The first fundamental canon of engineering ethics from the National Society of Professional Engineers directs engineers to “hold paramount the health, safety, and welfare of the public.” In engineering, keeping people safe from harm means doing sound engineering calculations and having a full understanding of the possible real-world scenarios that engineering designs will face. The third fundamental canon states that engineers shall “issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner,” and the fourth holds that the engineers shall, “act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees”. The case of the Citicorp building in New York City raises questions about what kinds of calculations can be expected of an engineer, what kinds of agencies or groups should oversee design calculations, and what kinds of public statements an engineer is responsible to make. In this case, action was taken by engineers who recognized a problem and were able to avoid a possible catastrophe, but statements made to the public did not reflect the true danger of the situation.
Park Doing, Ph.D