion 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 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. This figure illustrates the steps of this model. Qualify Recommendation

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. (Read Slide)

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 than underlie conflicting moral viewpoints. (Read Slide)

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 (Read Slide)

15 Formulate an Opinion As engineers we do not have the luxury of postponing questions or leaving a question unresolved Decide which of the compelling viewpoints is the most compelling The committee approach (voting) is advantageous because the decision is representative of the general public (Read Slide)

16 Qualify the Opinions or Recommendation
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 (Read Slide)

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 For each example, the case is presented, the ethical questions and debates are stated, then the NSPE’s ruling on the case is listed. (Read Slide)

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. (Read Slide)

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 following references are listed by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review as being important and directly related to the issues of 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 following discussion regarding this case was published by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. (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 his part in the design.” The following discussion regarding this case was published by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. (Read Slide)

24 NSPE Case No. 82-5 An Engineer’s Right to Protest
Introduction - Kim works as an engineer for a defense contractor reviewing the work of subcontractors. Kim discovers that certain subcontractors have made submissions with excessive cost, time delays or substandard work Kim advises management to reject these jobs and require subcontractors to correct the problem 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. 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.

25 NSPE Case No. 82-5 An Engineer’s Right to Protest
Introduction, continued - After an extended disagreement about the subcontractor’s work, management places a warning in Kim’s file and places Kim 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.

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. (Read Slide)

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 following discussion regarding this case was published by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. (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 A 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. (Read Slide)

32 NSPE Case No. 87-5 Complimentary Seminar Registration
Introduction, continued ABC will host all refreshments, buffet luncheon during the seminar, and a cocktail reception immediately following. Engineer A 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 A 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 A to participate in those activities. We note, however, that had Engineer A 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 following discussion regarding this case was published by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. (Read Slide)

37 NSPE Case No. 87-5 Complimentary Seminar Registration
NSPE Conclusion “It was ethical for Engineer A to attend the one-day complimentary educational seminar hosted by the ABC Pipe Company.” The following discussion regarding this case was published by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. (Read Slide)

38 Engineering Disaster The Ford Pinto Case
“not to weigh an ounce over 2000 pounds and not to cost a cent over $2000.” Lee Iacocca Crash tests reveal defect in gas tank Rear-end collisions over 25 mph resulted in rupture and explosion 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 however, the gas tank repeatedly ruptured if the car was rear-ended resulting in an explosion. Ford continued to manufacture the car, though, well aware of the faulty and dangerous design.

39 Ford Pinto Design Methodology
Cost-Benefit Analysis of Dangerous Design According to Ford, the unsafe design would cause: 180 Burn Deaths 180 Serious burn injuries 2100 Burned vehicles per year Ford assumed it would have to pay $200,000 per death $67,000 per injury $700 per vehicle One of the tools that Ford used to argue for the design was a "cost-benefit analysis" of altering the fuel tanks. According to Ford's estimates, the unsafe tanks would cause 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, and 2,100 burned vehicles each year. It calculated that it would have to pay 200,000 per death, $67,000 per injury, and $700 per vehicle, for a total of $49.5 million.

40 Ford Pinto Design Cost Analysis
Cost-Benefit Analysis of Dangerous Design An alteration would cost $11.00 per car. Cost to make safe cars $12.5 million cars x $11 = $137 million Benefits 180 Deaths, 180 Injured, 2100 Burned Cars = $ 49.5 million However, the cost of saving lives and injuries ran even higher: alterations would cost $11 per car or truck, which added up to $137 million per year. Essentially, Ford argued before the government that  it would be cheaper just to let their customers burn!

41 Ford Pays Lawsuits and personal injury cases total over $450 million even as Ford continues to argue the car was safe if driven correctly Over 500 documented deaths related to rear-end collisions in Pintos Company nearly folds after lawsuits and lack of trust in Ford products

42 Pinto Debate Who is to blame for Ford’s design?
Chairman, Engineer, Designer Was the decision making unethical? Is cost-benefit analysis a reliable ethics technique? (Read Slide)


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