Ethics in engineering refers to a system of moral principles that are applicable to the professional practice of mechanical engineering. Essentially, the field of engineering ethics deals with examining different obligations that engineers have towards their clients, the society, and the engineering profession as well. Engineering ethics has been one of the most debatable issues in contemporary engineering practice. Professional societies for engineers have moved to bridge the ethical gap between the society and engineers by instituting guidelines or codes of ethics that have to be observed by their members. The main ethical issues in mechanical engineering include environmental protection, sustainable development, offshoring, as well as bribery and political corruption.
Many engineering associations have developed their codes of ethics that bind their members. In some jurisdictions, these ethical principles have ben enshrined into various legislations demanding engineers to uphold high ethical values when practicing their profession (Luppicini, 23). While there may be some slight variations in the codes of ethics from different professional associations, there are also certain general principles that cut across the board. These moral or ethical principles stipulate the obligations of engineers to their clients, employers, the public, and the engineering profession. Generally, engineers are expected to ensure safety and health of the public when practicing their profession. Also, the ethical principles address issues of conflict of interest, sustainable development, competence, and environmental issues.
Nevertheless, despite these moral principles being in place to offer ethical guidance to engineers, there are still some grey areas that create room for dilemmas. For example, one most common ethical dilemma in mechanical engineering is whistleblowing. An engineer has a responsibility to report to the relevant authorities of any risk that is likely to happen to others when the employers or clients fail to adhere to the engineers advice. This whistleblowing responsibility overrides the duty of the engineer to his clients or employers. Failure to report such matters can result in revocation of practicing license (Gorp, 37). Therefore, from an ethical perspective, whistleblowing is seen as a necessary aspect of professional practice that helps to achieve the objective of engineers in protecting the public.
Besides, there are many other ethical challenges that mechanical engineers encounter in their practice. Some of these ethical issues have a technical bearing, while most of them concern business conduct. The most notable challenges is corruption, which may take the form of bribes, meals, gifts and other kickbacks that are meant to compromise the engineers professional competence (McGinn, 24). Part of these corruption issues may be motivated by politics, especially when engineering projects are overstated in terms of the benefits in order to receive approval. The other serious engineering ethical issue is treatment of confidential issues about clients and their proprietary information (Sethy, 32). Moreover, mechanical engineers also grapple with the challenges of conflicts of interest, ensuring legal compliance by their clients and employers, as well as evaluating the impact of their projects on the environment.
In conclusion, engineering ethics has emerged as one of the most fundamental aspects of professional practice. Engineers are expected to observe moral principles in their practice in order to maintain strong relations with their clients, employers, the public, and other engineering professionals. Some of the most common ethical challenges that the engineers face include issues of conflict of interest, corruption, environmental protection, confidentiality, and legal compliance.
Gorp, Anke C. Ethical Issues in Engineering Design; Safety and Sustainability. S.l: s.n., 2005. Print.
Luppicini, Rocci. Technoethics and the Evolving Knowledge Society: Ethical Issues in Technological Design, Research, Development, and Innovation. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2010. Print.
McGinn, Robert E. The Ethically Responsible Engineer: Concepts and Cases for Students and Professionls. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2015. Print.
Sethy, Satya S. Contemporary Ethical Issues in Engineering. , 2015. Print.
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