To practice as a Professional Engineer a Certificate of Authorization must be issued by Professional Engineers Ontario, by accepting this certificate you agree to abide by the legal and ethical responsibilities of a professional practice. The Professional Engineers Ontario Code of Ethics (PEO, 1990) outlines the regulations and responsibilities of a practicing engineer. In the case study based on NSPE #88-6, Ms Simpson has been placed in a challenging position as a professional engineer. She faces the conflicts of: adhering to her obligation of public safety; maintaining the public’s trust in her profession; and having an opposing view from her supervisor. Overall, Ms Simpson has an ethical and legal obligation to uphold public safety in her role as a professional engineer. This obligation overrides the request of the City Manager who requested she do nothing until an incident occurs. I will discuss the challenges Ms Simpson is currently facing, as well as the recommended course of action she should pursue to resolve the issues.
As the Director of Public Works, it is Ms Simpson’s job to act with due diligence to prevent harm to the public and the publics’ trust in her employer. Her reputation as an engineer is what gives the public confidence in her skills, abilities and decisions. For this reason, it is important for engineers to protect their professional reputations. In this case, her employer is the Department of Public Works, which has a duty to represent the City as a whole.
When the City Manager disregards her report that the City manufacturing plant expansion calls for an increased disposal system, it is her obligation, as a professional engineer to act in the public’s interest. An incident involving an overflow of domestic and industrial waste materials would result in a negative physical impact on the surrounding environment and potential human health implications over both the short and long term.
Her first course of action should have been to discuss the issue further with the City Manager. Often opinion based disputes will incur when one party is not as informed as the other. It’s possible the City Managers reaction is due to a lack of information or training on the potential adverse effects. Ms Simpson must do her best to reinforce her professional opinion with supporting evidence and documentation to help illustrate to the City Manager the dangers in ignoring her professional opinion.
If the manager continues to disregard her professional advice, it is her responsibility to raise the issue to the City Manager’s direct superior, in this case the City Council. As best as possible, Ms Simpson should try to resolve the issue discreetly, in order to maintain her reputation as an employee and a professional. Only in extreme cases, where both the City Manager and the City Council ignore her professional opinion and there is clear evidence that an incident would result in serious damage should Ms Simpson involve the public directly.
One of Ms Simpson’s toughest decisions comes when she receives direct verbal harassment from her superior, who threatens her job security if she continues to pursue the issue with others. At this point, she has exhausted all options in trying to communicate her professional opinion to the City Manager and must hold her duty to the public above her personal career. If an incident were to occur, the investigators from the Association of Professional Engineers Ontario could hold her responsible for not pursuing the issue further. The best course of action would be to inform the City Manager that she has an ethical and legal obligation to continue to pursue the issue until it is resolved. If this discussion does not help change the City Manager’s opinion, Ms Simpson could request that an exterior engineering firm give their professional opinion on what the best course of action would be. As a professional it is important to view the...