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An Overview of the NSPE Code of Ethics and how to use it June 12, 2008

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1 Idaho Society of Professional Engineers June 11-12, 2009 Coeur d’Alene, ID
An Overview of the NSPE Code of Ethics and how to use it June 12, 2008 Art

2 MODERATOR Michael Hardy, P.E., F.NSPE NSPE Vice-President Art

3 Overview of Today’s Discussion
NSPE Code of Ethics NSPE Board of Ethical Review Case Studies Art

4 NSPE Code of Ethics Preliminary Thoughts
Why even have a Code of Ethics? Engineering as a learned Profession Obligation to the highest standards of honesty and integrity Health, safety and welfare of the public Obligation to each other as professional engineers to meet these high standards

5 Evolution of the NSPE Code of Ethics
How did we get to where we are today? An emphasis on ethics among engineers dates back to the end of the 19th century. The first reference to a Society Code of Ethics is found in the May 1935 issue of The American Engineer. It is not clear whether NSPE's Board of Directors ever adopted or acted upon the suggested Code of Ethics

6 Evolution of the NSPE Code of Ethics
In 1946, the Board approved the Canons of Ethics for Engineers. (This document was developed by the Engineers' Council for Professional Development, a coordinating body of technical engineering societies). Since 1946, the Canons of Ethics has evolved into what we now refer to as NSPE’s Code of Ethics for Engineers.

7 Four Sections of the Code of Ethics for Engineers
Preamble – Answers the question “Why have a Code of Ethics?” Fundamental Canons – Describes the “bedrock” principles or fundamental obligations of Professional Engineers

8 How the Code of Ethics for Engineers is structured
Rules of Practice – Describes the fundamental rules that govern the professional practice of engineering Professional Obligations – Describes the standards of professional conduct for Professional Engineers

9 Preamble Engineering is an important and learned profession. As members of this profession, engineers are expected to exhibit the highest standards of honesty and integrity. Engineering has a direct and vital impact on the quality of life for all people. Accordingly, the services provided by engineers require honesty, impartiality, fairness, and equity, and must be dedicated to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare. Engineers must perform under a standard of professional behavior that requires adherence to the highest principles of ethical conduct.

10 I. Fundamental Canons Engineers, in the 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. 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.

11 II. Rules of Practice II.1 Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public. Engineering judgment overruled under circumstances that endanger life or property must be reported to their employer, client and other authority as appropriate. Only approve work that is in conformance with applicable standards. Engineers shall not reveal confidential information except as required by law or Code. Engineers shall not associate in fraudulent or dishonest enterprise. Engineers shall not aid unlawful practice of engineering Engineers shall report violations of the Code.

12 II. Rules of Practice II.2 Engineers shall perform services only in the area of their competence. Only accept assignments you are qualified for. Don’t stamp documents that you are not qualified to stamp. Don’t stamp documents not prepared under your direction and control. Engineers can assume responsibility for coordination of an entire project and sign and seal the documents, provided that each technical segment is signed and sealed only by the qualified engineers who prepared the segment.

13 II. Rules of Practice II.3 Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner. Be objective and truthful (factual) in reports, statements and testimony. Include all relevant information. Engineers may express technical opinions that are founded on knowledge of the facts. Engineers shall make no statements, criticisms or arguments on technical matters that are inspired or paid for by interested parties, without first divulging the interest.

14 II. Rules of Practice II.4 Engineers shall act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees. Engineers shall disclose all known or potential conflicts of interest. Engineers shall not accept compensation from more than one party for services on the same project. Engineers shall not solicit or accept consideration from outside agents in connection with the work for which they are responsible. Engineers in public service shall not participate in decisions with respect to services solicited or provided by them in their public or private practice. Engineers shall not accept a contract from a governmental body on which a principle or officer of their organization serves as a member.

15 II. Rules of Practice II.5 Engineers shall avoid deceptive acts.
Engineers shall not falsify their qualifications or permit misrepresentation of their or their associates’ qualifications. Engineers shall not offer, give, solicit or receive any contribution to influence the award of a contract by public authority. Engineers shall not offer gifts to secure work. Engineers shall not pay a commission or brokerage fee to secure work, except to a bona fide employee or established commercial or marketing agencies retained by them.

16 III. Professional Obligations
III.1 Engineers shall be guided in all relations by the highest standards of honesty and integrity. Engineers shall acknowledge their errors and not distort facts. Engineers shall advise their employer and client if they feel a project will not be successful. Engineers shall not accept outside employment that is detrimental to their regular work or interest. Engineers shall not attempt to attract engineers from other employers by false or misleading premises. Engineers shall not promote their interests at the expense of the dignity and integrity of the profession.

17 III. Professional Obligations
III.2 Engineers shall at all times strive to serve the public interest. Engineers are encouraged to participate in civic affairs and work for the advancement of the safety, health and well-being of their community. Engineers shall not complete, sign or seal plans and/or specifications that are not in conformity with applicable engineering standards. Engineers are encouraged to extend public knowledge and promote engineering and its achievements. Engineers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of sustainable development(1) in order to protect the environment for future generations.

18 III. Professional Obligations
III.3 Engineers shall avoid all conduct or practice that deceives the public. Engineers shall avoid the use of statements containing a material misrepresentation of fact or omitting a material fact. Consistent with the foregoing, engineers may advertise for recruitment of personnel. Consistent with the foregoing, engineers may prepare articles for the lay or technical press, but such articles shall not imply credit to the author for work performed by others.

19 III. Professional Obligations
III.4 Engineers shall not disclose, without consent, confidential information concerning the business affairs or technical processes of any present or former client or employer, or public body on which they serve. Engineers shall not, without the consent of all interested parties, promote or arrange for new employment or practice in connection with a specific project for which the engineer has gained a particular specialized knowledge. Engineers shall not, without the consent of all interested parties, participate or represent an adversary interest in connection with a specific project or proceeding in which the engineer has gained particular specialized knowledge on behalf of a former client or employer.

20 III. Professional Obligations
III.5 Engineers shall not be influenced in their professional duties by conflicting interests. Engineers shall not accept financial or other considerations, including free engineering designs, from material or equipment suppliers for specifying their product. 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 the work for which the engineer is responsible.

21 III. Professional Obligations
III.6 Engineers shall not attempt to obtain employment or advancement or professional engagement by untruthfully criticizing other engineers, or by other improper or questionable methods. Engineers shall not request, propose or accept a commission on contingent basis under circumstances in which their judgment may be compromised. Engineers in salaried positions shall accept part-time engineering work only to the extent consistent with the policies of the employer and in accordance with ethical considerations. Engineers shall not, without consent, use equipment, supplies, laboratory or office facilities of an employer to carry on outside private practice.

22 III. Professional Obligations
III.7 Engineers shall not attempt to injure, maliciously or falsely, directly or indirectly, the professional reputation, prospects, practice or employment of other engineers. Engineers who believe others are guilty of unethical or illegal practice shall present such information to the proper authority for action. Engineers in private practice shall not review the work of another engineer for the same client, except with the knowledge of such engineer, or unless the connection of such engineer with the work has been terminated. Engineers in government, industrial, or educational employ are entitled to review and evaluate the work or other engineers when so required by their employment duties.

23 III. Professional Obligations
III.7 Engineers shall not…to the proper authority for action. (continued from previous page) Engineers in sales or industrial employ are entitled to make engineering comparisons of represented products with products of other suppliers.

24 III. Professional Obligations
III.8 Engineers shall accept personal responsibility for their professional activities, provided however that engineers may seek indemnification for services arising out of their practice for other than gross negligence, where the engineer’s interests cannot otherwise be protected. Engineers shall conform with state registration laws in the practice of engineering. Engineers shall not use association with a non-engineer, a corporation or partnership as a “cloak” for unethical acts.

25 III. Professional Obligations
III.9 Engineers shall give credit for engineering work to those to whom credit is due, and will recognize the propriety interests of others. Engineers shall name the person or persons who may be individually responsible for designs, inventions, writings, or other accomplishments. Engineers using designs supplied by a client recognize that the designs remain the property of the client and may not be duplicated by engineer for others without express permission. Engineers, before undertaking work…that may justify copyrights or patents, should enter into a positive agreement concerning ownership.

26 III. Professional Obligations
III.9 Engineers shall give…propriety interests of others. (continued from previous page) Engineer’s designs, data records, and notes referring exclusively to an employer’s work are the employer’s property. The employer should indemnify the engineer for use of the information for any purpose other than the original purpose. Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers and should keep current in their specialty fields by engaging in professional practice, participating in continuing education courses, reading in the technical literature and attending professional meetings and seminars.

27 Court Decisions The Code of Ethics cannot prohibit competitive bidding of services, as such restrictions interfere with the legal rights of engineers under antitrust laws. Engineers and firms may individually refuse to bid for engineering services. Clients are not required to seek bids for engineering services.

28 Corporate Responsibility?
In regard to the question of application of the Code to corporations vis-à-vis real persons, business form or type should not negate nor influence conformance of individuals to the Code. The Code deals with professional services, which services must be performed by real persons. Real persons in turn establish and implement policies within business structures. The Code is clearly written to apply to the Engineer, and it is incumbent on members of NSPE to endeavor to live up to its provisions.

29 More Recent Changes In recent years, the NSPE Code of Ethics has been translated into German, French and Spanish. These translations are available on the NSPE website. NSPE Ethics Information can be found at: Under the NSPE Bylaws, only the NSPE House of Delegates may amend the Code.

30 NSPE Board of Ethical Review
The engineering profession's emphasis on ethics dates back to the end of the 19th century. In 1946, NSPE released its Canons of Ethics for Engineers and Rules of Professional Conduct. These documents evolved to the current NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers, adopted in 1964 and amended as recently as 2007.  While these statements of general principles served as a guide, many engineers sought advise on how the Code would apply to specific circumstances. These requests ultimately led to the creation of the NSPE Board of Ethical Review in 1954. 

31 NSPE Board of Ethical Review
The Board of Ethical Review is a panel of engineering ethics experts that has served as the profession's guide through ethical dilemmas. The purpose of the BER is to render impartial opinions pertaining to the interpretation of the NSPE Code of Ethics, develop materials, and conduct studies relating to ethics of the engineering profession. Ethics cases rarely have easy answers, but the BER's nearly 500 advisory opinions have helped bring clarity to the ethical issues engineers face daily.

32 NSPE Board of Ethical Review
Since 1954, the BER and its work has evolved with the profession.  In the early years there was an emphasis on issues related to advertising and competitive bidding, self-promotion, collective bargaining, and supplanting.

33 NSPE Board of Ethical Review
But as a result of changes in the law, especially antitrust laws and commercial-free speech laws, the emphasis shifted to professional competence issues, such as the signing and sealing of work, whistle blowing, conflicts of interest, and the engineer's obligation to protect the public health and safety.

34 NSPE Board of Ethical Review
Besides producing advisory opinions on ethics cases, the seven-member BER is involved in many other engineering ethics activities. It participated in the development of the ethics video Gilbane Gold and Incident At Morales, which show dilemmas of engineers caught between doing what he feels is right and remaining loyal to his company. It also established a Code of Ethics Exam on the NSPE Web site and began the "You Be the Judge" column in Engineering Times in 1987.

35 NSPE Board of Ethical Review
The BER, which meets twice a year to discuss ethics issues and decide cases, also administers the annual Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest. The contest gives members an opportunity to test their ethics knowledge by applying it to a fictional scenario. Other BER projects include the development of the NSPE Ethics Reference Guide, a series of monthly online ethics webinars and the translation to Japanese of the most recent three volumes of BER cases.

36 NSPE Board of Ethical Review
NSPE's Board of Ethical Review recently celebrated its 50 years of service to the profession, and it continues to be a place where engineers openly discuss tough questions and provide guidance to others.

37 BER Case 04-5 Obligations of Engineer Relating to Environmental Concerns Facts: A company previously cited for environmental law violations seeks a variance from the state because the cost to comply is too high.

38 BER Case 04-5 Facts cont’d:
Engineer A reviews the variance and makes a preliminary recommendation that the state environmental department decline to issue the variance, and he informs the agency head, who is not an engineer, of this matter.

39 BER Case 04-5 Facts cont’d:
Engineer A is over-ruled and is told to issue the variance. It is Engineer A’s responsibility to testify at the state pollution control board hearing describing the technical grounds for approving the request.

40 obligations under these circumstances?
BER Case 04-5 What are Engineer A’s obligations under these circumstances?

41 Reference NSPE Code of Ethics
Section I.1. Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public.

42 Reference NSPE Code of Ethics
Section II.1.a. If engineers' judgment is overruled under circumstances that endanger life or property, they shall notify their employer or client and such other authority as may be appropriate.

43 Reference NSPE Code of Ethics
Section II.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, which should bear the date indicating when it was current.

44 BER Case 04-5 Conclusion: Engineer A has an obligation to provide a recommendation to superiors based upon the available technical data and Engineer A’s best professional judgment. If the superiors reject the recommendation, it would be unethical for Engineer A to testify in favor of the variance.

45 BER Case 04-5 Do you agree?

46 BER Case 07-11 Obligation of Engineer Relating to Pre-Existing Non-Conforming Work Facts: Client X had the property built without obtaining the necessary plumbing, electrical, structural, and mechanical permits and code approvals.

47 BER Case 07-11 Facts cont’d:
The structure is used for the storage of materials and equipment but is usually not intended for human habitation or use, other than for delivery and servicing. Engineer A is retained by Client X to prepare drawings and plans for a structure on Client X’s property.

48 BER Case 07-11 Facts cont’d:
During the course of Engineer A performing services for Client X, Client X mentions to Engineer A that there is an existing structure on the property that required permits and approvals to be constructed.

49 What is Engineer A’s ethical obligation under the circumstances?
BER Case 07-11 What is Engineer A’s ethical obligation under the circumstances?

50 BER Case 07-11 Section II.1. Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.

51 BER Case 07-11 Section II.1.c. Engineers shall not reveal facts, data, or information without the prior consent of the client or employer except as authorized or required by law or this Code.

52 BER Case 07-11 Section II.1.e. Engineers shall not aid or abet the unlawful practice of engineering by a person or firm.

53 BER Case 07-11 Section II.1.f. Engineers having knowledge of any alleged violation of this Code shall report thereon to appropriate professional bodies and, when relevant, also to public authorities, and cooperate with the proper authorities in furnishing such information or assistance as may be required.

54 BER Case 07-11 Conclusion: Engineer A would have an obligation to discuss with Client X the fact that code exists to protect the public health and safety as well as the overall integrity of the building and its contents and that Client X has an obligation to comply. Engineer A should encourage Client X to bring the storage facility into code compliance.

55 BER Case 07-11 Do you agree? What if the client refuses to bring the building into conformance with code?

56 Discussion Summary Q & A Conclusions

57 NSPE Resources BER Cases (available on the web)
Gilbane Gold (video presentation) Incident at Morales (video presentation) Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest Board of Ethical Review (meets 2x / year) Art Schwartz, NSPE General Counsel

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