The Ethical Responsibility of Engineers
Just like other professionals from different spheres, engineers have specialized skills, knowledge, and expertise in their field of specification. They attain this through education, training and experience. The competencies that they have accord them significant power and thus, the decisions that they make have varied implications on different facets of the society. During the execution of their duties, they often face various challenges and conflicts. Such situations require sound and informed decision making. Fundamentally, the outcomes of their decisions can either impact positively or negatively on the target population as well as the environment (Gardiner, Caney, Jamieson and Shoe 377). Ethics demand engineers to base their decisions and actions on informed thought at all times. Wise and ethical thought enables them to execute their duties effectively, handle complex challenges with ease, and enhance optimal performance at all times. As indicated earlier, the decisions that engineers make at different points have significant implications on different facets of the population. It is against this background that this paper explores the ethical responsibility of engineers.
During the execution of their duties, engineers are responsible for safeguarding the health, safety and general wellbeing of the public (Whitebeck 63). In this regard, they recognize that their structures, products, and processes have direct implications on the safety of the public too. Since they have the power to make and implement critical decisions, they ensure that the plans that they approve at different stages conform to the established standards as well as specifications. This enhances the safety of their practices and prevents adoption of designs, decisions, and plans that endanger public health. In instances where their plans are life threatening and substandard, they have a duty to inform their clients and various other stakeholders about the status. This enables the individuals to make informed decisions regarding the consequences of their actions and practices. Ethics accord them this responsibility because they are conversant with the extent of the damage that may emanate from implementation of substandard plans and projects.
Engineering professionals are responsible for disseminating important information regarding standards, quality control procedures, and test codes to the members of the public (Whitebeck 63). Since this information tends to be technical, they are responsible for simplifying it in order to foster understanding and compliance. Ideally, the information enables the public to understand and appreciate the life expectance and degree of safety that is related to various designs, systems, or products. Furthermore, they undertake reviews regarding the safety of plans and designs before approving them accordingly. In instances where they note conditions that are likely to compromise safety, they inform relevant authorities and advise on the desirable course of action. In most instances, this prevents adoption of the faulty designs and plans and safeguards the wellbeing of the populations.
In addition, engineers assume important oversight responsibilities during the design and implementation of projects. Specifically, they monitor activities of their colleagues and other professionals undertaking activities in the field of engineering. Whenever they realize any incidences of violation of established standards and guidelines, they notify relevant authorities in a timely manner. Besides providing the required information, they are responsible for furnishing the authorities with relevant information regarding the complexity of problems and effective measures that can be used to address the issues. Most importantly, they are required to offer different forms of assistance as need may arise. Further, engineering professionals have a duty to liaise with the civic society in implementing important projects that are geared towards enhancing the health, welfare, and security of local communities. In an effort to further sustainability, they should commit themselves to improving their environmental conditions. At this point in time, it is worth noting that their activities tend to have varied implications on the holistic wellbeing of the environment. They need to assume responsibility for their activities and ensure environmental restoration after every project (DesJardins 245).
Engineers are responsible for ensuring that the public statements that they issue are factual, truthful, and objective. Usually, relative platforms enable them to extent engineering knowledge to the public. In such instances, they ensure that their reports, testimonials, information, and statements are comprehensive and factual. In respective reports, they should incorporate pertinent and relevant information regarding the subject under review. Under such instances, the members of the public depend on them to offer critical information for guidance. Since they are the holders of important information, ethical values oblige them to provide factual information for public consumption. Besides enhancing the capacities of the members of the public, the practice prevents misunderstandings that compromise effective performance and credibility of their outcomes.
In some cases, engineers are required by law to serve as technical or expert witnesses. In such settings, they are responsible for expressing engineering opinions accurately and basing on factual information. In this respect, they need to offer information in areas that they have sufficient competencies and adequate knowledge. Further, their opinions should be honest and based on their technical competence. Also, they are responsible for explaining their work and merits with dignity and modesty. Relative to this, they assume responsibility for upholding professional integrity, dignity, and honor at all times. In this respect, engineering professionals dissociate themselves with fraudulent or dishonest individuals and firms (Whitebeck 69). By distancing themselves from such individuals and corporate entities, they uphold virtuous behavior and practices at all times. Specifically, they do not engage in business operations or knowingly allow their names to be used for any purpose by the firms and individuals that engage in any form of malpractices.
Engineers are responsible for upholding professionalism by performing activities and offering services in fields that they have sufficient competencies. Before they undertake engineering assignments, they need to ensure that they have relevant qualifications either by experience or education. This is vital because it enhances their performance and prevents occurrence of accidents that have far reaching implications on the holistic wellbeing of the public. In addition, they need to refrain from affixing seals or signatures to plans and documents addressing subject matters that they are not conversant with (Whitebeck 72). Furthermore, engineering professionals should only assume supervision for projects that they are well versed with. Fundamentally, this ensures that they make informed decisions at all times and uphold quality performance.
When dealing with professional matters, engineers need to uphold faithfulness at all times. In particular, they should avoid conflicts of interests in all their interactions. Ideally, conflicts of interest are undesirable because they compromise effective and objective decision making. In addition, such occurrences prevent them from upholding quality performance that is at the core of effective engineering practice. In addition, ethical values demand that engineers keep away from assignments that can potentially create conflicts of interest between them, their employers, and their clients. This is irrespective of how well paying the assignment might be. By avoiding relative entanglement, this prevents them from engaging in vices that undermine their professionalism. In addition, professionals in the engineering field are responsible for enhancing financial accountability and transparency. In this respect, they have a duty to refuse financial rewards for projects or services whose terms are unclear. Basically, they need to be informed about all the circumstances surrounding the projects or services and ensure that the entire stakeholders agree to the related payments. This includes desisting from financial rewards and gratuities from agents or contractors (Whitebeck 74).
In most instances, engineers participate actively in the design and development of projects. In order to attain their goals and responsibilities in this regard, they undertake various studies at different stages. After pursuing studies about the projects, they are responsible for informing their clients or employers about the validity of the projects. This involves providing objective reports about the status of such projects including their strengths and weaknesses. In the course of their assignments, engineers uphold confidentiality at all times. Specifically, they treat all the information as confidential and avoid sharing it with any third parties. Furthermore, they do not use the respective information to pursue their personal interests or make profits. During evaluation of bids, engineering professionals avoid disclosure of technical information regarding the projects to third parties (Whitebeck 77). Relatively, they are responsible for safeguarding the designs and plans of their clients at all times. Thus, they do not duplicate these without the consent of the customers.
During the execution of their duties, they are responsible for ensuring that all parties receive fair and just treatment. At this point in time, it is worth acknowledging that engineers interact with parties, individuals, and professionals form diverse backgrounds. The relationships that they establish include making agreements with these stakeholders. They are responsible for respecting the contributions of the respective individuals and ensuring that the contractual agreements are valid. In the course of their duties, these professionals are bound to make mistakes and errors. In such cases, they assume responsibility for the negative implications that are stem from their mistakes. In addition to admitting and accepting their errors, they refrain from modifying or altering facts in an effort to justify their decisions as well as practices.
Fundamentally, engineers have vast knowledge in the field of engineering as well as in other educational spheres such as communication, management public relations, marketing, and so forth. Besides rendering engineering services, they often engage in other professional activities in order to increase their income, enhance their quality of life, and perfect additional skills. When contacted to render services while on duty, engineers inform their employers before contracting other duties or engaging in other areas of interest (Whitebeck 86). This helps in strengthening the relationships with their employers. Also worth noting is the recognition that engineers collaborate with one other in the execution of their duties. They are responsible for maintaining viable relations with their professional colleagues. One way through which they achieve this is restraining from reviewing the works of other engineers without their consent or knowledge. They are only allowed to review the respective projects in instances where they have been completed or the contracts terminated. Usually, engineering professionals in employment, industrial or governmental sectors are entitled to review the work of other engineers.
Just like other professions, engineers take practical measures to enhance their performance and professional reputation. From an ethical point of view, they pursue this using quality performance. Thus, they desist from unfair competition and make efforts to enhance each other’s wellbeing at all times. The professionals do not bribe governments or commissions in their quest to secure projects or any form of employment. During the negotiation of contracts, they base their decisions regarding the cost of their services on qualifications and demonstrated competencies. This goes a long way in preventing incidences of manipulation and unfairness. In addition, they should ensure that their rates of compensation are consistent with the scope of services that are agreed upon. The underlying objective in such instances is to ensure reasonable and fair compensation.
In a bid to ensure effective performance at all times, engineers commit themselves to acquiring knowledge continuously (Whitebeck 94). In this respect, they endeavor to acquire relevant professional knowledge, skills, and education throughout their careers. Furthermore, they allow their subordinates to pursue education and attain skills and expertise that enable them to maintain optimal performance. Specifically, they encourage professionals under their supervision to advance their education and register themselves with relevant professional bodies. This is imperative in enhancing their recognition in this field of specification. Furthermore, they urge their subordinates to undertake research in different areas of engineering and present findings in technical and professional meetings. Besides expanding their knowledge base in the respective areas, this practice improves their professional skills and enables them to deal with emergent challenges with ease.
Also, engineers recognize and appreciate the regulatory and oversight roles that their professional and technical societies assume. For this reason, they have an ethical responsibility of supporting them accordingly. In this regard, they make financial contributions that support the initiatives of these important bodies. In addition, they offer extra assistance to the institutions including technical and professional advice. Moreover, engineers are expected to support the activities and interests of their fellow professionals. In addition to giving credit for any work to whom it is due, they recognize the varied interests of their colleagues. They take practical measures to support them pursue their individual interests accordingly. Further, engineers provide adequate compensation for individuals that engage in engineering duties and responsibilities (Whitebeck 95). These include fellow engineers and experts from other fields that seek for employment in their firms. By compensating them appropriately, they acknowledge the important contributions that they make to successful project implementation.
During the delegation of duties, engineers are responsible for assigning responsibilities effectively. In order to benefit optimally from expert knowledge of their subordinates, they need to assign duties that utilize their training fully. In other words, they ensure that the complexity of the task is in line with the skills and knowledge of the employee. Besides maximizing returns, this prevents incidences of frustration that compromise performance. Coupled with providing supportive work environments, effective delegation of responsibilities and duties improves the skills and competencies of the employees. Before the onset of projects, engineers need to provide their prospective employees with sufficient information pertaining to working conditions as well as their terms of reference including their employment status. In case of any changes regarding the preceding aspects, they are obliged to furnish the employees with relevant information. Besides being an important act of courtesy, this enables the subordinates to make informed decisions regarding their employment.
Practitioners in the engineering field desist from engaging in any form of deception especially during the execution of their duties. They are responsible for upholding integrity and honesty at all times (Whitebeck 103). In addition to refraining from falsification of their qualification, they prevent misinterpretation of the qualifications of their associations by technical and professional bodies as well as clients. Usually, relative efforts are undertaken prior to assumption of assignments. This prevents exaggeration of responsibilities that culminates in dissatisfaction upon completion of projects. In particular, they commit themselves to providing factual information regarding their qualifications, employers, employees, experiences, strengths and weaknesses to relevant parties. This allows for objective decision making and enhances justice at all times.
Also, engineers have an ethical responsibility to engage in social corporate initiatives (DesJardins 244). In this respect, they appreciate that their activities, practices, and decisions have diverse implications on the welfare of local communities. In addition to environmental pollution, engineering projects upset natural habitats and lead to over exploitation of resources. Thus engineering practitioners are obligated to engage in activities that demonstrate their social responsibility. Besides supporting needy students and providing employment opportunities for the locals, they liaise with schools and the civil society to address the negative effects of their practices to the environment. Furthermore, they engage in environmental education practices uphold environmentally benign practices.
In order to minimize the negative effects of their projects to human and environmental health, engineers need to uphold the established standards and regulations that govern their practice. Before undertaking any form of assignment, they review its complexity and determine whether it is justified or not. This prevents resource wastage that is related to developing and designing projects that are not helpful to target populations. During the design of plans and projects, practitioners make efforts to capture the entire needs and interests of the clients. In this respect, customization of services and products enhances efficiency and boosts performance. Through such approaches, engineers enhance performance and improve professionalism.
The aspect of resource availability and sustainability has gained importance in the field of engineering. Accordingly, current population struggle with the challenge of limited resources due to increased overexploitation (DesJardins 251). Engineering practitioners are responsible for safeguarding natural resources to ensure that just like current populations, future generations have a chance to share in the natural resource base. Since they are charged with the responsibility of making critical decisions regarding resource use, they need to exercise caution. As aforementioned, this is instrumental for enhancing restoration and ensuring sustainability.
In most instances, engineers assume leadership roles and responsibilities during the execution of their duties. The positions that they hold in society are privileged, exclusive, and powerful. This implies that the decisions that they make have varied implications on the wellbeing of their subordinates and local communities (Gardiner et al. 374). In order to strengthen and sustain mutually benefiting relationships, they assume responsibility for informed decision making within the firms or corporations. Ideally, the society trusts them and as such, they need to demonstrate a readiness to serve the needs of the populations. Since their decisions and practices impact on societal wellbeing, engineers should be willing and ready to listen as well as attend to the societal aspirations. This can be attained if they establish and maintain effective communication within their firms. Relative structures enable them to be conversant with the grievances of their subordinates and address them accordingly. Characteristic feedback allows for information flow and sharing with important stakeholders.
Just like professionals in others spheres of influence, engineering practitioners assume important and powerful positions within the society. Their knowledge, skills and expertise mandates them to make critical decisions. Their practices and decisions have various implications on the health, safety and general wellbeing of the populations that they serve. For this reason, they need to uphold the highest degree of integrity and honesty especially during the execution of their duties. As identified in the preceding review, their ethical responsibilities are wide and varied. In addition to ensuring that their practices and decisions promote public health and safety, they are required to perform services and duties in fields that they have sufficient competencies only. In addition, they are responsible for disseminating factual engineering information to deserving individuals.
In an effort to build their reputation, they should refrain from pursuing unfair competition and thus compromising the professional growth of their counterparts. Furthermore, they are obligated to increase their knowledge through pursuit of education and advancement of careers. Besides improving their individual competencies, they should give their subordinates a chance to enhance their capacities too. Most importantly, engineering practitioners should participate actively in social corporate responsibility initiatives. Finally, they need to exercise ethical leadership by listening and attending to the emergent needs and aspirations of the communities within which they are located.
DesJardins Joseph. Business, ethics, and the environment: Imagining a sustainable future. London: Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.
Gardiner Stephen, Caney Simon, Jamieson Dale and Shue Henry.Climate Ethics: Essential Readings. Oxford: University Press, 2010. Print.
Whitebeck Caroline. Ethics in engineering: Practice and research. Cambridge: University Press, 2011. Print.