This chapter deals with the distribution of responsibility withinengineering.
Distribution of responsibility, usually only required in the eventof an unfavourable incident, can be difficult in some circumstances. This isdue to the number of people involved in complex engineering projects, where individualsworking on various aspects a project is not uncommon, this is often referred toas the problem of many hands. Because of this, the phrase collective responsibility was coined, as this assignsresponsibility to the group as a whole, as opposed to individuals. The distribution of responsibility is also not just a moralissue, but also a legal one. Legal responsibility is used to determine who isresponsible for the payment of compensation to affected parties, this form of responsibilityis referred to as liability. However, there is a difference between responsibilityand liability; whereby liability must be established by a legal proceeding, witha well-regulated procedure, whereas moral responsibility can be determined informally.
Liability is a legal tool used to deal with the consequences of certaintechnology, however others are also available. Regulation is a legal tool whichforbids the development, production or use of certain technologies. As a resultof this regulation is often used as an industry guideline for the developmentor application of new technologies. In order for a person to be consideredliable, negligence must be proved., this is usually done by proving a breach ofa duty of care.
Liability is not only limited to an individual or group ofindividuals, a corporation can also be treated as an individual entity, this isreferred to as corporate liability. In the case of corporate liability, the individualsresponsible do not need to be ascertained, as they as representatives of thecorporation. Due to the idea of corporate liability, the forming of limitedliability companies became the norm. In terms of the distribution of responsibility within acorporation, various models are used. The hierarchal model whereby the uppermostmembers or the organisation are held accountable, the collective model wherebyeach member of the organisation is held responsible equally, and the individualmodel whereby each individual is held responsible proportionally for theircontribution.
The distribution of responsibility is also influenced byengineering design, whereby aspects of the design become responsible for varioustasks as opposed to the user, an example of which would be auto pilot in anaircraft or cruise control in an automobile. Another example of such a problemregarding the distribution of responsibility is the safety of pesticides. Thosedeveloping the pesticides assumed that the farmers using them would do so in thesafe prescribed manner, though this was not the case.
This is an example wherethe determination of who is responsible is difficult, as a result of design.