When it comes to ethics, no other profession is held to a higher standard than that of an engineer. This is a strong statement to make as there are other professions that adhere to strict Codes of Conduct. However, when viewing the breath and scope of engineering—civil, structural, architectural, aerospace, biomedical, mechanical, electrical, computer, chemical, environmental, to name a few—it becomes clear that no other profession touches the human population in as many ways as the field of engineering.
According to the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), the organization that provides resources and continuing education to Professional Engineers (PE), “Engineers require honesty, impartiality, fairness, and equity, and must be dedicated to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare.” Engineers have a direct impact on the quality of life for all people and this is why such a high standard for ethical behavior is necessary.
The NSPE has identified six fundamental cannons of ethical behavior:
- Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
- Perform services only in areas of their competence.
- Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
- Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
- Avoid deceptive acts.
- Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.
In addition, each state--as do many county and city governments--has a detailed list of what constitutes an ethical violation. When an engineer is suspected of violating one of the codes within a specific jurisdiction, a Disciplinary Board reviews the case. Comprised of both industry peers and lay folk, the Disciplinary Board has the authority to fine, remove, suspend, deny, limit, or reprimand any engineer in violation of the established code.
“Although there are guidelines and regulations, ethical behavior ultimately begins with an individual’s own moral compass,” says Kelley Moran, a licensed Professional Engineer and one of Tec’s principals, during a recent presentation he gave as part of Tec’s in-house education program known as Tec University. Providing staff members with an overview of the NSPE’s Code of Ethics along with real life examples of ethical dilemmas such as nondisclosure, full disclosure, area of competence, and the importance of transparency in engineering, Moran stressed just how high the bar is for engineers. But, ultimately, “It’s personal,” Moran states, “And is based on what each of us thinks is right or wrong.”
Tec lists in its mission statement that, “Tec Inc. engineers are driven by a desire to operate with integrity" and, as such has adopted a Culture of Compliance, ethical compliance that is. Terry Kilbourne, President, sums it up this way, “We can teach anyone their job, but we can’t teach them to be morally good people. That comes from within and is the key characteristic we look for when interviewing candidates.”
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