What actually is the aim of learning engineering ethics? And is that only mean by having the master standard of professional conduct specified in the major engineering codes of ethics? Are there any problems for organizations to let engineers learning ethics and following the codes? To answer these questions, let’s just identify what is the meaning of ‘codes of engineering ethics’. They are codes that adopted by government or some organization like ‘ECUK’ to regulate the behavior of engineers and it is a code of professional responsibility. It is also a guidance and help to make people aware of the ethical content of engineering work.
Although there is still potential different between what the code allows or suggests, and what it may be right to do, but it provides a clear mind for engineers of what behavior is considered as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in different circumstance. Professional codes not like law, if you break the law, you will get punishment, but professional codes normally don’t have any discipline force. As a result, a deficiency in engineering codes of ethics is found to be one of the roots of engineering failure since there are not set penalties for engineers doing something disobeying engineering concepts and without honesty and integrity.
According to the statement, it has mentioned that being a professional is always needed to conduct specified in major engineering codes of ethics. And the speaker of the statement expected engineering ethics must consist of the agreements between different engineering societies on moral issues since they are playing an essential role to ensure that safety standard are maintained. His argument is the people in that societies officially speak for engineering profession, engineers should follow and support the profession code from them since it is recognized as ‘what engineers should do’ and ‘right thing to do’.
And it helps make their profession a practice of which they need not feel morally guilty and shame. However, the statement also mentions the idea that learning engineering ethics is a way to encouraging engineers to think autonomously threatens to produce chaos within organization, since, if the code of ethics lacks senior management to support, the engineers will receive the message that ethics are not important and necessarily needed to follow. If there is no engineer championed in a specific project, the project will be lack of leadership and personal issues can prevent the code from being created.
Engineers working on the code of ethics still maintain their daily responsibilities; they may not be able to devote time to the code of ethics at the same time. In my own opinion, there are few reasons that I think engineers need to learning engineering code of ethics. Firstly, it is a good way to increasing the awareness of the ethical dimensions of science and engineering. Being an engineer, they usually need to work at a dangerous position for example building a bridge with a massive height and sometimes they may also need to work with machines that easily hurt them.
Engineers may support their profession’s code because supporting it will help protect them and those they care about from being injured by what other engineers do. Secondly, no doubt introducing ethics to engineers is a contribution to the profession’s public image. Engineer’s work involved in many different fields and large-scale of engineering projects came to dominate the landscape of most major countries, such as they need to design bridges and rails, building electric power plants for the use of city, manufacturing industrial equipment for different areas of business, machine design in bank and laboratory for education etc.
The work of engineers forms the link between scientific discoveries and their work benefit to human needs and quality of life. Therefore, the public image of engineers is absolutely important. If there are no codes, engineers may do something which just following their own mind and when the time they need to make a hard decision, there is no any ‘right’ guidance for them , this should make affect to public health and safety. These decisions also give negative economic consequences on a company that has trusted a given engineer to plan the construction of the building out of which it performs its work.
For instance, if the elevator in a school or a library crashes, and parents learn that the accident was due to the poor design or maintained of the elevator and it is absolutely a fail of engineer, they may not allow their children to attend in engineering field anymore when they grow up. In order to maintain the reputations of engineers in the society, large engineering organization and companies set codes to engineers. For example, the code of ethics for the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) consists of a Preamble and 10 brief principles of conduct.
There is no excuse for an engineer allowed a faulty project to go through because it was obeying orders. All engineers have the duty to report any faulty engineering of which they are aware. On the other hand, implementing a code of ethics has several disadvantages which may affect employee performance and a company’s bottom-line sales. Firstly, engineers may have a chance needed to forgive opportunities as well as make less profit. For example, if there is a client want an engineer to create and design something new, but the company not allows doing that as in company’s stand always want to play safe.
If that ‘new design’ has any problems that affect safety, health and welfare like dumping toxic waste which may not obey the engineering code of ethics. Hence, the companies will loss the reputation and integrity. Design problems in engineering are typically highly constrained, as are challenging ethical problems. The design process, especially in the ways in which it differs from merely analyzing the designs of others, highlights the very aspects of the agent’s response to ethical problems, in their preoccupation with ethical evaluation, have had difficulty illuminating.
There are limits for engineer working with codes of ethics. Moreover, a professional code of ethics teaches an employee to put the client first and always be honest with him. In the competitive business world, the results matter always more important than politeness, if an employee being too honest to his client, he can’t make lots of profit from it. What is more, I think Codes should be moral guides rather than legalistic rules. Setting codes as legalistic and ruled engineers to follow, in my mind, it is an unattainable goal.
A professional code of ethics places value on treating all employees with respect as opposed to respecting performance. Implementing a professional code of ethics may cause employee production to slip as the focus is taken away from results and work standards, and turned toward creating a happy work environment. A code of ethics may also raise the public’s expectations for company standards to unattainable levels, according to the Goliath. This creates a more stressful workplace as employees struggle to maintain performance standards while learning a new rules set.
According to Heinz C. Luegenbiehl’s classic judgment, he has mentioned that ethical rules set a standard that is ‘hard and fast’. They are inconsistent with engineers acting as ‘autonomous moral agent’. What engineer need are ‘guides’ because guides indicate what novel situations engineers in a particular field of practice might encounter and thereby forewarn and alert them to these solution. They should also point to kinds of factor typically considered relevant to such solution.
To summarize, on the balance of the arguments I have considered, I absolutely agree with the speaker about the course on engineering ethics ought to teach should conduct specified in the major engineering codes of ethics. I agree the advantages that give to engineers of learning ethics and I also agree the counter argument that teaching ethics may encourage engineers to threaten to produce chaos within organization since codes actually creates a more stressful workplace.
In my view, all engineers should take the code of ethics seriously; gain the trust of their fellow employees. Those who work for the organization know that they will be protected in any situation. As long as everyone works and behaves in an ethical manner, production can run more smoothly and gain a long lasting and bigger reward. I think engineers should concentrate to the long term benefit of learning ethics, which is trust. Rules promote trust, especially when they are followed consistently.
When there is a breach in the code of ethics, the problem is dealt with and employees can learn something from the violation. A code of ethics should allow room for individual improvement and learning to better understand the code, but each person should try to do their best to follow the guidance. If every engineers are involving in true ethical system, the world should evolve into a safer, friendlier and happier place. Reference: Ethics in engineering practice and research, caroline whitbeck P190