Engineering jobs aren’t always just about engineering. Technical functions traditionally focused on building something using different variations in math and science. These jobs have recently been transformed into combining more business functions. In John Hooker’s whitepaper, he states, “Engineers are increasingly involved with startups where they make both business and technical decisions.” Cross-functional teams include members in engineering, sales, production, marketing and warranty. Many engineers today wear multiple hats and are even labeled “project engineers”. Wikipedia defines project engineering as “bridging the boundaries between engineering and project management.” As the role of the technical field has changed over the years, engineers face more and more ethical choices and decisions. Engineers must ethically design and create services to customers.
There are many different professional associations that engineers can join. Some of these associations include, but are not limited to, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Project Management Institute (PMI), The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Each of these organizations has a similar code of ethics for its members.
An example of a code of ethics from a National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) society:
“Engineers, in the performance of their professional duties, will:
1-Hold takes precedence over the safety, health and well-being of the public.
Perform 2 Services only in areas under their jurisdiction.
3-Publish public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
4-Act for any employer or customer as loyal agents or trustees.
5-Avoid misleading actions.
6- Behave with honor, responsibility, ethics and lawfulness to enhance the honor, reputation and usefulness of the profession. “
As soon as a person joins one of these associations, an oath is taken to enforce the code. Members must take the code seriously so that the professional can be committed to his / her employer, customers, suppliers or the general public.
Another ethical engineering practice is to perform tests according to the standards applicable to the technical product or service. Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the European Commission (CE) are all standardization agencies that provide standards of product safety to consumers. Products must be successfully tested to current standards to apply the agency brand to the product. Engineers must conduct tests in a fair and ethical manner. The documentation of the test data should be recorded in a way that can be revised if necessary years later. Test data must be fair, accurate and not forged or altered. Recording failed test data is just as important as successful test data. Test data can be used in court if someone is injured or killed by an agency-labeled product. Accurate and thorough data is essential for a solid business.
Other ethical principles that an engineer may encounter are behavioral. An engineer must maintain a professional work ethic and adhere to the Code of Ethics. One should not be bribed or misled by a seller or customer to receive anything of monetary value. Test data and other information, such as ideas about patents or any other intellectual property, must be treated confidentially. Customers must be able to trust the engineer or engineering service.