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The study of engineering ethics often boils down to resolving  moral dilemmas in an orderly, analytical manner. However, the concern  over ethics stems from the role of an engineer, referred hereafter to as  a “practitioner”, and the issues that encompass a practitioner’s  professional role.  Engineering failures result in catastrophic outcomes  such as the Columbia disaster, Bhopal gas leak, Quebec bridge collapse,  etc. Therefore, it is imperative that there exists an unambiguous  guideline for professional conduct and moral duty in a high-risk  profession like engineering to prevent loss of life and property. The  study of the Code of Ethics explores the roles and responsibilities of a  practitioner in the profession and serves as a guideline to tackle moral  issues responsibly. “Through the Code of Ethics, professional engineers  have clearly defined a duty to society, which is to regard the duty to  public welfare as paramount, above their duties to clients or  employers.” (PEO)  Article 1, section 77 of regulation 941 states “It is the duty of a  practitioner to the public, to the practitioner’s employer, to the  practitioner’s clients, to other members of the practitioner’s profession,  and to the practitioner, and to the practitioner to act at all times with,  I. fairness and loyalty to the practitioner’s associates, employers,  clients, subordinates and employees  II. Fidelity to public needs, and  III. Devotion to high ideals of personal honors and professional  integrity  IV. Knowledge of developments in the area of professional engineering  relevant to any services that are undertaken, and  V. Competence in the performance of any professional engineering  services that are undertaken. O Reg. 48/92”  I firmly believe that the Code of Ethics serves as a reminder of duty  of care to serve the needs of the public and provide services with  loyalty, fairness and integrity. Engineers are the core force behind the  technological advancements and ease of our day-to-day life. Due to the  high-risk nature of the profession, it is crucial that a practitioner is  willing to put his/her career at risk to identify any shortcomings in  designs and report unsafe engineering practices to the appropriate  authorities. As exemplified by the unfortunate Challenger disaster,  seven crew members were killed when the spacecraft exploded within a  few minutes of taking off due to NASA’s decision to ignore warnings by  the technical team about the O-ring seals.  Roger Boisjoly the engineer,  failed to fulfill his duty of care by not reporting NASA’s disregard of the  issue to the higher authorities, which could have prevented this disaster  from occurring and save the crews’ lives (Srinivasan).  As indicated in Sec. 77 (1), any services provided by the  practitioner is deemed “professional” because it is assumed by common  nature that the professional is cognizant and up to date with the  knowledge of developments in the discipline he/she is competent in. For  example, when team of structural engineers designs a bridge, the  general public or the administration rarely questions the integrity of the  design. It is deemed safe when it is approved by an engineer and the  public relies on the engineer to ensure that necessary safety measures  and precautions have been implemented. This is a vital assumption to  allow self-regulation of the engineering profession, and set expectations  of a practitioner to act with “devotion to high ideals of personal honour  and professional integrity” (PEO)   I believe that it is critical for a practitioner to be accountable for  the services provided and to create an environment that fosters a  similar accountability driven mind-set in the profession. For instance,  when a surgical procedure is performed by a doctor, the doctor  undertakes the responsibility of ensuring the best possible outcome of  the patient with the tools and knowledge available to the physician;  however, if a structural engineer implements a flawed design, the  physician will be risking the life of thousands of patients.    A company or a corporation is liable for ensuring the safety of  “the practitioner’s associates, employers, clients, subordinates and  employees” (PEO). This is done to protect the public against  incompetence, negligence and professional misconduct. There were a  total of 312,315 work casualties in Canada in 2008 as reported by the  Workplace Safety and Injury Board (WSIB). The number includes  incidents where employees were injured due to insufficient training or  lack of equipment. On May 12, 2010 an electrician with a decade of  work experience was struck with piece of rigging device at his  workplace, Vanscoy Potash Operations (Calgary Herald). This incident  has raised questions about the lifting method used without securing  loads. The provincial government was quick to react and banned this  method.    As a product designed by professional practitioners, it is expected  that a constructed design conforms to certain regulated specifications  and performs within a certain acceptable level for a specified amount of  time. It is therefore, imperative that the work of a practitioner  undergoes rigorous scrutiny to ensure potential failures are addressed  beforehand. However, failures are sometimes unavoidable or  undetected and it is best to learn from the past mistakes to improve  future designs. Many of the failures involve a lack of inspection in the  design or the implementation. For example, the Hyatt Skywalk collapse  in 1981 claimed the lives of 114 people and injured 200 others  (Whitback Caroline). The investigators concluded that the preliminary  sketches prepared by Jack. D Gillum and associates were interpreted by  Havens as final drawings. The design was implemented without  performing basic checks, which caused the design’s intrinsic flaws to  remain hidden, resulting in the catastrophic accident (Hyatt Regency). The lack of professionalism and competence, as highlighted in subsections iv and v of Sec 77(1), is clearly demonstrated in this example. This catastrophe could have been averted if the engineers acted in a professional, competent manner and verified the design before implementing it. Thus, repeated checks and inspections should be encouraged since they are vital to preventing engineering failures  I believe that morals and ethics are intertwined and are directly related to a practitioner’s moral responsibilities towards the public, employer and the profession. “One of the key elements in any profession is the recognition of its ethical and moral responsibilities to its clients, to society, and to the profession itself. Many professions, such as engineering and medicine, declare these responsibilities publicly in a code of ethics and then later require training in professional ethics in order to enter the profession” (Gotterbarn).  It is required for a practitioner to put the public safety at paramount importance in all cases. One of the major Canadian bridge collapse happened in Quebec in 1907. The site engineer, Theodore Cooper allowed the work to continue even though “he noticed that the estimated weight of the span was off, on the low side, by almost 8 million pounds” (Ricketts).  Furthermore, “the girders had shifted a “couple of inches” and were more obviously bent” (Ricketts). When the senior engineer B. A. Yenser discovered the concerns, he initially agreed, but allowed the work to be carried on the next day. “The bridge structure plunged over 150 feet taking with it the lives of 75 workers” (Ricketts).  It is very shocking to see the absence of moral and ethical judgment and the lack of accountability demonstrated by these engineers. Hence, I am a firm believer that Section 77 (1) (sub-sec. iv and v) should be enforced at all times on practitioners abusing their privileges. The emphasis of Hammurabi’s code lies in the punishment to be “an eye for an eye.”  However, I believe that PEO should do more than seek vengeance when enforcing these laws in high risk industries. The nature of the disciplinary action should be a mandatory license suspension for a certain period of time, along with suspension of privileges and a steep fine. It may sound harsh, but I think this is the best way to ensure that casualties due to faulty design practices are minimized.   “PEO’s mandate, as described in The Professional Engineers Act, is to ensure that the public is protected and that individuals and companies providing engineering services uphold a strict code of professional ethics and conduct” (PEO).  The code of ethics is strictly enforced by the members of PEO. For example, on February 20, 1992, PEO won the case against Nican Project Management Inc., because it fraudulently misrepresented the “engineer” title and provided engineering services without a Certificate of Authorization. The court fined the company $1250 per offense and put its services on probation for 12 months. The court also ordered the company to remove the word “engineer” from all its official communication within 21 days. (ES4498). This case demonstrates the enforceability of the code of ethics and proves that they are living words on a page, which all members of the profession have to abide by.  The engineering profession has a vital duty to uphold the strict standards that their members are expected to live by. In our increasingly complex world, it might not be easy to make sound moral and ethical decisions, but in a high-risk profession like engineering, it is crucial that these standards are met.  It is a practitioner’s principal duty to look after the public’s interest and treat practitioners, subordinates and clients with fairness and loyalty. As described in Section 77(1), the practitioner is required to make fair judgments and be held accountable for any services provided to the public. Thus, I believe that Section 77(1) is a vital part of the Code of Ethics and serves as an important guideline for practitioners.  

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