• professional ethics have a number of purposes,
maintain public respect and trust in the profession
avoid legal problems (criminal and civil)
• The engineering code of ethics should guide the practitioner, but a violation of the code alone would not constitute professional misconduct.
• ethics cases come in different levels of severity, ranging from trivial to real. It is up to the ethical professional to focus as appropriate.
• Some common types of ethical dilemmas are,
1. The worst of two evils: for example, a factory is polluting the local village, but to close the facility would eliminate 50% of the regional employment
2. Ethic or Moral: for example, would you pick one member of your family to send away so that the rest might stay.
3. Suspected Hazard: some problems are suspected but not certain. Is the suspicion enough to act on?
6. Serving Two Masters: Sometimes and engineer is engaged to act as an intermediary by one of two parties in a dispute. Care must not be taken to lean towards the party that hired you.
• This is basically dictated by the “engineers standard of care”.
• Typical categories would include,
b) failure to consider the safety and well-being of the ultimate user or consumer
c) failure to correct a situation dangerous to the public
d) failure to follow guidelines, codes and standards
e) certifying work (e.g. stamped drawings) without verifying the content (this is ignorance as opposed to negligence)
f) if engineering directions are not followed point out the potential outcomes (no ostrich approach)
g) failure to follow the guidelines in the engineers act and regulations
h) only do work you are qualified to do
i) always disclose conflicts of interest (you must not profit from decisions, they must be entirely objective.
j) act in a “respectable way”: (don’t disgrace the profession)
k) observe the limitations of the engineering licence.
l) you should always disclose information when requested officially
m) don’t encourage or assist non-engineers to act as engineers.
• An engineer can be disciplined for acts of misconduct
1. Be fair and loyal to those around you
2. Place public need ahead of all other responsibilities
3. Act with honor and integrity
4. Promote engineering and dissuade detractors
5. Don’t express opinions that are not well supported technically
6. Display professional credentials
7. Develop employer trust by guarding confidential secrets and disclosing any personal conflicts of interest
8. Disclose any interests that might be interpreted as prejudicial in making decisions
9. When employed, disclose any other employment and ensure that professional standards don’t decline.
10. Cooperate with other professionals when working on common projects
11. Act with courtesy and good faith
12. Do not secretly review the work of another engineer, unless they have been terminated
13. Avoid malicious damage of other professionals
14. Don’t give/get commissions to get work
15. Fair pay for work to advance the profession
16. Advance the profession through enabling and supporting others.
17. Disclose misconduct, unethical/unprofessional behavior, etc. when called to do so.
• An engineer cannot be disciplined for an unethical act alone.
• There can be a natural conflict between the duty of an engineer to the general public and the objectives of an employer/client
• An engineer is often privy to confidential technical information about products, processes, etc. And, from time to time will become aware of dangers to an unsuspecting public. Sometimes these are clear, other times not. In these circumstances the engineer will be obliged to act as an advocate and attempt to remedy the situation. If attempts to remedy the problem fail, the engineer is required to report these problems (whistle blow), regardless of personal considerations.
• The conflict here arises from the professional setback whistle-blowing will often create.
• A classic case of whistle-blowing is the space shuttle Challenger (mission 51-L) that exploded as a result of a failed solid rocket booster that ruptured the main fuel tank. Engineers at Morton-Thiokol and Nasa were aware of problems with o-ring seals on the booster. Attempts were being made in both organizations to correct the design flaw. At the time the shuttle exploded the situation had not reached the “whistle-blowing” stage. After the incident there were a number of public disclosures by engineers that resulted in their dismissals. They sued, and won awards for their dismissals (I don’t have details on the whistle blowing suits).
• The basic steps to be followed are,
2. Investigation of problem to form sound technical opinions.
3. Attempt to remedy with employer/client
4. If a “standoff” occurs, then contact the PEO and begin the whistle-blowing procedure. The PEO will generally try to remedy the situation before public disclosure.
• “leaking” information is not part of the whistle-blowing procedure.
The following questions are from old PPE (Professional Practice Examinations) collected over the years. These exams are not copyrighted, but credit for their development and distribution belongs to the PEO. Each candidate will typically receive one copy of a (complete) recent examination paper which will show common test formats and rules. In constructing this list of questions I wanted to give a good set of practice problems, without encouraging method studying, so I have not indicated which questions are repeated, or which year they appeared in.
If anybody has got additional examination questions not included here, I would appreciate a copy so that they may be added to the list. The dates of the previous tests included are,
September 7, 1996 (thanks A. Mahmud)
April 26, 1997 (thanks A. Mahmud)
September 6, 1997 (thanks A. Mahmud)
April 25, 1998 (thanks A. Mahmud)
3.4.1 HOW TO APPROACH LAW/ETHICS PROBLEMS
1. Identify major events and issues.
2. State the applicable laws and precedents.
3. Apply legal principles and precedents to analyze the situation.
4. Consider possible outcomes.
3.4.2 Ethics Questions
Problem 3.1 a) In Britain the practice of professional engineering is unregulated; in the United States it is state regulated; how is it regulated in Canada? Elaborate on your answer with references to the Professional Engineers Act and the Regulation made thereunder.
b) The association of Professional Engineers of Ontario is the self-regulating organization responsible for the practice of engineering in Ontario. What is the principle objective of the organization?
c) To become licensed to practice professional engineering in Ontario you must meet certain requirements. Discuss briefly the five most significant of these.
d) What is the difference between a limited licence and a temporary licence in the practice of professional engineering?
e) You are a practising professional engineer in a manufacturing company. Your division of the company has been transferred into Ontario from Manitoba. What must you do, if anything, to continue your engineering work under these circumstances?
f) How is the practice of professional engineering regulated in the Province of Ontario?
g) Describe how the practice of professional engineering is regulated in the Province of Ontario. Present your answer in the context of Federal and Provincial Legislation as well as Regulation 538/84 made under the Professional Engineers Act.
h) Our code of Ethics is section 91 of Ontario Regulation 538/84. What organization was responsible for preparing these regulations? Under what authority were they prepared?
i) What is a Certificate of Authorization? How is it obtained? How does it relate to an engineering practitioner’s licence? How often must it be renewed?
j) What is the difference between a member of the A.P.E.O. and a licensee of the A.P.E.O.
k) The professional Engineers Act deals with temporary licence holders and limited licence holders. What qualifications must they have to receive their respective licenses?
l) The profession of engineering in the province of Ontario is said to be self governing. What makes it self-governing?
m) You are a professional engineer practising in British Columbia. You decide to take early retirement and move to Ontario, where you hope to find some part-time engineering work. What action must you take before offering your services as a professional engineer in Ontario?
n) Because of the pace of change in today’s society, many people believe that a professional engineer should be required to requalify in some formal way at regular intervals, say every five years, in order to continue to practice. Do you agree? Give reasons for your answer.
o) What is a certificate of authorization for? How is it obtained? Does it expire? If so, on what occasion? Is it transferable? Who or what holds it?
p) Section 86 of Ontario Regulation 538/84 deals with misconduct among professional engineers. Section 91 is the Engineer’s Code of Ethics. What is the relationship between the subject matter of these two sections?
q) What is the principal objective of Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO)?
r) What is the purpose of a Certificate of Authorization?
s) What is your definition of a profession? Does the practice of engineering qualify as such?
t) The term “conflict of interest” is often used. What does it mean in the Professional Engineering context?
u) Are there situations where an Engineer’s duty to the public may be in conflict with the Engineer’s duty to the employer? Cite the appropriate section(s) of the code(s).
v) Differentiate between a limited licence and a temporary licence with respect to Professional Engineering qualifications.
x) Members of the PEO are governed by an Act and a Regulation. Briefly explain the difference between them.
y) Can a member avoid disciplinary actions by resigning his/her membership in the Association?
z) The principle object of the PEO is to regulate the practice of professional engineeringand govern its members in order to serve and protect the public interest. What does this mean and why is it important for engineers to follow it.
aa) When is a member required to use his/her seal? Give an example of when a member should not use his/her seal.
bb) Is a professional engineer required to follow the Act and Regulations if the P.Eng. is employed by the armed forces?
Problem 3.2 Four key professional engineering employees of a firm headed by Engineer A left the firm at the same time following disagreement on certain policies and promptly organized a new engineering firm, B, with the four engineers as the principals. Firm B contacted former clients of Firm A, including some former clients of Firm A which had projects under discussion with Firm A, but for which specific selection or negotiation had not taken place. In some instances one or more of the four engineers had been involved with the former clients of Engineer A while in his employ.
While Firm B was making these contacts to indicate the availability of the new firm for assignments, Engineer A was also making contact with these clients to indicate that his firm was still available for future commissions and retained its capacity to provide proper services despite the departure of the four engineers. He was told by some clients that Firm B had cast doubt on the ability of A to provide quality services under the new circumstances. In his discussions with the former clients Engineer A cast doubt on the ability of firm B to provide quality services.
Discuss the ethics of Engineer A and the four engineers of Firm B as indicated in this case. Such split-offs from firms do occur in engineering businesses from time to time. What advice would you offer to the engineers forming the new company?
Problem 3.3 Engineers of company A prepared plans and specifications for machinery to be used in a manufacturing process and Company A turned them over to Company B for production. The engineers of Company B, in reviewing the plans and specifications, came to the conclusion that they contained certain miscalculations and technical deficiencies of a nature that the final product might be unsuitable for the purposes of the ultimate users, and that the equipment, if built according to the original plans and specifications, might endanger the lives of persons close to it. The engineers of company B called the matter to the attention of appropriate officials of their employer who, in turn, advised Company A of the concern expressed by the engineers of Company B. Company A replied that its engineers felt that the design and specifications for the equipment were adequate and safe and that Company B should proceed to build the equipment as designed and specified. The officials of Company B instructed its engineers to proceed with the work.
Problem 3.4 A government highway department prepared engineering data on alternate routes for a by-pass highway, including cost estimates for three possible routes. The highway department indicated it favored route “B”. An official of a city located close to the proposed route publicly criticized the proposed route “B” because he felt it would endanger the city’s water supply and be a detriment to the development of a lake as proposed recreation area.
A principal of a consulting engineering firm, which had performed the engineering work on a portion of the highway to which the by-pass would connect, issued a public letter, “To Whom Concerned”, which was published in the local press, discussing the alternative routes. His letter stated disagreement with the cost estimates of the highway department and pointed out alleged disadvantages of the proposed route. The letter then suggested a fourth route (“D”) which, he claimed, would be superior to those previously suggested. The newspaper story containing the full text of the letter from the consulting engineer also quoted the city official as favoring route “D” proposed by the consulting engineer.
Is it ethical for a consulting engineer to publicly express criticism of proposed highway routes prepared by engineers of the government highway department and to propose an alternative route?
Problem 3.5 You are a professional engineer employed in the quality control division of a manufacturing company. From time to time your company calls in consultants to run tests on new products before they go to market. One of your job responsibilities is to engage these consultants. Your husband, who is also a professional engineer, has recently left the firm of consultants most commonly called in on this work and has opened his own consulting practice to offer the same services as his old firm. You are a director of your husband’s company. Your husband has asked you to direct the next such consulting assignment to his new company. You are very tempted to do this because you know that he has all of the experience and background to do a good job and that he needs the work and therefore will get on with it promptly.
Can you ethically turn the next project over to his company? If not, what action must you take before his company will become eligible for such assignments?
Problem 3.6 A professor of engineering shares his time at the university between teaching and research projects under contract between the university and a government agency. He also owns an interest in a private research and development company in the community and devotes evening and week-end time to the interests of the company. The private R&D company and the university as well as others are invited by a federal agency to submit proposals for a project, the technical content of which is based in large part upon the research performed by the university for a different federal agency and in which the professor participated. The professor’s background experience, and work on the technical subject matter will give the private R&D company and the university an advantage if he is to be actively involved in the project, either directly or as a consultant.
Can the professor ethically participate in the proposal preparation of the university, his R&D company or both under these circumstances and, if one of these proposers is the successful one, can he participate in executing the project?
Problem 3.7 A, the town engineer, and B, a consultant retained by the town, are collaborating on a study to determine final contours for the town’s existing sanitary land fill site. Their instructions include considerations for ultimate land use, surrounding land use, environmental concerns and topography. They have concluded that using the existing parameters adopted by the town the site will be “full” in three years. Town Council have found this unacceptable because they have not been able to come up with a new site, so have asked A and B to revisit the project to extend the site’s life but still stay within the environmental laws.
The final solution proposed by A and B and accepted by Council extends the life of the site for the requested ten years’ time and stays just inside the limits of the environmental laws, but greatly exceeds the local parameters respecting minimum setbacks and maximum allowable slopes, and provides for a hill more than one hundred feet higher than the local parameters. These local parameters were established as desirable by Town Council but have no official (by-law) status.
Engineer C, who lives in the town, contends that this latest design concept is environmentally unsound. He says methane gas will move into adjacent private property and would also pollute nearby ground water. He questions whether A and B should have agreed to the higher intensity use of the site.
Did Engineers A and B act ethically in going along with Council’s request? Did Engineer C act ethically in publicly challenging the design approach used by A and B?
Problem 3.8 A generation ago common practice was for employees to work for the same employer for a lifetime. Today the practice, particularly in the high tech. professions, trends toward job relocation three or more times during a career. Employers try to gain technical advantage over competitors by hiring experts out of another firm to add to their expertise.
Assume that you have been with Firm A for ten years and that you are now a senior professional engineer in A’s research development division with joint credit for the development of a “hot” new process. You have an offer of employment from one of A’s top competitors at a substantially greater compensation package, including major incentive bonuses related to growth in sales. You suspect the motive behind this offer relates to your involvement in the “hot” new process. The improved emolument package is very attractive to you, but how can you handle the ethics of such a move?
Discuss this situation in the context of Ontario Regulations 538/84 section 86 and 91.
Problem 3.9 Professional Engineer A is employed by the Ontario division of a multinational chemical company. A wide variety of the solvents and paints manufactured by this Ontario division are from formulas developed in the company’s research laboratories in the U.S.A. As the chief engineer of the Ontario division, Mr. A has been requested by a Ministry of Labor inspector to provide the Ministry with information about all the ingredients used in the products turned out by the plant, particularly regarding their risk to the health of the factory workers.
Mr. A knows that a key ingredient in one of the products has been linked to a number of cancer cases among the employees of a U.S. customer. He does not have all details of the U.S. formulas, but his plant manager has told him to give the labor ministry inspector the report he requests from the information which he has in Ontario.
What course of action should he take?
Problem 3.10 Ms. “A”, P.Eng., is the chief quality control engineer of Corporation X which operates a chemical processing plant. The plant conforms fully to local requirements for maximum emission of toxic substances, as established ten years ten years ago. The facility is inspected annually and toxic emissions have always been well below acceptable levels.
However, based on recently published research, Ms. “A” is convinced that the cumulative effects of the low level of pollution from the plant entail a possible risk to public health. She is sure that the public officials would agree and that local requirements would be different if they had known of these studies at the time they were set.
She had taken the matter up with her supervisor and other engineering staff, and has recommended that Company X hold meetings with the local authorities to discuss the matter and, if appropriate, take corrective action. There is some support for her recommendations but because of the costs involved in the resulting modifications to the plant to change the process and the substantial number of lay-offs that would result, the company has decided to take no action.
Has Ms.A any further ethical responsibility in this matter? Discuss fully.
Problem 3.11 You are a Professional Engineer in a consulting engineering firm asked by the City of Devon to assess the effects of a tidal wave. Located at the end of a long, narrow inlet, Devon is in an ‘earthquake zone’. The last one occurred in 1950 when the City was really only a fishing port.
To make sure that the city has an adequate picture of the disaster that could result, it has asked your firm to examine the effects of the 200-year earthquake. Your findings are so startling that the City authorities are appalled. They feel that if the public were to realize the extent of impending damage, mass hysteria might result. As well, because many of the authorities are elected officials and have been in their positions for many years, people could ask why such a study was not carried out years ago, and why adequate planning by-laws were never formulated.
So, you are asked to keep the findings of the 200-year quake confidential, and undertake another study of the effects of the 100-year quake. Still, the results are frightening; and the City now asks you to study the 50-year quake.
Discuss this situation from an ethical point of view. What action will you take as a professional engineer? What advice will you give to the Town Council?
Problem 3.12 Mr. “A”, P.Eng., as a consultant to an urban developer client has prepared preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies for a project, and submitted these to the municipal planner for review and approval. The municipality has engaged consultant “B”, P.Eng., to assist their in-house planner in reviewing these submissions.
Mr. “A” has made several submissions but each time some aspects are found unsatisfactory and the submissions have been returned for change with redefined requirements. Finally Consultant “B”, in the presence of the municipal staff planner, offers to complete the submission for “A”, since he knows what is required.
The cost of work done by the municipality and the municipality’s consultant must be paid by Mr. “A”’s client.
How should Mr. “A” react to this proposal? Was it ethical for engineer “B” to make the proposal?
Problem 3.13 Mr. “A”, P.Eng., a full-time employee of a manufacturing company, has undertaken to prepare engineering plans for a motel complex on a part-time basis. The work includes foundation and structural plans suitable for building permit application. He sub-contracts the foundation design work to others expert in that field and superimposes the structural information on previously-prepared architectural drawings. He sealed these drawings with his professional seal and returned them to his client for permit application to the local building department.
Has he acted ethically in the procedures he has followed in this assignment?
Problem 3.14 A manufacturing company has contracted to develop and produce a completely automate mass transportation system. Public safety would be endangered by a failure of the system, if one were to occur. A series of engineered tests were carried out on the various major components during the development period, but a major subassembly did not perform satisfactorily on its test. The professional engineer who is manager of the department responsible for the project reported the failure to his superiors. He was told, however, that in order to meet the contract commitments the equipment would be shipped to the client without informing the client of the failure to pass the final tests. The engineer objected to this decision and learned subsequently that shipment to the client had been made.
What, if any, further action should the engineer take under these circumstances?
Problem 3.15 An injured workman is involved in a proceeding before a workmen’s compensation board relative to the amount of compensation to which he is entitled. The determination rests in large measure upon the conclusion of the board as to certain technical details related to the accident. The workman asks an engineer to appear before the board as an expert witness, but states that he is indigent and cannot afford to pay the engineer for his services.
The engineer is willing to assist the workman, but asks whether he may ethically do so: (a) on a contingent fee arrangement, whereby he would be paid a percentage of the amount received by the workman, or (B) as a compassionate and gratuitous action.
Is it ethical for an engineer to provide services as an expert witness for an indigent client on either a contingent fee or free basis?
Problem 3.16 A large multinational corporation is planning to build a new plant in Ontario, and services covering design and supervision of construction would be required. Three consulting engineering firms in Ontario were selected and interviewed.
Each firm in its proposal, stated that the fee would be that recommended by APEO for complete engineering services on a project such as the one described.
Later, the corporation asked each firm to state the amount by which it would reduce its fee if the corporation provided the following portions of the overall engineering services:
a) preliminary engineering studies and a report which contain a suggested layout for the plant;
b) all field engineers and inspectors required to supervise the construction of the plant.
A professional Engineer principal from each of the three firms got together and discussed the request and agreed on the amount (the same figure for all three) by which they would reduce the overall fee to allow for the data and field staff to be provided by the corporation.
Was it unethical for these three engineers to confer and agree on an amount to allow for these data and field staff?
Would it have been competitive bidding for each of the firms to determine independently an amount by which it would reduce the fee?
Problem 3.17 A person made an application top the Association of Professional Engineers for renewal of the Certificate of Authorization for his consulting engineering firm while his name was deleted from the register of the Association for non-payment of his annual fees. The application named him as being in charge of professional engineering in the company and as the official representative of the company under the requirements of the Professional Engineers Act. Was this person acting ethically in so doing? If he was not, which article of the Code was he violating/ If at the same time as he made this application he also forwarded his cheque to the Association for the outstanding fees, would this have altered the situation?
Problem 3.18 An Indian Band is planning a vacation resort development on a river which flows through its reservation. The site chosen is just upstream from the water supply intake for a major city. The intake is outside the boundary of the reservation. Because of fear of unacceptable pollution of the water in the vicinity of the intake, the city’s water commission intends to take whatever action is necessary to prevent the development and has so instructed the commission manager who is a professional engineer.
a) What ethical considerations are involved in this case?
b) As the commission manager, what advice would you give your commissioners to resolve this conflict of rights?
Problem 3.19 You are a professional engineer in private practice as a consultant. Before setting up your own business you worked for XYZ consultants. To meet the expanding needs of your business you have engaged the part time services of three technicians from XYZ who reported to you when you worked there. This morning the president of XYZ called to advise you that in his opinion the “moonlighting” work which his technicians are doing for you is adversely affecting their productivity on their full time job at XYZ.
Have you acted ethically by employing these technicians under the conditions stated?
Problem 3.20 You are a professional engineer. You have recently taken employment in the research and development department of a major manufacturing company. While familiarizing yourself with your company’s products you discover that one of these products does not meet the standards required by law. No research is being done on this product now so you have no direct connection with it nor responsibility for it. You have brought your finding to the attention of your supervisor only to be ignored.
What further action should you take?
Problem 3.21 You are a professional engineer presently employed but on the lookout for a more interesting and challenging job. You are attracted by a position offering advertised by A.E.C.L. and mention it to your fellow employee at lunch. She says that she has already applied for that position and that she was led to believe by the interviewer that her application was being seriously considered, although she has thus far received no offer of employment. You believe that your qualifications for this job are equal to or better than your friend’s, but now that you know of her interest in the position you are hesitant to pursue the matter further.
Would it be unethical of you to go after this job under these circumstances?
Problem 3.22 A consulting engineering firm is preparing to submit a proposal to clean-up an area contaminated by a chemical spill during a train derailment. Human welfare and the ecology will suffer unless this clean-up is done quickly and carefully. From past experience, the professional engineers in the firm know the amount of work involved in doing the job properly. The methodology which must be followed will result in an expenditure of about 5 million dollars. Before the proposal is submitted however, the federal government, which is the potential client, issues a press release to the effect that it has budgeted one million dollars for this work. You are the professional engineer in charge of the proposal preparation.
To reduce the level of work to one-fifth of what you think is necessary would compromise what you perceive as your ethical responsibility. What action will you take?
Problem 3.23 Engineer X is a professional engineering principal in a highly regarded consulting engineering firm in town. He is also an elected member and chairman of the public works committee of town council. He took on the chairmanship of this committee at the urging of other town council members because of his extensive knowledge and experience in public works design and construction. For many years Engineer X’s firm has done public works engineering projects for the municipality in competition with other firms. It would appear to be in the public interest for people such as Engineer X to serve their community in this way, but under the circumstances, can Engineer X’s firm ethically continue to compete for such assignments?
Problem 3.24 An extensive and costly flood-control and hydroelectric project has been under consideration by a Canadian Provincial Government for several years. Two different design approaches are being considered; one involves the use of a single high dam, the other a series of low dams.
At a meeting of a committee of the Provincial Legislature expert opinion was presented respecting both alternatives.
A professional engineer representing the Provincial Power Commission reported that studies he and his colleagues had made indicated that, from an engineering standpoint, the more efficient solution is the one involving a series of low dams.
Another professional engineer, representing a private power company, reported that his engineering analysis indicates a more effective and less expensive solution is obtained using one high dam.
Each engineer presented engineering data to support his conclusion and openly disagreed with the analysis and recommendations of the other.
Was there a violation of Ontario Regulation 538/84 Section 86 and/or 91 by one or the other engineer by criticizing the work and the statements of the other engineer in a public meeting? Discuss this situation.
Problem 3.25 After more than 15 years service as a professional engineer in one of the big three automobile manufacturers you have decided to change jobs, and have accepted employment as the only professional engineer in a small but growing small engines company. You report directly to the President, who is a good manager with excellent business development skills but he is not a professional engineer. Whereas in your previous job you had always reported to a more senior engineer, now as the only professional engineer in the company, all engineering decisions must be made by you. On a couple of recent decision you have noticed that your boss is more interested in cost control than quality of product. This has given you some concern about consumers’ welfare. Do you have ethical and/or legal responsibility to take action to avoid future problems? What sections of regulation 538/84 apply?
Problem 3.26 You are the senior professional engineer in the electrical engineering division of a multi-disciplinary consulting engineering firm. Your firm has just been purchased by a major international construction company. The expressed intention in this acquisition is to provide design build services where possible but at the same time to continue to offer consulting engineering services to the public. You have been asked to co-chair a committee with a senior construction manager, who is also a professional engineer. The objective of this committee is to set down guidelines for the operation of the business so that the integrity of both the consulting engineering and the construction activities will not be jeopardized. Sketch out the points which you feel most need clear definition so that the professional engineers involved in the work will be in least danger of breaching Section 86 and 91 of Regulation 538/84.
Problem 3.27 You are a professional engineer. During a recent vacation you took your two sons on a canoe trip into Northern Ontario. One day while taking a break from paddling you were poking around under a railway bridge. One of your sons directed your attention to what appeared to be some misaligned ties on the bridge above your head. He wanted to know why that would be. Although structural engineering is not your specific field of interest it did appear to you to be somewhat peculiar and maybe could even lead to a future problem if the ties were not re-installed properly or at least examined by a qualified person. On the other hand there was no evidence of any recent change in the situation; it could have been that way for years. Do you have an ethical obligation to take any actions under these circumstances? Describe the major points which you feel need clear definition.
Problem 3.28 A rural municipality with a low assessment and a small road budget has been told by the Ministry of Transportation District Engineer that it must replace an old wooden crib bridge to maintain eligibility for certain road grants. The municipal council hired Mr. X, P.Eng. consulting engineer, who prepared designs for a concrete bridge to replace the old timber one. Because of the very bad soil conditions at the bridge location, extensive piling is required to support the foundation for the bridge. This results in an extremely costly structure. Mr. A., P.Eng., a summer resident of the area, learned of the concern of the municipal council over the high cost and, although he is not a consulting engineer, based on his general knowledge of the soil and topographic conditions in the area, suggested that the municipality might be wise to look into the use of a culvert as an alternative to the concrete bridge. As a result of Engineer A’s suggestion, Consultant X was paid off by the municipality and Consulting Engineer Y was hired. In due course the culvert alternative was constructed at a fraction of the cost of the bridge design.
Discuss the ethics of the actions of Engineers A, X and Y in this situation.
Problem 3.29 Professional Engineer A is an experienced expert witness in a particular field. He has an established fee rate for such services. After reviewing the documents of a case concerning a criminal charge, he was asked if he would provide expert opinion in defense of the accused and if so to state his fee, which he did. It later came to light that the accused was being defended under LEGAL AID and that Engineer A’s stated fee was higher than that which LEGAL AID would approve. A felt that without his evidence the accused might be convicted unjustly so he agreed to act at the reduced fee. Comment on A’s ethics in this situation.
Problem 3.30 Professional Engineer A, employed by an aircraft manufacturer, conducted tests on a certain aircraft tail assembly configuration in the company’s wind tunnel. He found that vibrations could occur with that configuration under certain circumstances which would lead to the destruction of the aircraft. Later, at a conference Engineer A hears Professional Engineer B who works for a different company, present a paper in which B describes a tail assembly configuration that A feels runs the risk of producing the same destructive vibrations that he discovered in his earlier tests.
What are the ethical obligations of Engineer A? Bear in mind confidentiality of proprietary knowledge, the engineers obligation to public welfare and the possibility that Engineer B may unknowingly be responsible for a dreadful crash if Engineer A does not disclose what he has discovered.
Problem 3.31 The Provincial Ministry of Transportation proposes routing a new expressway diagonally across the city. A group of local citizens who believe they will be adversely affected by the routing, employed a consulting engineering firm to study the proposed route. Mr. X, a professional engineer with this firm, is the Project Manager and he concludes that the diagonal route proposed by the Ministry could have a negative impact, and recommends an alternative route as being a better choice. Mr. Y, a partner in the firm, appears before the local chapter of the APEA and explains the circumstances of the project. He answers all the questions put to him, and he asks this local chapter to publicly endorse the alternative route his firm is proposing.
Is it ethical for a colleague in the same firm as Mr. X to request the local chapter of the APEO to endorse the project in which he is directly involved?
Problem 3.32 Because of the rapid changes in technology in recent years, it has been suggested that a license to practice professional engineering in Ontario should expire and require renewal at regular intervals of say every four years. The renewal should be contingent on proof of competence. Competence to practice presumably would be determined on the basis of written examinations or on the satisfactory completion of formal continuing education courses at colleges and universities. Such procedures would make it difficult for engineers practicing in areas remote from educational facilities and also for engineers working in a specialty unrelated to courses being offered.
Does the passing of a certain number of formal courses guarantee continuing competency? How do you feel about facing such tests of competency at regular intervals throughout your career? Relate your thoughts on this subject to our Code of Ethics.
Problem 3.33 You are a Professional Engineer partner in a consulting engineering firm. The economic downturn of the past eighteen months has hit your firm hard. You are faced with a reduced work load requiring serious staff cuts. Competition for new projects is very keen.
Mr. X an unlicensed person, with an excellent success record in the sale of manufactured products closely allied to your filed of engineering, has proposed to you that he be appointed Business Development Vice-President of your firm. He suggests a compensation package which would include a relatively low base salary, all expenses and a commission of 2% on all work that he brings to the firm.
You consider that you and your partners are good engineers but not good salesmen. You realize that under the present economic conditions, getting work into your company is most important, but is it ethical to have an unlicensed person soliciting contracts of an engineering nature for a consulting engineering firm? Is this arrangement compatible with the Code of Ethics? What about the compensation package?
Problem 3.34 You are a professional engineer in the new products division of a major manufacturing company. You have been assigned responsibility for a group of people investigating the feasibility of a new product line.
The investigation so far looks good. You are convinced that the product can be built for a competitive price and the market studies which have been carried out identify a definite need. There is, however, one matter that concerns you. It is that your estimate of development costs, both in man hours and dollars greatly exceeds your budget. If you report this estimate to your supervisors you are concerned the project may be dropped. You are urged by some of the engineers in your project team to reduce your estimates so that this won’t happen. They argue that no one can ever estimate accurately what costs will be. They say that historically, in the company, very optimistic estimates have been used and that cost overruns are accepted. On the other hand, you have put a lot of work into these estimates and believe that they accurately predict the costs. If you arbitrarily reduce the estimates, you fear your reputation will suffer when the real costs become known.
If you hold to your estimates, you fear a worthwhile project may be cancelled. This will mean lay-offs to some of your project team-mates and in your view, a lost opportunity for the company. Discuss the ethics of this dilemma.
Problem 3.35 Several thousand people are killed and many times that number are injured every year in automobile accidents in Canada. Despite this dreadful annual carnage, people appear to believe that the benefits are worth the risk. Is society morally entitled to accept such benefits if these benefits entail risks to others?
You are a professional engineer working in the design office of an automobile manufacturer. You are aware of design changes that you believe would make the automobile safer. These changes, of course, would add to the cost of production and make your employer’s product less competitive. Because of the production line process used in the auto industry, design changes cannot be quickly implemented. Are you as a professional engineer acting ethically by continuing to work for this employer if these design changes are not implemented immediately? Discuss this topic as it relates to our Code of Ethics.
Problem 3.36 Many employers of engineers are unfamiliar with Sections 86 and 91 of the Ontario Regulation 538/84 made under the Professional Engineers Act, which set the standard of conduct of the Professional Engineers whom they employ.
We believe these sections are very important to industry. Why? Are they compatible with the goals of industry? What are the possible consequences to an industrial employer of using an unlicensed person in an engineering role within the company?
Problem 3.37 Professional Engineer A is a director of a charitable organization that is engaged in constructing a subsidized housing complex. Engineer A observes that some workmen on the job are violating Department of Labor safety regulations regarding hard hats. He calls this to the attention of the general contractor’s superintendent who indicates that the offenders are staff of the subcontractors and he is reluctant to interfere. Fellow directors of the charitable organization who are not engineers wish to let the matter drop. Should Engineer A concur with his fellow directors?
Problem 3.38 Mr. A, P.Eng. is township engineer in X township. With the help of Mr. B, P.Eng. an employee of the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and a consulting engineering firm, he has completed a study of roadwork to be done over the course of the next five years for his municipality. These works have been given priority numbers from one to twenty-two based on their perception of urgency, number one being the most urgent and number twenty-two least urgent. In an attempt to spread the repair work across the municipality to show the taxpayers an even distribution of activity, the council has asked Mr. A, P.Eng. to juggle the listing so that all the electorate will see something being done in their area.
Mr. A, P.Eng. is having a problem with this instruction because it would mean delaying repairs to a bridge which if not done soon, could become dangerous to the traveling public. However, there is very little additional evidence that he can put to his township council to encourage them to accept his listing of priorities. Discuss the ethical responsibilities of Mr. A, P.Eng., in this circumstance.
Problem 3.39 Your conduct as a professional engineer is governed by the Professional Engineers’ Act and the regulations thereunder which include a code of ethics. Discuss the act and the code as you see them applying to your professional life. It is necessary to have both an act and a code? Do they overlap?
Problem 3.40 You are a professional engineer working at a nuclear plant. You have built a home on a rural acreage with a twenty minute commute to your job. You and your family have settled very comfortably into the rural life-style of your community. It is, therefore, with some concern that you learn your municipality is giving favorable consideration to a proposal by a major automobile manufacturer to establish a plant across the road from your home.
The proposal is for two hundred acres of manufacturing use together with an urban development of some seven hundred and fifty homes to house a major part of the work force.
You see this as a serious intrusion into your quiet rural preserve. A number of your neighbors are organizing opposition to this potential disruption of their personal life. On the other hand, the municipal council members are pointing out in their press release that this will be a major source of taxation and employment for the young people in the township. With the decline in the agricultural industry, they see this as a real boost to the local economy. As a professional engineer, you have been approached by the Township Reeve to head up a council appointed committee to look into the pros and cons of the proposal and hopefully come up with sound arguments in support of the scheme. You are having difficulty with a conflict between your selfish personal interests and the needs of your community.
Discuss the ethics of this conflict and the way that you propose to handle it.
Problem 3.41 As a professional engineer with the XYZ manufacturing company, you are aware that your firm subcontracts a number of components. You are also aware that the supplier of one of the components is having difficulty meeting its delivery schedule. Upon investigating, you find that this supplier has lost its production superintendent and that the owner is trying to do this job as well as manage the company. You also learn upon further investigation that it is pressed financially and generally in need of an injection of both capital and management know how. At the end of your third meeting with the owner, he asks you if you would be interested in becoming a silent partner. You would purchase an interest in the business and would be expected to advise on technical matters. You would not be expected to be available during regular working hours but would put in time on the weekends and in the evenings. The idea appeals to you, but can you do this sort of thing within the constraints of our code of ethics?
Discuss, based on our code of ethics and code of professional conduct, the course of action you would follow.
Problem 3.42 Mr. “C”, P.Eng. is a house building contractor. He owns land that is quite steeply sloping but he wants to build houses on it because of the spectacular views it affords.
He contracts with Mr. “D”, P.Eng. for the design of a suitable subdivision layout. When he priced out the expensive retaining walls required by this design, it became obvious the project would be uneconomical to build. Mr. “C” paid by Mr. “D” for his services and closed the file.
Some time later he was approached by Mr. “E”, P.Eng. who holds a franchise for a retaining wall system which has just received approval by the province. Mr. “E” presents Mr. “C” with a price for design and construction of the wall systems for the subdivision plan previously designed by Mr. “D”. This price makes the project economical so Mr. “C” decides to proceed with the work. He hires an old friend Mr. “F”, P.Eng. to oversee the works and obtain the necessary approvals. When Mr. “D” learns what is happening he is very upset. He believes that only he should be retained for the supervisory work and also he should have been consulted because it is his subdivision design that is being built.
Discuss the ethical aspects of this entire procedure. Did any of these Professional Engineers act unethically?
Problem 3.43 Professional Engineers of Manufacturing Company “X” have prepared plans and specifications for some new machinery to be used in their plant. Company “X” has contracted with Company “Y” to build these machines. Before starting construction of the machines Professional Engineers of Company “Y” checked the plans and specifications provided by Company “X” and believe they include miscalculations and technical deficiencies. They are concerned the product, if built in accordance with the plans and specifications supplied, might be dangerous to the users. These findings were reported back to company “X” which Company replied its Professional Engineers were satisfied the design and specifications were adequate and safe and that the construction should proceed. Based on this response the Senior Officials of Company “Y” directed that the work be done. You are one of the Professional Engineers of Company “Y”. You still think the machinery could be dangerous.
What is your ethical obligation in this case?
Problem 3.44 A professional engineer (P.Eng.) was asked by a friend who owns and operates a driving school to examine the dual braking system which had recently been installed in the school’s fleet of cars. The dual braking system allows the driving instructor to apply the brakes and stop the car if deemed necessary.
The P.Eng. found several deficiencies in the braking system which could lead to failure after a few applications of the instructor’s brake. The P.Eng. reported these findings to the owner friend, but took no other action.
Did the P.Eng. act correctly? Discuss the actions of the P.Eng. in this situation.
Problem 3.45 You are the holder of a Certificate of Authorization (C. of A.), from the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario (APEO) and you are also the Senior Design Engineer in your company which designs hoisting equipment.
Your staff includes several professional engineers, draftsmen and mechanical and electrical technicians. You are on an extended business trip but maintain telephone contact with your company. Your assistant who is a P.Eng. informs you by telephone that a plan you both have worked on must be submitted immediately in order to meet a tender deadline.
Is it ethical for your assistant to submit the final drawings? How would you deal with this situation?
Problem 3.46 A Consulting Engineering firm has been hired by a City Council to do a preliminary analysis of the feasibility of introducing rail transit to its medium sized city. Under the direction of “C”, P.Eng., a principal of the firm, a junior engineer “J”, P.Eng., is processing the data through various computer models.
“A”, P.Eng., an Engineering Associate in the Consulting firm, overhears “C” instructing “J” on the range in certain calibration parameters to be used in the calculations including, income levels, automobile ownership, fuel costs and parking charges. “A” suspects there is a bias in the ranges that “C” proposes. “A” thinks “The boss realizes that the politicians want to take advantage of provincial government grants and so he is using the compound optimum approach”. Engineer “A” takes no action.
Is engineer “C” behaving in an ethical manner? Should Engineer “A” have said or done something?
Problem 3.47 Suppliers of goods and services sometimes show their appreciation to civic employees for their co-operation by giving gifts, particularly at Christmas time. You are a P.Eng. in the office of the commissioner of works for a large urban community. You have just received a gift which you do not consider major but recognize as being well in excess of the category of a “thank you” luncheon. The municipality is discussing publishing guidelines to staff respecting such things but so far has done nothing. How are you going to react to this supplier? What section(s) of the Codes of Professional Conduct and Ethics apply in this case?
Problem 3.48 Consulting Engineering firm XYZ is controlled by four principals. Under these principals there is a group of ten associates, all of whom hold shares in the firm, but at a lesser level than the principals. One of the principals took issue with a decision taken by the majority of the board members and promptly resigned from the firm. A few days later two of the associates also resigned from XYZ and joined the departing principal in the formation of a new consulting firm ABC.
The new firm ABC quickly produced a brochure to promote its services and as well as distributing it widely to likely prospects, began a campaign of personal calls on potential clients, including some with whom the individuals had worked while acting in an engineering capacity with firm XYZ. The remaining principals of XYZ were upset when they learned that the new firm was offering services to their clients. They filed a complaint with our association claiming that the principals of ABC were acting unethically.
Do you believe that they were behaving unethically? If you were a principal in the new firm ABC how would you proceed to develop clients?
Problem 3.49 In the past three years competition has become extremely keen in almost every industry as a result of the global economic down turn. Companies are surviving because of the competitive edge they can gain over others in the same market area. Engineers are moving from company to company primarily because they can bring new ideas with them. You are a P.Eng. in company A. You recently presented a paper at an industry conference in which you discussed work you had done on a specific product. The technical press gave your paper quite large coverage following this meeting. Since then you have been approached by three of your employer’s competitors with employment offers. It is obvious to you that they want you because their employer’s product is superior to theirs, largely because of your work on it, but it is not common knowledge just what the added ingredients are. One company in particular is being very aggressive with a very attractive proposal ties to increases in sales which this company assumes your added input will generate.
How do you deal with such matters from the point of view of our codes of conduct and ethics?
Problem 3.50 You are a P.Eng. in charge of production in a factory which galvanizes steel. In this process the bare steel parts are cleaned and then dipped in a large steel tank containing molten Zinc. The Zinc coats the steel and provides protection against corrosion. The factory has only recently been constructed and, in the main, the workers are inexperienced. In order to comply with the relevant health and safety regulations you have advised your superior that:
a) A safety committee must be formed
b) Safety procedures must be established, published and put into practice
c) Safety notices must be posted
d) Safety classes must be held
e) Safety training must be given to the workers
f) Safety clothing must be provided
Your superior tells you that since this is a new company struggling for survival in a weak economy, there are no funds to finance your safety proposals.
What is your ethical responsibility?
Problem 3.51 Professional Engineer “A” has embarked on a 5 day cross country tramp and camp trek with two younger relatives. The trek is expected to cover about 100 kilometers of rugged terrain. On the first afternoon of the trip they encounter a beaver dam that appears to be in poor condition. A heavy downpour could cause it to break out and send flood waters to the area downstream. The map shows that downstream there are a couple of beaver dams and a highway bridge, before the stream empties into Spruce Lake. Because of the steepness of the terrain P.Eng. “A” is concerned that such a flood could wash out the other beaver dams and might even cause damage to the highway bridge. “A” comments that they should probably notify the Ministries of Transport and Resources when they get home.
Was it necessary for “A” to do differently to be ethical?
Problem 3.52 Customer “A” has hired a licensed gas contractor to install a high efficiency gas furnace in his home. Soon after the furnace is installed “A” discovers that the rated heat capacity of the furnace is below the estimated heat requirement for the house. The contractor says this is easily rectified by operating the furnace above the manufacturer’s rated capacity. The contractor makes the adjustments required to meet the estimated heat needs.
Customer “A” becomes concerned and writes a letter to the furnace manufacturer outlining the situation. This letter arrives on the desk of “B”, P.Eng.
Does “B” have an obligation to reply to “A” and to contact the gas contractor? If so, what are “B”’s ethical obligations to “A”? Does “B” have obligations under the code of conduct to either “A” and/or the gas contractor?
Problem 3.53 You are a P.Eng. responsible for the design an manufacture of an electrical switch, in a Canadian manufacturing plant. A group of users claim that the switch has malfunctioned and has started fires in their homes. A government agency in the United States has carried out tests on this product which indicate that under certain conditions the switch can malfunction and cause a fire.
All your in-house testing indicates that the switch is safe and reliable. The switch has passed all required Canadian standards tests. The users demand that the switch be withdrawn from the market.
Do you have an ethical responsibility to take further action? What further action do you take?
Problem 3.54 You are a Professional Engineer employed by a management consulting firm. Your present assignment is to find ways of speeding up the production line in a factory that manufactures skin lotion. As part of your investigative procedure you have been reviewing confidential company documents and, completely by accident, have found that the manufacturer is using small quantities of a known carcinogen in the lotion. You further find that there is no reference to the ingredient in the description of the product, or in the reporting literature which is provided to the government inspecting agency. This information, which you have stumbled upon, has no bearing on the assignment which you are doing.
Do you have an ethical obligation to take some action about this confidential information? If you do, what action would you take?
Problem 3.55 (Source T. Elio) Consulting Professional Engineer Smith is a member of a religious congregation. The parking lot and driveways associated with the facilities of this congregation are in deplorable condition and must be totally rebuilt. With the concurrence of P.Eng. Smith’s partners, P.Eng. Smith has volunteered to donate the time and expertise necessary to provide all the engineering services required including that for drainage, structures and surfacing and to prepare the documents for tenders for the work at no cost to the congregation. Prior to making this undertaking, P. Eng. Smith sought and received the approval of the partners in the consulting company. The offer was accepted by the Church’s Board. The Church Board asked P. Eng. Smith to submit a statement of account based on the normal fee for such work so that the treasurer could give P.Eng Smith a receipt for tax purposes.
Consulting Engineer Watkins from a different firm, heard of this arrangement and verbally attacked P.Eng. Smith for unethically depriving other members of the professional opportunity to compete for work.
Refer to our codes of Professional Conduct and Ethics. Based on these codes, in your opinion, have either P.Eng. Smith or P. Eng. Watkins or both acting improperly? Give the reasons for your conclusions.
Problem 3.56 Chi is a chemical P.Eng. licensed with the PEO. For the last five years Chi has been working for a Federal government department in a remote post in the Northwest Territories studying atmospheric conditions and has recently been relocated to Ottawa. Since Chi’s departure the post has been shut down. All infrastructure has been left in place and most of the supplies and equipment remain as well.
Chi’s department has hired a consulting engineering company to study the costs of dismantling the post and remediating the environmental impact caused by the post’s operations. The study projects the clean-up costs in the order of ten million dollars which far exceeds the department’s budget for the project. The department decides to proceed with the lesser cost of dismantling all above-ground infrastructure and removing all visible equipment and supplies and restoring the ground surface to its original condition. The removal of buried equipment (including fuel tank) and subsurface remediation will not be undertaken since it is the major cost component.
Chi makes some enquiries and learns that the department has justified this omission on the basis that it is located in a remote area and its impact on the environment would be slight. Chi believes it should be cleaned up since Chi is aware that some surface tanks leaked while Chi was at the post and Chi suspects that th underground tanks may also have leaked.
What should Chi do? Should Chi have done anything while employed at the post?
Problem 3.57 The Provincial Ministry of Transportation proposes routing a new expressway diagonally across a large northern Ontario city. A group of local citizens who believe they will be adversely affected by the routing employed a consulting engineering firm to study the route. Lambda, a P.Eng. with the firm, and the Project Manager, concludes that their diagonal route proposed by the Ministry could have a negative impact and recommends an alternative route.
Rho, a partner in the firm, appears before the local PEO chapter and explains the circumstances of the project. Rho answers all of the questions asked. Rho requests the local chapter to publicly endorse the alternative route being recommended by the firm.
Has Rho violated PEO’s codes in any way? What should be the actions of the local chapter?
Problem 3.58 Upsilon is a professional engineer who has been employed in the computer department of a large corporation for two years. The department comprises four engineers (including Upsilon) and some non-technical staff. The department has been given the task of implementing a major computer software program throughout the company. Compubright, a major software firm, has been selected to provide the main component of the new system. Upsilon, and the rest of the computer department, have been working closely with representative from Compubright to modify its proprietary software to suit the specific needs of the company.
Towards the end of the implementation process two of the department’s four engineers tender their resignation from the company. Upsilon learns from the two, in confidence, that they have left to join Compubright for more lucrative positions.
The departure of these two engineers substantially increases the work load for the rest of the department and there is no relief in sight since the company has been downsizing its operations. Upsilon is considering leaving the firm once the implementation is complete; particularly since Upsilon’s position may become redundant at the end of the implementation. Compubright makes a generous offer to Upsilon with the condition that Upsilon must accept and leave the company prior to completing the implementation. other than this offer the job prospects for Upsilon appear dim.
Should Upsilon accept the offer? What obligations does Upsilon have to the firm? Discuss the conduct of the other two engineers with regards to PEO’s Codes of Ethics and Conduct.
Problem 3.59 You are a senior professional engineer who, until last month, were one of two equal partners in a consulting engineering firm. Both of your names appeared on your company’s Certificate of Authorization. After a number of prosperous years together you mutually agreed to dissolve the partnership to begin your own firms.
In your first month of business you received a call from a building management company seeking your engineering services. The company, Buildex, has recently purchased a building from Rentsom, Inc., a previous client of yours during your partnership.
The building in question requires some mechanical and electrical retrofitting due to aged equipment and facilities. You are aware of the required retrofit since you and your previous partner prepared the retrofit design last year for Rentsom (and were fully paid). Buildex explains that they have sought your services since your stamp appears on the retrofit design drawings of the permit application. The building department will not issue a permit to Buildex unless they have approval from you or Rentsom.
Buildex seeks your approval and your services for some modifications to the design and also reuqests your services for inspection of the contract work. This will be your first project as a sole proprietor and you are eager to accept it.
Are there any hazzards in accepting this project?
What actions should you perform regarding your professional ethics and conduct prior to proceeding?
Refer to the relevant clauses of the two codes in your answer.
Problem 3.60 You are a senior Professional Engineer registered in the Province of Ontario. You live in Ontario and work for a large interprovincial gas supply company which is based in Alberta. Your job duties include the review of technical Company reports for its Ontario operations. The company’s solicitor requests you to review a report on a natural gas pipeline failure which was prepared by the company’s Alberta based engineer. The failure occurred under a wheatfield in Alberta not far from the Company’s plant. At a later date you may be required to present your review to an Alberta court and to defend any comments you made regarding the report. To correctly review the report requires that you inspect the site of the failure.
Would you accept this assignment as part of your regular duties without reservations or restrictions?
Are there any actions you must take before working in Alberta?
Would your answer be any different if the report was prepared by a consulting firm which was no longer retained by the Company?
Cite relevant sections of the Code of Professional Conduct and Code of Ethics.
Problem 3.61 Iota is a professional engineer employed with Manutex Inc., a manufacturing firm. As part of its operations Manutex subcontracts a number of its components from other manufacturing firms. Iota is aware that Micron Inc., a long time supplier of one of the components, is having difficulty meeting its delivery schedule. Upon investigating, Iota finds that Micron has lost its production superintendent and that the owner is trying to do this job as well as manage the company. Upon further investigation Iota finds, that, as a result, Micron is having financial difficulties and is in need of an injection of both capital and management expertise.
At the end of the recent monthly meeting Micron’s owner asks Iota to become a silent partner. As a silent partner Iota would purchase an interest in the business and would be expected to advise on technical matters. Iota would not be expected to be available during regular working hours but would put in time on the weekends and in the evenings. The idea is very appealing and would help Micron meet its obligations to Manutex. Can Iota accept this offer?
What is the course of action that Iota should follow?
Problem 3.62 Your firm is asked by a nearby city to assess the effects of a tidal wave. Located at the end of a long narrow inlet, the city is in an earthquake zone, although the last one occurred in 1 970 when the city was only a fishing port. To make sure they have an adequate picture of the disaster that could result, they ask your firm to examine the effects of an earthquake whose magnitude is likely to be exceeded only once in 200 years (a 200 year earthquake). Your findings are so alarming that the city authorities are shocked, and they believe that if the public were to realize the extent of impending damage, mass hysteria would result. Further, because many of the city authorities are elected officials and have been in their positions for many years, people could ask why such a study was not carried out years ago and why earthquake planning by-laws were never formulated.
As a result, you are asked to keep the findings of the 200 year earthquake confidential and to undertake another study with the reduced design magnitude of a 100 year earthquake. The results are still frightening, and the city asks you to further reduce the earthquake design magnitude to a 50 year earthquake. The city then incorporates the findings of your study of the 50 year earthquake in its disaster plan but makes no reference to the other two scenarios.
Discuss this situation from an ethical point of view. What action will you take as a professional engineer? What advice will you give to the city council?
Problem 3.63 a) Describe the significance of clause 72-(2)(g) from Ontario Regulation 941
b) Does the Professional Engineers Act apply to person other than Professional Engineers? Describe.
c) Frequently an engineer is asked to provide specific design details related to his/her discipline (structural, electrical, mechanical, etc.) for a project that is being designed by an architect. It is not uncommon that these design details can readily be shown on the architectural drawings and often are. Are there any risks or responsibilities associated with this practice? What would you do if asked to provide your design on the same drawing as the architect’s?
d) If a member has been convicted of a criminal action can the Association discipline that member for that conviction? If so,.under what circumstances?
e) The Act and Regulations describe six requirements that must be met in order for an applicant to become a Professional Engineer. List four of these and briefly explain their relevance.
Problem 3.64 The municipality of Penlan has recently been instructed by the Provincial Government Ministry’s District Engineer that the municipality must replace a deteriorated wooden crib bridge to maintain roadway safety. The municipal council hired consulting engineer Gamma, P.Eng., who then prepared a design for a concrete bridge to replace the wooden bridge. Because of poor subsurface conditions at the bridge location, extensive work is required to make the bridge foundations satisfactory. This results in a very costly structure.
Beta, P.Eng., a resident of the municipality, has learned of the concern of the municipal council over the high replacement cost and suggests to the municipality that they may be wise to look into the use of a ’soil-steel’ sure as an alternative to the concrete bridge. Beta does not hold a certificate of authorization but does work for a company that manufactures the ’soil steel’ structures and is thus knowledgeable in this field.
As a result of Beta’s suggestion, Gamma was paid in full for the design and released. Professional engineer Mu was then hired by the Penlan council. Mu prepared the alternative design and the ’soil-steel’ structure was constructed at a fraction of the cost of the expected concrete design.
Discuss the ethics of the actions of professional engineers Gamma, Beta and Mu in this situation.
Problem 3.65 Fibretex Inc. is a Canadian based international company which manufactures products from wood fibres. One of its plants, located in a developing South American country, chemically processes wood fibre. Professional Engineer Kappa, (licensed in Ontario) has been transferred from Ontario to the post of manager of the plant. Shortly after arriving Kappa finds that the plant is using technology that is 20 years behind that of developed countries. Kappa is aware that the equipment was replaced in Canada as a result of more stringent regulations. It was found that the discharge from the older process caused the formation of a chemical in the receiving waters that interfered with the reproduction of certain aquatic organisms.
Knowing this, engineer Kappa conducted tests on the discharge of South American plant and found a similar composition of chemicals which led to the problem in the 80’s. After researching the country’s regulations Kappa found no reference to this situation and, in fact, no standards existed for this process. Upon reporting this to the superior, Vice-President Zeta, Kappa was told not to worry, "..the process met all of the standards in the host country and modifying the process would be costly and therefore an undue burden to the client."
Kappa was not comfortable with this position and sought advice from his friend and mentor Professor Sigma, P.Eng. Sigma counselled Kappa that, although Sigma empathized with Kappa’s situation, ensuring that the country’s standards be met should be sufficient.
What are Kappals obligations? What is Kappa required to do? Was Sigma’s counsel wise? Is Sigma obligated to Kappa and the company in any way?
Refer to the Codes of Ethics and Conduct in your answer bearing in mind that Kappa is a member of PEO but is living and working in another country.
Problem 3.66 You are an Ontario P.Eng. who has been asked by an inventor to report on the safety, efficiency and reliability of a metering device for controlling chemical additions in a water treatment plant. Part of your task will be to review a report on a competitor’s product that was prepared by a P.Eng. for that competitor.
a) Are there sections of the Ontario Professional Engineers Act which could prevent you from accepting this assignment?
b) If you undertake the assignment and find that the device can be hazardous, what action do you take?
Problem 3.67 Professional Engineer Omicron is an employee of.a government body. Omicron is responsible for the review of proposed engineering related works that are overseen by the government. At a party, a friend asks Omicron to provide engineering design services for a modification to his manufacturing plant. In consideration of Omicron’s services the friend offers the use of his/her cottage resort, free of charge, for Omicron and family during their vacation. After some consideration Omicron accepts the offer and proposes that the design could be performed during Omicron’s upcoming family vacation.
Omicron then seeks permission from his/her boss, also a Professional Engineer, and receives it on the basis that it not interfere with Omicron’s work. Omicron proceeds with and completes the design work during the vacation period and presents it to the friend. Some weeks later the very design appears on Omicron’s desk for approval. Apparently, and previously unknown to Omicron, a minor component of the design required approval by the government body that employed Omicron.
Was Omicron’s action ethical? What should Omicron do? Given that Omicron works for a government body was the boss ethical in giving permission to Omicron?
Problem 3.68 You are an Ontario P.Eng. working in a mid sized consulting engineering company. You have a young family and have recently purchased a house in a neighborhood that both you and your spouse have dreamed to own. Adjacent to your neighborhood, and quite close to your home, is a vacant lot which has been designated for development. The developer is proposing a multi-storey mixed-use building. The local resident’s association, of which you are the vice-chair, is strongly opposed to the development since it is expected it will have a negative impact on your quiet neighborhood. You share the concern and head the drive to prevent the development.
After a number of meetings with the civic council, the developer and the resident’s association you learn that your firm has been engaged by the developer to design a major component of the building. Your boss has asked you to manage this project.
Discuss the ethical implications of this situation.
Problem 3.69 a) Can Professional Engineers advertise their services to the public? If so, what are the restrictions, if any?
b) What are the consequences, if any, to a lay person who claims to be a P.Eng. and performs professional engineering work?
c) What are the consequences, if any, to a professional engineer who does not keep his/her licence permanently displayed in his/her place of business?
d) Are there any risks involved in creating an electronic image of your stamp? Is the risk any different if you also create an electronic image of your signature with your stamp?
e) What does ’conflict of interest’ mean?
Problem 3.70 Eta is a Professional Engineer whose years of experience have resulted in Eta being called as an expert witness for a number of court cases. Eta has an established fee rate for this service which is in accordance with the PEO’s Schedule of Suggested Fees. Legal counsel has asked Eta to act as an expert witness in a criminal court case to provide opinions for the defendant. Eta reviews the file and prepares an offer of services, stating the fee, which counsel accepts. However, counsel advises Eta that the case is being defended under ’Legal Aid’ and the fee is higher than ’Legal Aid’ will approve.
Eta feels that the expert evidence is crucial to the defendant and, without it, it is likely the defendant will be convicted unjustly. Eta agrees to reduce the fee to that approved by ’Legal Aid’ and is retained by counsel.
During the trial it becomes apparent that the reduced fee will be insufficient to cover Eta’s costs. Counsel offers to pay the full fee, as per the original offer, if the defendant is successful. If unsuccessful, Eta will receive the reduced fee. Eta accepts this offer since there is now a chance to receive payment in accordance with the Schedule of Suggested Fees.
Discuss Eta’s decision with regard to the code of ethics and section 72 of O.Reg. 941.
Problem 3.71 a) Article 77-8 of the Code of Ethics obligates practitioners to "expose ... unprofessional, dishonest, or unethical conduct by any other practitioner". Knowing that such a report may damage that engineer’s reputation, discuss whether this article is consistent with sentence 77-7-iii.
b) One aspect of a profession is that it is self regulating. Describe what this means. How does the engineering profession achieve this?
c) Does a consulting engineer have any more privileges than a professional engineer who is not a consulting engineer? Are there any further obligations?
d) What are the consequences of a professional engineer sealing plans that were not prepared or reviewed by him/her?
e) Section 1 2 of the Professional Engineer’s Act prohibits a person from engaging in the practice of professional engineering unless licensed. Are there any consequences if a corporation engages in the practice of professional engineering?
Problem 3.72 You are an environmental engineer with P.Eng. status employed in the petroleum industry and have been active in promoting environmental issues in your community for some years.
You are aware that on the site proposed for a new low cost apartment complex there was a toxic spill 25 years ago. You have attended the local council meeting and know that there has been no mention of this toxic spill in any information given to council.
The community has been anxiously awaiting this development since it will bring much needed housing for lower income families.
Do you have an ethical responsibility to inform council of your understanding of the history of the site? Discuss this, and any other relevant issues, in relation to the Code of Ethics and Professional Misconduct.
Problem 3.73 Psi is a consulting engineer operating a consulting engineering practice. Psi’s client, Constructex, asks Psi to design a reinforced concrete porch for a large house he is building for his client. The project is 500 km from Psi’s office (still in Ontario) but is close to Constructex’s office. Psi accepts the job and prepares the design which receives the required approvals from the building department.
A few weeks later Psi receives a call from the building department requesting an inspection of the porch during construction.
The inspection of the porch will require either an air flight or a drive with a one night layover. The construction cost of the porch is estimated to be $2,000.00 and Psi’s estimated cost to inspect the work is $1,500.00. When the design fee is added, the total design/inspection costs are greater than the construction cost.
Is it fair that Psi performs this inspection? Is it fair that Psi doesn’t? What should Psi do?
Problem 3.74 You are a P.Eng. and have been assigned the position of manager for a new project. One of your first tasks is to estimate the time and cost to complete the project. You discuss your preliminary estimates with a few senior engineers who suggest you lower the estimates. In their experience many earlier projects would have been cancelled if their true costs had been known at the planning stage. The estimates for these earlier projects were reduced and they were successfully completed, even though the time and cost exceeded the estimates.
With this in mind, you review your estimates looking for errors or ways to reduce the costs and time. Your review justifies only minor changes which have little impact. You fear that some people in your department may be laid off if the project does not proceed. However, you are not comfortable with reducing your estimates. You must make a decision by the end of the week.
Discuss how you would proceed and what decision you would make. Refer to the applicable clauses in sections 72 and 77.
Problem 3.75 a) The Profession Engineers Act does not explicitly restrict professional engineers from practising outside of their discipline. In fact, some engineers do so. How does the Act deal with the matter?
b) The professional Engineers Act establishes a number of committees. Two of these are the complaints committee and the discipline committee. Briefly describe the function of these two committees.
c) Under what conditions can professional engineers advertise their services to the public? Are there any restrictions to the form and content of the advertisement?
d) Explain the implications of clause 72-2-g of Ontario Regulation 941. How does the clause affect professional engineers?
e) What is the professional engineer’s stamp? When and why is it used?
Problem 3.76 You are a Consulting Professional Engineer. For more than 15 years you have worked exclusively on environmental matters. Recently you conducted an environmental assessment for a residential development proposed along the shore of Lake Latouche in the Town of SouthHead. Your client for this work was the Town of SouthHead. The project has been completed and you have received payment for your work.
A neighbouring, Eastni, also borders on part of Lake Latouche. Eastni has requested that you carry out an environmental assessment of Lake Latouche as it relates to the lands in Eastni.
Can you ethically undertake this work? Are there any restrictions on the use of data which you gathered when working for SouthHead?
At the same time, the Lake Latouche Cottager’s Association wishes to retain you to represent it at a proposed Ontario Governmental Environmental Hearing. One of the directors of the Association is an acquaintance of yours from your school years.
Can you represent the Cottager’s Association? In the event that you do, what information can you use and how should you determine your fee structure?
Problem 3.77 Kappa hires Mu, a Professional Engineer, to design a freight/passenger elevator. Mu develops a design and meets with Kappa to discuss it. The two disagree over the resulting design. While Kappa feels that the design could be simplified, Mu believes that a simpler solution could endanger the public. Kappa demands that Mu turn over the drawings to Tau, a professional engineer who has agreed to complete the project as Kappa wishes. Kappa is willing to pay Mu for the drawings and the work completed thus far, but Mu refuses to give Kappa the drawings.
Is Mu obligated to give Kappa the drawings? Does Mu have any other obligations or responsibilities? Discuss Tau’s agreement with Kappa as it relates to the Code of Ethics and definition of Professional Misconduct.
Problem 3.78 Upsilon is an engineer in training (EIT) with three years of engineering experience in an environmental consulting engineering firm. Eta, the professional engineer who supervises Upsilon, directs Upsilon to sample the contents of steel storage drums located on a client’s property. Over the years, this client has brought a substantial amount of work to the firm and helped it stay in businessduring the lean recession years. From the look and smell of the drums, Upsilon suspects that and analysis of the samples will show hazardous waste in the drums. Upsilon knows that if the substance contains hazardous waste the regulatory authorities mst be notified.
Upsilon informs Eta of the likely contents of the drums and asks what to do next. Eta instructs Upsilon to report the presence of the drums and that samples had been taken, and not to do the analysis. eta suggests that the analysis would normally be done at this stage in the project but the local labs are all too busy. Since the client does other business with the firm, Eta intends to tell the client where the drums are located and that they may contain questionable material and to suggest that they be removed.
Did Eta’s actions fulfil an engineer’s professional obligations and responsibilities? Should Eta have done anything further? Does Upsilon have any obligations to fulfil, given that Upsilon is an EIT?
Problem 3.79 Lambda, the owner of a development company, is in the process of developing a structure on a parcel of land in a rural area of south western Ontario.
Lambda entered into an agreement with Consultex, a consulting engineering firm, to undertake the construction supervision on a ‘payroll plus’ basis. Consultex assigned P.Eng. Epsilon to the supervision. Epsilon assigned a small staff to the site to inspect and supervise the work. Epsilon made regular visits to the site to meet with the staff and supervise the work. Epsilon made regular visits to the site to meet with the staff and supervise the work.
Lambda was raised in a nearby rural area and was eager to help the local economy by involving local workers, including some of Lambda’s relatives. Lambda called Epsilon to a meeting and urged that local help be added to the inspection/supervision team. Lambda willingly offered to bear all extra costs associated with the extra staff. Epsilon indicated that the work was adequately supervised and the increased costs could not be justified. Epsilon was concerned that such a commitment would create problems and drive up the engineering fees which could damage Consultex’s reputation. Furthermore, Epsilon threatened to withdraw from the agreement, if Lambda insisted.
What problems might have arisen? Was Epsilon’s action ethical? Relate your discussion to the Code of Ethics and definition of Professional Misconduct.