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Engineering Professionalism and Ethics


As stated in the preamble to the National Society of professional engineers, engineering is an important and learned profession, and so engineers should uphold the highest levels of integrity and honesty.

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It, therefore, spells out the importance of ethics as a system of principles governing morality and acceptable behavior. This essay analyses the situations in the engineering profession in which ethics are considered. Further, risks, which are part of engineering, are also analyzed in this essay.


First, we consider a situation where an engineer leaves a company to go and work for a competitor. It does seem unethical for him or her to lure customers away from the former employer, but this may or may not be ethical depending on how he or she lures the customer.

If they choose to use bribes or other dishonest means, this amounts to unethical behavior. If on the other hand, the engineer persuades the customer outrightly on why he should move then the question of being unethical does not arise.

However, this is not the case when dealing with a case where the engineer wants to use proprietary knowledge gained from the former employer. The National Society of professional engineers’ code of ethics is clear that use of this knowledge in the interest of an adversary is wrong (Presser 45).

This is because it amounts to the use of proprietary knowledge without the owner’s consent and with the interest of gaining a competitive knowledge over them.

However, if the experience is being shared with a noncompetitor and is not patented or is not in the process of being patented, then his or her actions will not be deemed as unethical. This is because such use does not amount to any loss on the part of the former employer.

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Skills on the other hand, which are gained during former employment, can be used in the new employment. This is because skills are acquired through training and do not represent proprietary knowledge.

Nevertheless, there are cases where the ethical side is not so straightforward, like the one where the engineer has prior knowledge of the consequences of a decision (question 2). If I were the engineer, I would not share the information with the research engineer.

This is because it is unethical for the reasons outlined above. However, I would seek to advise my employer on why I think this project will not work, as this is part of my professional obligation.

Risks Risks form a part of engineering projects. They can outweigh the benefits, or the benefits may outweigh the risks. For instance, the space program by NASA is an example of a risky project whose benefits outweigh the risks.

A crash of the space vehicles results in major loses in terms of both cost and lives, as exemplified by the explosion of the shuttle orbiter Columbia in 2003 where 18 people lost their lives. On the other hand, the benefits of the space program are all around us.

This is mainly in the form of technology as is the case where Teflon-coated fiberglass used in the space suits in the ’70s is now used as a permanent roofing material.

The other example is the use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a refrigerant, which resulted in a greater risk to both human health and the environment than the benefits it gave.

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Some CFCs may cause unconsciousness, drowsiness, shortness of breath, confusion, Irregular heartbeat, coughing and sore throat upon direct exposure. Further, the depletion of the ozone layer by CFCs is proven and has a direct relation to global warming and skin cancer.

These risks have proven to be more substantial than the benefits they offered including being un-reactive, non-toxic, non-flammable, and inexpensive. This has resulted in the ban on the use of CFCs.

Works Cited

Presser, Joseph. Ethics as Applied By Engineers. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.

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