Public Health, Safety and Welfare in Engineering

  • Identify the ethical dilemmas implicit in a situation involving public health and safety.

  • Present possible actions that could be taken in response to a given ethical dilemma conflicting and engineer’s judgment and health and safety of public.

  • Describe and evaluate the probable consequences of these actions.

The NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers states that:
"Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall: Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public in the performance of their professional duties."

Solved Examples

Solved Example:


You have just been hired to work at a chemical plant and you notice that some of the plant waste is dumped in a nearby stream. Another worker tells you not to worry about it since it has always been that way. What do you do?

Remember, your first obligation is to the public welfare. Any choice that does not stop the dumping is inadequate. However threatening the company is not an ethical way of effectuating this change. So informing the proper authorities is the right thing to do.

Correct Answer: B

Solved Example:


You are the engineer in charge of the electrical work on a building project. Your boss asks you to certify some wiring that you think that was done incorrectly. What do you do?

If you think that the wiring has been done incorrectly, your responsibility is to make sure that the job is redone so as not to risk anyone's health or safety. Although it may be wise to notify authorities of your supervisor's intent, to sign your name to the wiring job for any reason would be wrong. (even if the client says so). So the correct response is to refuse to certify the wiring.

Correct Answer: D