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ETHICS IN ENGINEERING
A brief discussion on ethical
responsibilities of engineers
Ethics can be defined as the rules or standards governing principles of
right conduct of the members of a particular profession. (American
Heritage Dictionary, 2009).
Unethical behaviours of an individual or organisation.
Unethical practices occur daily within various industries and companies/
organizations must acknowledge that the need for professional ethics is
Case Study: Anhydrous Ammonia Hose (“Texas A & M University”, 1992).
•Ethical Issues in Mechanical Engineering
DETAILS OF CASE STUDY
• A hose company decided to redesign the reinforcements within its type of
hoses with a new material called AAH#1.
• Studies were carried out at the Texas A&M University, the yarn used was,“…
not materially affected by the low concentration of NH4Oh vapor, but the
strength of the yarn is reduced over time to 46% of its original strength by the
vapor from anhydrous ammonia.”
• AAH #1 could not be ruled out as a feasible reinforcing material. However
using it as a reinforcing material for hoses and the company should overdesign their hoses to compensate for gradually diminishing strength.
• These new hose designs were deemed cheaper and cost effective by
Cooperate and to the public ,especially to farmer’s who usually use these
hoses for fertilizing .The anhydrous ammonia has been used by farmers as a
DETAILS OF CASE STUDY
Extreme caution needed to be used because the toxicity of the ammonia
vapors expelled to the atmosphere when the material is "knifed" into the soil.
The usage of the AAH #1 hose was met with widespread failure and harm to
human life a short time after.
Due to this and other numerous incidents of malfunctioning of the AAH #1
hose and subsequent injuries, XYZ Cooperatives selling the hose were sued
by the affected farmers.
XYZ did not properly design, test and monitor their product while in use, and
therefore they put the end users of the hose at risk.
XYZ Hose Company claimed that their product was misused or abused while
in operation in the field which led to the many malfunctions of their product.
The company restore its duty to the public and its image and damage
control readiness and reputation.
What kind of ethical issues arise in your field of
engineering? When and in what context do they arise?
•Professional and corporate responsibilities to consumers at large (“Texas A &
M University”,1992). This issue surfaces through the design and production
process of a product. It informs aspects of costs, profits and actual benefit to
•The application of risk assessment and in-use monitoring to ensure public
health and safety (Wertel, 2008).
•Appropriate responses by the company when faced with product and/or
service failure (“Texas A & M University”,1992).
•Proper documentation of operational procedures and regulations as a
prerequisite to the use of an experimental material (“Texas A & M
To what degree are engineers held accountable for
applications of their products and designs?
•Obligation to the public, corporate policies and general engineering
practices in design and process all inform the decision making
problems of engineers.
•Social responsibility against legal liability often has a large role in
discussing risk and cost factors along with production time, and market
•The public suffers to a great extent.
Are there underlying ethical principles that can provide a
foundation for good practice?
•According to the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers (n.d.) the public health,
safety and welfare, professional competence, objectivity/truthfulness and
conflict of interest all play a part in how engineers and corporations should
assess risk and, what their professional engineering and corporate
responsibilities are to the public.
•The quality of corporate associates and engineers, who in short, would define
the code of ethics that they would employ.
•Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (n.d.) states that in
making an ethical decision, one must first recognize the ethical issue, evaluate
what should be done and what the alternative actions are, and then proceed to
act and reflect on the outcome of the situation.
The seven – step checklist by Schermerhorn and Otten
Recognize and clarify the dilemma
Get all the possible facts
List your options
Test each option
Make your decision
Double check your decision
(Nguyen and Wang, 2012)
Be realistic in setting values and goals regarding employment
Integrate ethical decision-making into the performance appraisal
Be professional at all times
“Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and
truthful manner” (Code of Ethics of Engineers, n.d). The ethics
department can have seminars where the company’s code of
conduct is discussed.
• Time Management
• Interpreting the question for this project
• Creating an outline
• Collecting data to support our ideas was difficult
• Poor communication amongst members
Ethics plays a very important role in the functioning of our society
and to an extent the workplace.
Using the fundamental engineering canons problems can be solved
Through the engineering canons ethical issues and the proper
ethical practice in mechanical engineering would be elevated with
minimal unethical activities taking place.
Ethics, (n.d.) In American Heritage® Dictionary Online. Retrieved
National Society of Professional Engineers. (n.d.) NSPE Code of
Ethics for Engineers. Retrieved from
Nguyen, H.T., Nguyen, H.L., Wang, C. (June 7th, 2012) Dealing with
Unethical Behaviours in Organizations. Retrieved from
Texas A & M University. (June 1992) XYZ Hose Company and the
Case of the Bursting Hose. [PDF Document]. Retrieved from
Wertel, S. (October 2nd, 2008) Fundamental Canons of Engineering.
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