Ethical Industrial Engineering Ethics Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


Engineering is a vital profession in the society. This is because it has direct consequence on the quality of life for the society. Every engineer is expected to carry him or herself with the highest degree of integrity when discharging duties. In addition, engineering services need to consider public health and sustainable development.

Failure to embrace this by past engineers led to the establishment of code of ethics that guide all engineers in their day to day execution of services. The code holds engineers accountable for their services and gives guideline on how they are expected to behave when discharging their duties.


Background information

Engineering ethics refer to a set of applied ethical and moral principles that dictate on performance of engineers. The ethics outline obligations of engineers not only to the society but also to their customers and profession. Engineering profession became popular during 19th century.

At this epoch, engineers saw themselves as autonomous practitioners working with big companies. It was hard for companies to manage or control their conduct bearing in mind that they immensely required their services (National Society of Professional Engineers, 2003, para.1).

Conflict rose between employers and engineers as the former tried to gain control over engineers they employed. As the profession continued gaining power in United States, it led to emergence of four engineering societies. By this time, ethics were held on personal level and were not viewed to affect the engineering profession in any way.

By the beginning of 20th century, numerous tragedies were reported due to poor engineering designs. Bridges collapsed as well as railway lines due to shoddy jobs done by engineers. This raised question about conduct of engineers and greatly affected their reputation. To counter the situation and clean their image, engineering societies came up with code of ethics that was to govern their practices in the industry (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2000, pp. 4-8).

The impacts of the tragedies called for engineers to be accountable for any damage suffered by the public due to their negligence. In addition, the society demanded that all engineers had to obtain license prior to them starting to work. To get the license, they had to have met several standards which comprised of skills, education and testing prerequisite (Layton, 1986, p. 72). Today, all engineers working in areas that pose a threat to the public, property, life and health are required to obtain licenses.

There are efforts to ensure that engineers uphold ethics as they discharge their duties. For instance, societies such as American Order of the Engineers and Canadian Iron Ring require their members to vow an oath to defend ethical conducts and they have a ring that acts as a reminder to the members.

Generally, it is hard to come up with simple solutions on matters to do with ethical cases. However, measures are being put in place to help in getting clarity on ethical issues that engineers face in their day to day activities. Efforts are underway to fight corruption and bribery that is rampant in the engineering industry.


Engineering field is a very vital entity in the society. It is hard for any country to develop without depending on services offered by engineers. The objective of this paper is to bring out ethical issues facing engineering field today and look at the established code of ethics that govern engineers. The paper also aims at bringing to the attention what is being done to ensure that the established code of ethics are upheld as well as the emerging ethical issues are dealt with accordingly.

Literature review

The broad standards of code of ethics for engineers cut across the globe. Engineers are expected to ensure that they consider safety and health of the public as they discharge their duties. In addition, they are expected to ensure that they uphold the principle of equitable development. This principle was reached upon after the society suffered great damage in 19th century due to negligence by the engineers (Layton, 1986, pp. 83-91).

Today, all engineers are held accountable for their work and any damage may lead to their licenses being revoked and or facing legal charges. To ensure that engineers are accountable for their work, they are only expected to offer services in areas that they are competent with.

No one is expected to offer services on what he or she has not qualified for regardless of the nature of the service. Besides, engineers are expected to only accept to coordinate a project that they have certified to have been approved by a qualified engineer. Otherwise, they are expected to turndown such a request as it contravenes their code of ethics.

As most customers hardly have knowledge in engineering, they are susceptible to exploitation by engineers. Therefore, engineers are presumed to be authentic to their clients and act as trustees. They are expected to make known all possible conflicts of interest that may lead to them offering substandard services (Petroski, 1985, pp. 137-145). Unless it has been agreed upon by all parties, engineers are not supposed to allow payment from more than one person for a single service.

In addition, they are not supposed to accept valuable rewards from parties that are not directly associated with the project being carried out. Accepting such rewards is deemed to be dishonest and may compromise the quality of their services. It is termed to be unethical for engineers to accept contract from government institutions on which a member of their society works.

Due to the nature of their services and threats they pose, engineers are obliged not to give false information regarding their qualification in bid to be employed. They are required to always present factual information regarding their accomplishments, previous employers and associates when soliciting for employment.

Engineers are not supposed to bribe, ask for a bribe or receive a bribe in order to manipulate reward of a contract by public institutions. This has been a major problem in United States where engineering societies have complained of losing millions of dollars to international engineering companies that bribe clients to be awarded contracts (American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2011, p. 15).

It is the duty of engineers to uphold high values of honesty and integrity. Accordingly, they are required to be accountable for their work and not in any way make an attempt to distort facts. Rather than safeguarding their interests at the expense of clients and employers, engineers are bound to advise their clients on finding out that a project is not feasible (National Society of Professional Engineers, 2007, p. 5).

They are expected to discuss with their employers before accepting outside employments which may adversely affect their current relationship.

All information regarding technical processes or business transacted between an engineer and a client ought to remain confidential. No engineer is expected to disclose it. For an engineer to use such technical process or experience elsewhere, he also she has to seek permission from the former client. To partake in an adversary interest related to a previous project that an engineer had undertaken the engineer has to seek permission from the project’s owner (Harris, Pritchard & Rabins, 2008, pp. 118-123).

It is vital to mention here that engineers are obliged to report to the relevant authority a potential risk to other engineers from an employer or customer who fails to follow guidelines stipulated by the engineers. Failure to report may lead to the respective engineer losing his or her license even if the project is completed without any incidence.

Generally, engineers respond to this obligation by advising the affected customer or employer on potential dangers that may arise due to not following the provided guidelines. Engineers also take the initiative of ensuring that customers heed to their advices.

If they realize that a customer is going on with a project without considering their advices, engineers report the case to the authority for measures to be taken. In case the authority fails to take action, engineers are left with no option but to make the issue public. This is referred to as whistleblowing (National Society of Professional Engineers, 2007, p. 12).


Engineers ought to understand that their work is of great value to the society, thus execute their duties putting public’s interest at heart. To ensure sustainable development and environmental protection, engineers have to strive at increasing their awareness of the world as well as improving their skills and competence (Baura, 2006, p. 227).

It is unethical to carryout projects that pose a threat to the public and also to the environment despite the project’s return to the client and the engineer. Accordingly, it is the obligation of engineers to turn down such offers. It is the duty of every engineer to hold reputation of the career and guarantee its proper discharge.

As more ethical issues in the engineering industry continue emerging, it is the duty of every engineer to continuously expand their knowledge, share it with others and offer chances for others to learn from them. This is by sharing their knowledge and experience with others in learning institutions and especially engineering students.

Engineers should be ready to take responsibility for their work at all time (Baura, 2006, p. 53). Engineers who take advantage of customers who do not have knowledge in engineering should not be let to go away without being punished in the event of damage due to their work.

At times, the damage that arises from structural work does not arise from errors committed by engineers who designed the project. Clients may fail to follow the established guidelines in the name of cutting down on operations cost or desire to finish the project faster (Mike & Schinzinger, 1996, p. 104).

Therefore, it is imperative that engineers monitor the projects they approve if they do not directly partake in their completion to ensure that they are properly done. Engineers should advise their clients accordingly on dangers of failing to follow the laid standards. This will not only safeguard their reputation but will also help clients in cutting down on operations cost.

In case the clients do not take heed to the advice, the case has to be forwarded to the relevant authority or made public. The responsible engineer will be recognized by the public for his honesty and integrity even if the customer may become furious of his or her action.


Ethical conduct in engineering industry calls for all engineers to uphold high levels of honesty and integrity. They are not supposed to enrich themselves at the expense of the public and are held accountable for any damage resulting from their projects. To cope with emerging technological and environmental issues, engineers are encouraged to improve on their knowledge and experience as well as share the knowledge they have with others.

It is the duty of every engineer to ensure that all projects are carried out in accordance with laid down procedures. On identifying that there is a diversion from the laid down procedures, engineers ought to bring it to the attention of customers and advise them on potential dangers. Engineers are supposed to determine the feasibility of the projects and advise their clients accordingly prior to their commencements.

Reference List

American Society of Civil Engineers. (2000). Standards of Professional Conduct. Reston, USA: American Society of Civil Engineers Press.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers. (2011). Code of Ethics of Engineers. Web.

Baura, G. D. (2006). Engineering ethics: an industrial perspective. Burlington, USA: Elsevier Inc.

Harris, C., Pritchard, M. S. & Rabins, M. J. (2008). Engineering Ethics concepts and cases. California: Wadsworth Publishing.

Layton, E. (1986). The Revolt of the Engineers: Social Responsibility and the American Engineering Profession. Baltimore, USA: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Mike, M. W. & Schinzinger, R. (1996). Ethics in Engineering (3rd ed). New York: McGraw Hill.

National Society of Professional Engineers. (2003). Code of Ethics for Engineers. Web.

National Society of Professional Engineers. (2007). Code of Ethics. Alexandria, USA: National Society of Professional Engineers Press.

Petroski, H. (1985). To Engineer is Human: the Role of Failure in Successful Design. New York: St Martins Press.

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