On Our Watch

I am disappointed in my fellow engineers. Lately our world has been affected in a negative way due to our actions. I’m talking about the recent investigations into the automotive industry and our lack of action in preventing this from occurring. As an engineer we are responsible for ensuring that we put public safety first and foremost. But we have failed to do just that.

I’m not only referring to the recent VW emission scandal but also GM’s faulty ignition switch that killed 124 people and Takata’s faulty airbags that killed 8 people. The latter two incidents occurred because of negligence and a lack of proper due diligence in the original design which is almost forgivable. What can not be forgiven is the lack of action once it was discovered that the devices were not functioning as they were intended and they were continued to be installed. An engineer was involved in that decision somewhere, somehow and in some way but what is also undeniable is that they let down our profession.

The VW incident is different than the other two as the design of that emission cheating program operated as it was intended. From the very onset of that design it was a deliberate act to cheat and put people’s safety and our environment under duress. Where was the engineer to say “No I won’t do that.” “I can’t do that because that is wrong.” “This is unethical and will put people in harm’s way.”

As an engineer we are suppose to make this world a better place through advances in technology and our designs. I put the Iron Ring in the picture for this post because I wear it always and take it seriously in my day-to-day actions. The Iron Ring Ceremony is a Canadian Engineering tradition and you can read about it more here.

The Calling of an Engineer

The object of the Ritual can be stated as follows: The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has been instituted with the simple end of directing the newly qualified engineer toward a consciousness of the profession and its social significance and indicating to the more experienced engineer their responsibilities in welcoming and supporting the newer engineers when they are ready to enter the profession.

Now I have to apologize because I am at a loss for how we set our profession back onto the right path other than to ask all engineers (maybe even plead) that you put others before yourself in your work and your actions. There are so many terrible things in our society that are accepted as the norm that I do not want to have unethical engineering become another.

Ryan HutchinsonOn Our Watch
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