The Role Of Engineering Ethics In The Safety Of Engineered System Essays Examples
Engineering ethics is a principle composed of codes followed by professionals working in engineering fields. The ethics involved in this principle are not only as written codes of conduct but rather a set of rules that need to be applied by an engineer working or practicing his field of specialization. It is a holistic discipline that is connected to philosophies in science, engineering and technology.
The origin of this applied ethics can be traced back from the early 19th century where moral conduct is usually of a personal concern for those who graduated and practiced engineering. The implementation of such philosophy was only applied in the turn of 20th century when there are various accidents that are related to structural and engineering failures. The 1919 Boston molasses disaster is one such example of lack of engineering quality control (Schworm). Because of poorly constructed storage tank with leaks and weak points, fermentation of molasses in addition to the drastic temperature change over a short span of time resulted to bursting. A tidal wave of molasses resulted to fatalities of 21 people and several horses. Damage to nearby buildings and railway bridges were also present in the aftermath of the disaster (Jabr).
The main problem with the tank that stores the molasses in the Boston disaster is its inherent lack of safety features. The tank was fabricated out of steel that is around half the thickness required by the law at that time. The steel alloy used also lacked manganese which is essential for tensile strength, preventing brittleness that is more apparent in metals subjected to cold temperatures. The engineer named Arthur Jell was responsible for overseeing the construction but he neglected the need for leakage tests. Basic leakage test such as water filling was not done and as an easy solution, the tank was painted brown to conceal the appearances of leaks.
Ethics and its written counterpart on their own are powerless if not applied by practitioners. Many engineering organizations have their own preamble and oaths regarding safety and its application in the field, but without careful monitoring or practice, such ethics became less helpful. Engineering ethics does not stop with the ethical codes and rules of conduct but inculcate into the minds of practitioners the moral responsibilities that are accompanied by being an engineer. In the field of engineering, health and safety are the top concerns. These concerns can be facilitated by following strict guidelines and measures that should not stop with the practitioner but should also be mandated to end users. The trainings and lessons from experience of an engineer should be shared to all people concerned so that the overall safety in the organization is improved. Aside from the responsibility of the engineer to learn and apply health and safety measures, he is expected to have high standards in the workplace.
Whenever there is a compromise in company safety where the employer is risking the safety and health of its employees or the surrounding communities, the engineer as guided by their oath should take precedence the safety rather than his profession. By sending information to authorities, an engineer could get recognition instead. A situation similar to this is however, rare, as modern companies do listen to their safety engineers and implement possible solutions immediately. It is also the duty of engineers to pick the best machineries and processes that are more on safety and sustainability rather than financial gain (Petroski).
As we can see, without proper ethics, our world would not be as safe as it can be. Various infrastructures could be constructed with substandard specifications resulting to disasters if conditions are right. Applied ethics is essential in everyday living and it is a big thanks to those previous disasters that our world became a safer place. Experience teaches us how to be better in every process we take and ethics, when applied made all of it possible.
Jabr, Ferris. “The Science of the Great Molasses Flood”. Scientific American 309(2), July 17, 2013. Web.17 Mar. 2015. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/molasses-flood- physics-science/
Petroski, Henry. To Engineer is Human: the Role of Failure in Successful Design. St Martins Press. 1985. 0-312-80680-9. http://www.doyletics.com/arj/enghuman.shtml ISBN
Schworm, Peter. "Nearly a century later, new insight into cause of Great Molasses Flood of 1919". Boston Globe. 15 Jan 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/01/14/nearly-century-later-new-insight-into- cause-great-molasses-flood/CNqLYc0T58kNo3MxP872iM/story.html