Engineering work is rife with ethical concerns, with work that concerns artificial intelligence, data privacy, building construction, public health, and activity on shared environments (including Indigenous communities). The decisions of engineers all have consequences.

An Engineers Australia’s code of ethics does impose ethical mandates, but rising social concerns call for extended ethical skill sets.

Engineering is regarded as a trusted and ethical profession, with a Gallup poll showing that 66 percent of respondents gauging the honesty and ethical standards of engineers as high/very high. Yet ethics is a far-reaching field, and only promises to grow in the face of ethical dilemmas.

The issues involved in the structural catastrophes of Opal Tower in SydneyLacrosse building in MelbourneGrenfell Tower in London and Torch Tower in Dubai can be traced to long-standing fixtures of engineering: combustible cladding, fire safety, structural adequacy, etc. A design and delivery process with poor responsibility and/or accountability has produced poor outcomes.

These issues inspired the Australian Building Ministers’ Forum to commission the Shergold Weir Report, with an ensuing task force to implement its recommendations throughout Australia.

It seems evident that ethics has played a role in recent building issues.

Engineers face ethical questions regarding narrowly framed design commission in a design and build delivery model where their design might not meld well; accepting a commission when the clients provide no proof that the integrity of the design will be preserved; competing to produce “leaner” designs to save cost; issues of contractual clauses; and phoenixing.

The connection of Aboriginal Australians to Country means that engineers to navigate concerns in Indigenous communities. Engineers must negotiate the legal, technical and regulatory mandates of their projects with Indigenous cultural values and requirements. They might not be equipped to navigate ethical scenarios when they come face to face with unfamiliar cultural connections, or regulations that aren’t sufficient.

The sacred sites of the McArthur River Mine. Conventional owners have elevated worries that current mining activities do not shield sacred and cultural heritage sites. Evidence submitted by community leaders supplies insight into the intimate and diverse relationship that conventional owners have with the land.

In contemplating these facts, engineers must assess physical site risks (like acidification of mine tailings and contamination of water bodies) and cultural dangers (such as not identifying all locales of cultural value).

How might we tackle these complex projects? By communicating with traditional communities and by having diversified teams with many worldviews and experiences, as well as strong technical abilities. The expansive field of ethical knowledge supplies the skill sets to try to reconcile the different considerations.

Engineering pupils’ ethical development must be holistic.

The curriculum should include skills/expertise, practice, and mindset.

Ethics should be primary in education; and speaking to that, more than 1,900 Australian engineers and nearly 180 engineering organisations have signed a declaration committing them to hold up all new projects against the need to mitigate climate change.

Future engineers must broaden their minds—and their ethics—in order to build us into the future.

Source: The Conversation.Com

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