In terms of their personal attributes, engineers should be natural problem solvers (Johnston, McGregor, & Taylor, 2000).
Because modern engineering involves such powerful and dangerous forces, professional engineers have a profound ethical responsibility to establish appropriate principles to ensure safety. The consequences of failure in engineering can result in injury or death to human beings, or even to entire human communities (Vee & Skitmore, 2003). For example, bad engineering decisions in bridge, highway, and building design and construction can threaten the lives of thousands of human beings every day. To protect society from poor engineering, the field has established formal educational requirements and a test of professional competence. Professional engineering licenses require satisfaction of qualifying educational programs and a minimum score on an objective licensing exam (Johnston, McGregor, & Taylor, 2000).
Once in professional practice, engineers must also adhere to the code of ethics used to establish important standards and safeguards at every level of engineering (IEA, 2000; Harris, Pritchard, & Rabins, 2008). In addition to human safety-related issues, engineering cods of ethics also outline many rules that ensure honesty and ethics at every level of the profession. That includes business decisions and fiduciary responsibilities to clients as well as environmental responsibility, just to name a few areas covered by modern professional engineering codes of ethics (IEA, 2000; Harris, Pritchard, & Rabins, 2008).
Engineers fulfill essential roles in modern society. They are responsible for designing and monitoring the construction of all major technological applications of science. Modern engineers share a basic educational background as well as general aptitudes and abilities, but they receive specialized training in many different fields. Many modern industries would be entirely incapable of operating without engineers.
However, the importance of engineering and the dangers associated with engineering failures establish the need for appropriate formal ethical rules for the profession. The recent Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the current situation involving Chilean miners trapped underground illustrate the dangers of engineering mistakes. More specifically, the Deep Water Horizon disaster illustrates that engineering ethics goes far beyond technical knowledge. It also includes the moral responsibility not to make business decisions that value profit margins over human safety and environmental welfare.
Harris, CE., Pritchard, MS., and Rabins, MJ. Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases.
(2008). Cengage Publishing.
Institution of Engineers Australia (2000). Engineers Australia Code of Ethics. Accessed 1 Sept 2010, from:
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Johnston, S., McGregor, H., and Taylor, E. “Practice-focused ethics in Australian engineering education.” European Journal of Engineering, Vol. 25, No. 4;
Vee, C. And Skitmore, CM. “Professional.