Ethics Paper BY ulan777 At some point during the profession of an engineer, he or she will encounter an ethical issue and will have to act accordingly based on his or her own ethical views, as well as the situation at hand.
Ethical issues often arise when engineers are hired to design and build structures according to their clients’ request. In New Orleans, engineers were asked to finish the levees in a very short timeframe and were required to stay within an inadequate budget even though it was unsafe.Engineers followed orders and this decision led to tragedy as the levees broke shortly after Hurricane Katrina.
Although, ultimately engineers completed an unsafe project to save time and money, they should not be held solely responsible for the failure of a building or structure. To determine the ethics a professional should hold, one must look at his or her own ethics and decide what ethical issues are most important. When I first decided to go into the field of architecture, I did not fully understand the amount of responsibility placed on architects.As I learned about the field, I realized professional responsibility closely aligns with ethical responsibilities such as having he responsibility to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the public .
Engineers also have the same set of responsibilities because of the nature of their job. Just as engineers are held accountable for making unethical decisions that result in an accident, all individuals involved in the project should also be held accountable.For example, engineers may deem a client’s request unsafe but they do not have an obligation to provide services beyond what has been requested and paid for so they will build an unsafe structure. Since the client was aware of potential ssues and still requested the services, then the client should be held equally responsible.
The levees breaking shortly after hurricane Katrina is a real-life example of an engineering ethical issue that involved numerous individuals from various agencies. 1000’s of people died, and the deaths were not a direct result of the hurricane, but because of the faulty levees in place at the time of the hurricane.Days after hurricane Katrina struck, several whistleblowers stepped forward and blamed the levee engineers for the disaster, but the engineers denied any wrongdoing.
Van Heerden, a disaster science expert, revealed the Army Corps poorly constructed the levees and was a geotechnical engineering failure because up to 90% of the New Orleans floods were a result of the Corps failure to design proper levees . Another whistleblower, Dr. Seed, found the U. S. Army Corps made a fatal mistake when they drove sheet piles down 17 feet instead of 45 feet to save time and money . Dr.Seed stated the Army Corps were aware they needed to pike down deeper than 17 feet but felt pressured to save the New Orleans district money. Maria Garzino, a ormer engineer for the U.
S. Army Corps, also came forward and stated engineers failed the public by installing shoddy pumps . These pumps were requested as a Most of the whistleblowers and other professionals in the cost saving measure. field placed the blame on the engineers who work for the U. S. Army Corps. It has been over eight years since the levees failed and full blame remains with the U.
S. Army Corps engineers.The engineers believe they should not be held completely llaDle Tor tne Tallure 0T tne levees tnat resulted In tne aevastatlon 0T tne region.
I ne orps stated they “worked with various local and state groups throughout the planning, design, and operation of hurricane protection in New Orleans” . An Army Corps spokesperson stated “all levels of the government were part of the team that were responsible for flood protection, therefore you cannot blame Just one entity’ . A research team called Team Louisiana determined the Army Corps used obsolete data provided by another agency to design the flood control structures .Data used was from original plans in 1965 and relied on measurements of the land in 1929 when the terrain was much different.
The Army Corps also asserts the levee project has been a continuous project spanning over 30 years. Many agencies have been involved during this time so placing blame on one group is unethical. The blame should be placed on all parties who played a role in the disaster. Several ethicists have weighed in on the issue and agree “the outcomes of Katrina were the culmination of a vast cascade of decisions and actions spanning almost half a century, many by individuals and organizations outside of engineering” .This would make it practically impossible to point a finger at one specific decision of an ngineer. Another ethicist has argued there was simply not one fateful moment where an engineer chose A instead of B that could have made all the difference and believes “fate may have been left to the slow tyranny of incremental decisions” .
Another report released from the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (‘PET) determined the following, “There was no evidence of government or contractor negligence or malfeasance.With the exceptions noted below, the system was generally built as designed, and design approaches were consistent with local practice” . Another forensic engineering investigation stated they did not find any evidence that would suggest the project engineers believed their decisions would threaten the reliability of engineers . The engineers simply built the levees according to the plans given.
According to Byron Newberry, an engineering ethicist, the hurricane Katrina catastrophe is not an issue of micro-ethics and should be seen as an issue of macro-ethics .Micro-ethics deals with professional ethical obligations and how these obligations should influence decisions at the individual level. Micro-ethics has traditionally been considered engineering ethics but Newberry proposes engineering ethical issues should be macro-ethical issues because these issues are viewed at an organization-wide or society-wide viewpoint .
With micro-ethics, it is often very difficult to determine what ethical decisions of an engineer are directly linked to outcomes of complex socio-technical systems . Otto Loewer, president of the University of Arkansas Economic Development Institute, believes the U.S. Army Corps engineers were held accountable because society eeded someone to blame . After a disaster, humans have the tendency to want to lay blame for various reasons such as to gain political, social, religious, or economic advantage. Since the U. S. Army Corps was in charge of constructing the levees, blame was pushed onto them and everyone else involved was not held ethically or legally responsible .
Loewer believes instead of holding one group of individuals responsible, all parties involved should be held accountable.All parties involved should also take the time to implement public policy so this will not happen again. In ddition, they should focus on resource allocation education, public welfare and sustalnaDlll ty Decause anotner Olsaster 0T tnls magnltuae Is Inevita ethical issue is important today and in the future because engineers will continue to work with other agencies and businesses to create and construct buildings and structures. If contractors and managers believe blame will always be placed on engineers if a structural accident occurs, they may be less likely to act ethically themselves because they will not be held accountable.Holding all parties accountable will help ensure buildings and structures are designed and built safely o matter the time or cost involved.
As discovered after hurricane Katrina, it is the best interest of engineers to protect the public by doing what they can to make ethical decisions. If engineers are asked to go against their ethics even after voicing their concerns about a potentially unsafe structure, they have an ethical responsibility to step forward and report the client and their request.These professionals also have the ethical responsibility to become “whistleblowers” and report any unethical activity seen within or between agencies. No amount of fear of osing one’s Job or loss in wages should be considered over the safety of the public.
Reporting managers who contract engineers and ask them to take part in unethical activity is also crucial to ensure future public safety and also ensures they are held accountable for their unethical, and often dangerous, decisions. Ethics Revision Notes Page 1, Para. 1- I changed the thesis because my first thesis was not something that could be proved, most people would agree upon.
I decided to talk about hurricane Katrina and how the blame should be placed on all individuals involved because the lame has only been placed on the engineers. I believe this can be arguable. Page 2-5, I had to change most of the paper since my thesis changed. Page 2, Para. 2 1 decided to keep the whistleblower information to show one side of the issue where the engineers were the only ones held accountable. It also shows how a whistleblower can bring to light information Page 3, I used research to support my claim from various groups who believe the engineers were not completely at fault.
Page 4- I discussed how hurricane Katrina is an ethical issue that should have involved several parties and not Just the engineers. Page 4 and 5- I discussed why this event is important to engineers in the future and also suggested strategies on remalnlng e References tnlcal at tne workplace.  NSPE. “National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Code of Ethics for Engineers,” July 24, 2006, [Online] Available” http://www. onlineethics. org/ Resources/ethcodes/EnglishCodes/9972. aspx, [Accessed Sept. 17, 2013].
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