‘Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties,’ this is Canon 1.0 of the engineering code of ethics. This was the first rule we learned last week in the Ethics part of my Engineering Law, Finance and Ethics class. And this canon made me want to reflect on what it would mean for me to be an Engineer.
One of the conclusions I came up with was that Engineers are civil servants, civil servants that no matter what they do, their work influences and helps more than a single person at a time. We are here for the public to a point where our very first ethical responsibility is the welfare of those we serve. I have encountered many individuals that were under the impression that Engineering is one of the fields that requires the least amount of social interaction, that what we mostly do is research and calculations and nothing else. I personally have found that to be to the contrary. One of the first things I learned at my internship this last summer was a good portion of the people I would interact with as a Civil Engineer would not be engineers, or contractors for that matter. They would be individuals that know nothing about my field so it is my duty to explain to them what my job is and how it will affect them. It could be as small as telling a home owner the importance of the shear wall that needs to be built instead of a big window with the view to the ocean so that the seismic load can be transferred correctly, obviously this needs to be done in a language that is comprehensible to non-engineers. This is the type of social interaction many overlook when they think of Engineers not really being there for the public.