CROSS Safety Report
Structural engineer faces ethical challenge
This report is over 2 years old
A structural engineer performing a delegated design faced an ethical dilemma when discovering what is believed to be errors in the base structural design performed by others.
Addressing the errors through the project team hierarchy proved problematic.
Key Learning Outcomes
For structural design engineers:
Structural engineers will, from time to time, face ethical dilemmas where following their duty to public safety can conflict with owner’s and/or client’s expectations and business considerations. Public safety is paramount in the practice of engineering.
For clients, design professionals, and contractors:
In resolution of safety concerns like the one of this case, project team members should understand that public safety is paramount; addressing it is a primary obligation of a structural engineer
Find out more about the Full Report
Our secure and confidential safety reporting system gives professionals the opportunity to share their experiences to help others. If you would like to know more, please visit the reporting to CROSS-US page.
The correspondent is a structural engineer working on a delegated design that is part of a new structure. During its work, the correspondent discovered what it considers to be serious safety flaws in the structure's base design.The correspondent worked extensively to bring these issues to the attention of various project participants, but they remained unaddressed. The correspondent desires an industry system to ‘whistle blow’ in this situation. The correspondent asks if there is a way to meet its professional obligation to public safety without fear of repercussion.
Expert Panel Comments
Find out more about the Expert Panel
An Expert Panel comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-US Expert Panel page.
This report concerns the responsibility of an engineer when he/she believes they have found serious safety flaws in a base design by others on a project for which they are providing delegated design.
Engineering licensing boards in all US jurisdictions require their licensed engineers to hold public safety paramount in all that they do. Many licensing boards provide rules that explicitly direct their licensees in situations such as that described by this reporter.
In this example the reporter should bring the safety flaws to the attention of the prime professional. If the flaws are not appropriately remedied, the reporter should bring them to the attention of the contractor. If the flaws are still not remedied, the reporter should bring them to the attention of the project owner. If the flaws are still not remedied, the reporter should bring them to the attention of the building official or government agency having jurisdiction. In some circumstances it may be necessary to report the issue to the licensing board. Each notice should be made or documented in writing.
Will there be repercussions? There may be, but that should never be a deterrent. Public safety is paramount to the practice of engineering.
Share your knowledge
Your report will make a difference. It will help to create positive change and improve safety.
Our secure and confidential safety reporting system gives professionals the opportunity to share their experiences to help others.
No feedback has yet been published for this page.