Quiz 16: Engineering Ethics


Ethics helps to differentiate between the right and wrong business practices. It is divided into five categories according to its nature as follows: • Utilitarian • Self interest • Normative • Right based • Environmental Activities of an engineer depend on the utilitarian approach of ethics. This view of morality seeks to maximize the good deed for maximum number of people; hence it provides an ideal way to complete engineering projects for the benefit of society. This view of ethics may sometimes disregard the individual; however by maximizing the efforts engineers can help the society to prosper.

Ethics helps to differentiate between the right and wrong business practices. Dynamic growth of industrialization has given rise to many ethical problems across the world. For instance consider the example of an engineer working in an automobile company, who has to take a decision regarding the design changes of automobile airbag system proposed by his manager. This design change could potentially save the company millions of dollars, but will lower the reliability of the car's airbag system from 99.98% to 99.94%. While this decrease in reliability may seem insignificant, mathematically, this change means that the airbags not deploy properly in three times as many cases as with the higher reliability design. The company has determined that would focus on greater revenue generation with unreliable airbag system and potential lawsuits rather than a reliable airbag system design. Still, the engineer feels that the company's actions in this case are ethically questionable.

Code of Ethical conduct provides the guidelines for desired behavior of an employee, in an organization. The code of ethics might be formal or informal in nature. Consider the example of a construction firm having the formal code of conduct, as follows: • The employees should never make any intentional changes to a project that might go against the wishes of a customer, without the customer's consent, in order to reduce manufacturing costs. • The company expects its employees to provide the most safe and reliable solutions, that would function as intended beyond all reasonable doubt, to products whose faulty use may harm their users. • The company expects its employee contribution towards an open and transparent workplace environment • The employees are expected to inform their managers regarding any problem at the workplace. The engineers haven't received any ethical training at the time of hiring, due to smaller size of the firm. However, they received a booklet summarizing the ethical policies of the company.