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Viewpoint: ICE apprentices

The future of ethics - how would you react to these scenarios?

Earlier this year, we started work on a project to encourage the ethics debate and get the words ‘engineering’ and ‘ethics’ used together more often. Since then it has become clear to us that the word ethics means different things to different people. The most frequently asked question we get asked is “What actually is ethics?!” It seems that we face ethical challenges personally, professionally and as businesses, often without even realising it.

It is becoming widely considered that ethics in engineering will become a fundamental driver in our industry in the next few decades - similar to the way in which sustainability has developed over the past 20 years, from a word people did not understand to one which is inherent in everything we do. It is for this reason that ICE now recognises the significance of being a world leader in ethics.

On 24 October, at One Great George Street, the Institution is launching its Engineering Ethics Toolkit which will assist practising engineers in identifying and tackling ethical challenges. The event aims to encourage members to get involved in the ethics debate whilst also hearing the viewpoints of senior figures in the industry, such as former Atkins chief executive, Keith Clarke, who will be delivering the keynote speech.

In our previous ethics article (NCE 8 August), we presented 2 case studies and asked readers to share their thoughts via ICE’s online forum, where we have received some fantastic responses.

Below are three further scenarios for you to consider. You could begin by asking yourself “What, if anything, would you do in this situation?”

 

  • Health and Safety (Case 1). You have just started working as the sole structural inspector on a residential construction site where you notice a blatant disregard for health and safety. You raise the issue with the contractor who assures you that you will always have safe access to the point of inspection. In any case the project is behind schedule and speed of construction must be ­prioritised.

 

  • Sustainability (Case 2). You are working as a civil engineering consultant and your company has recently won a bid for a large-scale overseas development. You question whether the project has been properly justified due to the lack of a national sustainability framework and whether it fits with both your work ethos and that of your company. You raise this with your line manager who stresses the commercial importance of the project and explains that doing business must take priority in times of recession.

 

  • Equality (Case 3). The board of directors in your company is exclusively male and a female colleague has put herself forward for a vacancy. Some colleagues talk of their concern that the candidate is too inexperienced for the role and that poor performance could jeopardise similar promotions in future.

 

The ICE Apprentices are: Conall Doherty Catherine Inglesfield ­Sanaya Kerawala, Mark Sanders, Hayley Sharp and Richard Smith

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