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Engineering Code Ethics Essay

Engineering ethics is the field of applied ethics and system of moral principles that apply to the practice of engineering. The field examines and sets the obligations by engineers to society, to their clients, and to the profession. As a scholarly discipline, it is closely related to subjects such as the philosophy of science, the philosophy of engineering, and the ethics of technology.

Background and origins[edit]

The 18 th century and growing concern[edit]

As engineering rose as a distinct profession during the 19th century, engineers saw themselves as either independent professional practitioners or technical employees of large enterprises. There was considerable tension between the two sides as large industrial employers fought to maintain control of their employees.[1]

In the United States growing professionalism gave rise to the development of four founding engineering societies: The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) (1851), the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) (1884),[2] the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) (1880), and the American Institute of Mining Engineers (AIME) (1871).[3] ASCE and AIEE were more closely identified with the engineer as learned professional, where ASME, to an extent, and AIME almost entirely, identified with the view that the engineer is a technical employee.[4]

Even so, at that time ethics was viewed as a personal rather than a broad professional concern.[5][6]:6

Turning of the 20th century and turning point[edit]

When the 19th century drew to a close and the 20th century began, there had been series of significant structural failures, including some spectacular bridge failures, notably the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster (1876), Tay Bridge Disaster (1879), and the Quebec Bridge collapse (1907). These had a profound effect on engineers and forced the profession to confront shortcomings in technical and construction practice, as well as ethical standards.[7]

One response was the development of formal codes of ethics by three of the four founding engineering societies. AIEE adopted theirs in 1912. ASCE and ASME did so in 1914.[8] AIME did not adopt a code of ethics in its history.[4]

Concerns for professional practice and protecting the public highlighted by these bridge failures, as well as the Boston molasses disaster (1919), provided impetus for another movement that had been underway for some time: to require formal credentials (Professional Engineering licensure in the US) as a requirement to practice. This involves meeting some combination of educational, experience, and testing requirements.[9]

In 1950, the Association of German Engineers developed an oath for all its members titled 'The Confession of the Engineers', directly hinting at the role of engineers in the atrocities committed during World War II.[10][11][12]

Over the following decades most American states and Canadian provinces either required engineers to be licensed, or passed special legislation reserving title rights to organization of professional engineers.[13] The Canadian model is to require all persons working in fields of engineering that posed a risk to life, health, property, the public welfare and the environment to be licensed, and all provinces required licensing by the 1950s.

The US model has generally been only to require the practicing engineers offering engineering services that impact the public welfare, safety, safeguarding of life, health, or property to be licensed, while engineers working in private industry without a direct offering of engineering services to the public or other businesses, education, and government need not be licensed. This has perpetuated the split between professional engineers and those in private industry.[14] Professional societies have adopted generally uniform codes of ethics.

Recent developments[edit]

Efforts to promote ethical practice continue. In addition to the professional societies and chartering organizations efforts with their members, the Canadian Iron Ring and American Order of the Engineer trace their roots to the 1907 Quebec Bridge collapse. Both require members to swear an oath to uphold ethical practice and wear a symbolic ring as a reminder.

In the United States, the National Society of Professional Engineers released in 1946 its Canons of Ethics for Engineers and Rules of Professional Conduct, which evolved to the current Code of Ethics, adopted in 1964. These requests ultimately led to the creation of the Board of Ethical Review in 1954. Ethics cases rarely have easy answers, but the BER's nearly 500 advisory opinions have helped bring clarity to the ethical issues engineers face daily.[15]

Currently, bribery and political corruption is being addressed very directly by several professional societies and business groups around the world.[16][17] However, new issues have arisen, such as offshoring, sustainable development, and environmental protection, that the profession is having to consider and address.

General principles[edit]

Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public
— National Society of Professional Engineers, [18]
A practitioner shall, regard the practitioner's duty to public welfare as paramount."
— Professional Engineers Ontario, [19]

Codes of engineering ethics identify a specific precedence with respect to the engineer's consideration for the public, clients, employers, and the profession.

Many engineering professional societies have prepared codes of ethics. Some date to the early decades of the twentieth century.[13] These have been incorporated to a greater or lesser degree into the regulatory laws of several jurisdictions. While these statements of general principles served as a guide, engineers still require sound judgment to interpret how the code would apply to specific circumstances.

The general principles of the codes of ethics are largely similar across the various engineering societies and chartering authorities of the world,[20] which further extend the code and publish specific guidance.[21] The following is an example from the American Society of Civil Engineers:[22]

  1. 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.[22]
  2. Engineers shall perform services only in areas of their competence.[22]
  3. Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.[22]
  4. Engineers shall act in professional matters for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees, and shall avoid conflicts of interest.[22]
  5. Engineers shall build their professional reputation on the merit of their services and shall not compete unfairly with others.
  6. Engineers shall act in such a manner as to uphold and enhance the honor, integrity, and dignity of the engineering profession and shall act with zero-tolerance for bribery, fraud, and corruption.[22]
  7. Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers, and shall provide opportunities for the professional development of those engineers under their supervision.[22]

Obligation to society[edit]

The paramount value recognized by engineers is the safety and welfare of the public. As demonstrated by the following selected excerpts, this is the case for professional engineering organizations in nearly every jurisdiction and engineering discipline:

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: "We, the members of the IEEE, … do hereby commit ourselves to the highest ethical and professional conduct and agree: 1. to accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment;"[23]
  • Institution of Civil Engineers: "Members of the ICE should always be aware of their overriding responsibility to the public good. A member’s obligations to the client can never override this, and members of the ICE should not enter undertakings which compromise this responsibility. The ‘public good’ encompasses care and respect for the environment, and for humanity’s cultural, historical and archaeological heritage, as well as the primary responsibility members have to protect the health and well being of present and future generations."[24]
  • Professional Engineers Ontario: "A practitioner shall, regard the practitioner's duty to public welfare as paramount."[19]
  • National Society of Professional Engineers: "Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall: Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public."[18]
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers: "Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public in the performance of their professional duties."[25]
  • Institute of Industrial Engineers: "Engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor and dignity of the engineering profession by: 2. Being honest and impartial, and serving with fidelity the public, their employers and clients."[26]
  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers: "To achieve these goals, members shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and protect the environment in performance of their professional duties."[27]
  • American Nuclear Society: "ANS members uphold and advance the integrity and honor of their professions by using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare and the environment; being honest and impartial; serving with fidelity the public, their employers, and their clients; and striving to continuously improve the competence and prestige of their various professions."[28]
  • Society of Fire Protection Engineers: "In the practice of their profession, fire protection engineers must maintain and constantly improve their competence and perform under a standard of professional behavior which requires adherence to the highest principles of ethical conduct with balanced regard for the interests of the public, clients, employers, colleagues, and the profession."[29]

Responsibility of engineers

The engineer recognizes that the greatest merit is the work and exercises her profession committed to serving society, attending to the welfare and progress of the majority. By transforming nature for the benefit of mankind, the engineer must increase her awareness of the world as the abode of humanity, her interest in the universe as a guarantee of overcoming her spirit, and knowledge of reality to make the world fairer and happier. The engineer should reject any paper that is intended to harm the general interest, thus avoiding a situation that might be hazardous or threatening to the environment, life, health, or other rights of human beings. It is an inescapable duty of the engineer to uphold the prestige of the profession, to ensure its proper discharge, and to maintain a professional demeanor rooted in ability, honesty, fortitude, temperance, magnanimity, modesty, honesty, and justice; with the consciousness of individual well-being subordinate to the social good. The engineer and her employer must ensure the continuous improvement of her knowledge, particularly of her profession, disseminate her knowledge, share her experience, provide opportunities for education and training of workers, provide recognition, moral and material support to the school where she studied, thus returning the benefits and opportunities she and her employer have received. It is the responsibility of the engineer to carry out her work efficiently and to support the law. In particular, she must ensure compliance with the standards of worker protection as provided by the law. As a professional, the engineer is expected to commit herself to high standards of conduct (NSPE). [1] 11/27/11


Main article: Whistleblower

A basic ethical dilemma is that an engineer has the duty to report to the appropriate authority a possible risk to others from a client or employer failing to follow the engineer's directions. According to first principles, this duty overrides the duty to a client and/or employer.[30] An engineer may be disciplined, or have their license revoked, even if the failure to report such a danger does not result in the loss of life or health.[31]

In many cases, this duty can be discharged by advising the client of the consequences in a forthright matter, and ensuring the client takes the engineer's advice. In very rare cases, where even a governmental authority may not take appropriate action, the engineer can only discharge the duty by making the situation public.[32] As a result, whistleblowing by professional engineers is not an unusual event, and courts have often sided with engineers in such cases, overruling duties to employers and confidentiality considerations that otherwise would have prevented the engineer from speaking out.[33]


There are several other ethical issues that engineers may face. Some have to do with technical practice, but many others have to do with broader considerations of business conduct. These include:[21]

  • Relationships with clients, consultants, competitors, and contractors
  • Ensuring legal compliance by clients, client's contractors, and others
  • Conflict of interest
  • Bribery and kickbacks, which also may include:
    • Gifts, meals, services, and entertainment
  • Treatment of confidential or proprietary information
  • Consideration of the employer’s assets
  • Outside employment/activities (Moonlighting)

Some engineering societies are addressing environmental protection as a stand-alone question of ethics.[22]

The field of business ethics often overlaps and informs ethical decision making for engineers.

Case studies and key individuals[edit]

Petroski notes that most engineering failures are much more involved than simple technical mis-calculations and involve the failure of the design process or management culture.[34] However, not all engineering failures involve ethical issues. The infamous collapse of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and the losses of the Mars Polar Lander and Mars Climate Orbiter were technical and design process failures.

These episodes of engineering failure include ethical as well as technical issues.

  • General Motors ignition switch recalls (2014)
  • Space Shuttle Columbia disaster (2003)
  • Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (1986)
  • Therac-25 accidents (1985 to 1987)
  • Chernobyl disaster (1986)
  • Bhopal disaster (1984)
  • Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway collapse (1981)
  • Love Canal (1980), Lois Gibbs
  • Three Mile Island accident (1979)
  • Citigroup Center (1978),
  • Ford Pinto safety problems (1970s)
  • Minamata disease (1908–1973)
  • Chevrolet Corvair safety problems (1960s), Ralph Nader, and Unsafe at Any Speed
  • Boston molasses disaster (1919)
  • Quebec Bridge collapse (1907), Theodore Cooper
  • Johnstown Flood (1889), South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club
  • Tay Bridge Disaster (1879), Thomas Bouch, William Henry Barlow, and William Yolland
  • Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster (1876), Amasa Stone



  • American Society of Civil Engineers (2010) [1914]. Code of Ethics. Reston, Virginia, USA: ASCE Press. Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  • American Society of Civil Engineers (2000). Ethics Guidelines for Professional Conduct for Civil Engineers(PDF). Reston, Virginia, USA: ASCE Press. Retrieved 2013-11-30. 
  • Institution of Civil Engineers (2004). Royal Charter, By-laws, Regulations and Rules. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  • Layton, Edwin (1986). The Revolt of the Engineers: Social Responsibility and the American Engineering Profession. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-3287-X. 
  • Petroski, Henry (1985). To Engineer is Human: the Role of Failure in Successful Design. St Martins Press. ISBN 0-312-80680-9. 
  • National Society of Professional Engineers (2007) [1964]. Code of Ethics(PDF). Alexandria, Virginia, USA: NSPE. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Alford, C.F. (2002). Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power, Cornell University Press.
  • Fleddermann, C.B. (2011). Engineering Ethics, Prentice Hall, 4th edition.
  • Glazer, M.P. (1991).Whistleblower, New York, NY: Basic Books.
  • Harris, C.E., M.S. Pritchard, and M.J. Rabins (2008).Engineering Ethics: Concept and Cases, Wadsworth Publishing, 4th edition.
  • Huesemann, Michael H., and Joyce A. Huesemann (2011). Technofix: Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment, Chapter 14, “Critical Science and Social Responsibility”, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada, ISBN 0865717044, 464 pp.
  • Martin, M.W., and R. Schinzinger (2004). Ethics in Engineering, McGraw-Hill, 4th edition.
  • Van de Poel, I., and L. Royakkers (2011). Ethics, Technology, and Engineering: An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell.

External links[edit]


Ethical Decision Making
Code of Ethics


Act, Bylaws and Code of Ethics
EGGP Code of Ethics
Code of Ethics
Code of Ethics (See link on front page.)
  • L'Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ)
Code of Ethics of Engineers
The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer
Software Ethics - A Guide to the Ethical and Legal Use of Software for Members of the University Community of the University of Western Ontario


Ethical principles of engineering profession


Code of Ethics

Sri Lanka[edit]

Code of Ethics

United Kingdom[edit]

  • Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE)
Anti-Corruption Action Statement
Royal Charter, By-laws, Regulations and Rules
Professional ethics and the IET
Statement of Ethical Principles

United States[edit]

Online Ethics Center of the National Academy of Engineering
  • List of links to various professional and scientific societies' codes of ethics
Code of Ethics
Board of Ethical Review and BER Cases
Ethics Resources and References
Code of Ethics
Code of Ethics
Standards of Professional Conduct for Civil Engineers
Code of Ethics
The Obligation of an Engineer
Code of Ethics


The Boston molasses disaster provided a strong impetus for the establishment of professional licensing and codes of ethics in the United States.
William LeMessurier's response to design deficiencies uncovered after construction of the Citigroup Center is often cited as an example of ethical conduct.
  1. ^Layton (1986). pp. 6-9
  2. ^The AIEE merged with the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) (1912) in 1963 to form the IEEE.
  3. ^AIME is now the umbrella organization of four technical societies: the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME) (1957), The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) (1957), the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) (1957), and the Association For Iron and Steel Technology (AIST) (1974). Neither AIME, nor its subsidiary societies have adopted a formal code of ethics.
  4. ^ abLayton (1986) p. 35.
  5. ^ASCE (2000). p. 10.
  6. ^Flavell, Eric. "The ASCE Code of Ethics: PRINCIPLES, STUDY, AND APPLICATION". ASCE. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved Nov 27, 2013. 
  7. ^ASME member H.F.J. Porter had proposed as early as 1892 that the engineering societies adopt uniform membership, education, and licensing requirements as well as a code of ethics. (Layton (1986). pp. 45-46)
  8. ^Layton (1986). pp. 70 & 114.
  9. ^Layton (1986). pp. 124-125.
  10. ^Dietz, Burkhard, ed. (1996). Technische Intelligenz und "Kulturfaktor Technik". p. 29. 
  11. ^Lorenz, Werner; Meyer, Torsen (2004). Technik und Verantwortung im Nationalsozialismus. p. 55. 
  12. ^https://www.vdi.de/fileadmin/media/content/hg/16.pdf
  13. ^ abLayton (1986)
  14. ^Layton (1986). pp. 6-7
  15. ^"Board of Ethical Review". National Society of Professional Engineers. 2013. Retrieved Nov 29, 2013. 
  16. ^Transparency International and Social Accountability International (2009). Business Principles for Countering Bribery. Retrieved 2013-11-29. 
  17. ^"Report Details Guidelines to Reduce Corruption in Engineering and Construction Industry" (Press release). ASCE. 2005-06-17. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  18. ^ ab"NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers". National Society of Professional Engineers. 2013. Retrieved Nov 29, 2013. 
  19. ^ abPEO. Professional Engineers Ontario Code of Ethics. Section 77.2.i of the Ontario Regulation 941. Retrieved: 2006-10-19.
  20. ^ICE (2004).
  21. ^ abASCE (2000).
  22. ^ abcdefghASCE [1914] (2006).
  23. ^IEEE (2006). Code of EthicsCanon 1.. Retrieved: 2006-10-19.
  24. ^ICE (2004). p. 38.
  25. ^"Code of Ethics of Engineers". ASME. 2013. Retrieved Nov 29, 2013. 
  26. ^IIE. "Ethics". [1] Retrieved: 2011-6-01.
  27. ^AIChE (2003). Code of Ethics Retrieved: 2006-10-21.
  28. ^ANS (2003). Code of Ethics Retrieved: 2011-08-19.
  29. ^"Code of Ethics - SFPE". www.sfpe.org. Retrieved 2017-05-18. 
  30. ^Weil, "Whistleblowing: What Have We Learned Since the Challenger?"
  31. ^See NSPE, Board of Ethical Review, Cases 82-5 and 88-6.
  32. ^NSPE (2006-06-30). "Final Report of the NSPE Task Force on Overruling Engineering Judgment to the NSPE Board of Directors"(PDF). Retrieved 2008-02-20. [permanent dead link]
  33. ^See the case of Shawn Carpenter.
  34. ^Petroski (1985)

Download: NSPE Code of Ethics
Download: The NSPE Ethics Reference Guide for a list of all cases through 2017.

Engineering is an important and learned profession. As members of this profession, engineers are expected to exhibit the highest standards of honesty and integrity. Engineering has a direct and vital impact on the quality of life for all people. Accordingly, the services provided by engineers require honesty, impartiality, fairness, and equity, and must be dedicated to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare. Engineers must perform under a standard of professional behavior that requires adherence to the highest principles of ethical conduct.

I. Fundamental Canons
Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall:

  1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
  2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.
  3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
  4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
  5. Avoid deceptive acts.
  6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.

II. Rules of Practice

  1. Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
    1. If engineers' judgment is overruled under circumstances that endanger life or property, they shall notify their employer or client and such other authority as may be appropriate.
    2. Engineers shall approve only those engineering documents that are in conformity with applicable standards.
    3. Engineers shall not reveal facts, data, or information without the prior consent of the client or employer except as authorized or required by law or this Code.
    4. Engineers shall not permit the use of their name or associate in business ventures with any person or firm that they believe is engaged in fraudulent or dishonest enterprise.
    5. Engineers shall not aid or abet the unlawful practice of engineering by a person or firm.
    6. Engineers having knowledge of any alleged violation of this Code shall report thereon to appropriate professional bodies and, when relevant, also to public authorities, and cooperate with the proper authorities in furnishing such information or assistance as may be required.
  2. Engineers shall perform services only in the areas of their competence.
    1. Engineers shall undertake assignments only when qualified by education or experience in the specific technical fields involved.
    2. Engineers shall not affix their signatures to any plans or documents dealing with subject matter in which they lack competence, nor to any plan or document not prepared under their direction and control.
    3. Engineers may accept assignments and assume responsibility for coordination of an entire project and sign and seal the engineering documents for the entire project, provided that each technical segment is signed and sealed only by the qualified engineers who prepared the segment.
  3. Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
    1. Engineers shall be objective and truthful in professional reports, statements, or testimony. They shall include all relevant and pertinent information in such reports, statements, or testimony, which should bear the date indicating when it was current.
    2. Engineers may express publicly technical opinions that are founded upon knowledge of the facts and competence in the subject matter.
    3. Engineers shall issue no statements, criticisms, or arguments on technical matters that are inspired or paid for by interested parties, unless they have prefaced their comments by explicitly identifying the interested parties on whose behalf they are speaking, and by revealing the existence of any interest the engineers may have in the matters.
  4. Engineers shall act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
    1. Engineers shall disclose all known or potential conflicts of interest that could influence or appear to influence their judgment or the quality of their services.
    2. Engineers shall not accept compensation, financial or otherwise, from more than one party for services on the same project, or for services pertaining to the same project, unless the circumstances are fully disclosed and agreed to by all interested parties.
    3. Engineers shall not solicit or accept financial or other valuable consideration, directly or indirectly, from outside agents in connection with the work for which they are responsible.
    4. Engineers in public service as members, advisors, or employees of a governmental or quasi-governmental body or department shall not participate in decisions with respect to services solicited or provided by them or their organizations in private or public engineering practice.
    5. Engineers shall not solicit or accept a contract from a governmental body on which a principal or officer of their organization serves as a member.
  5. Engineers shall avoid deceptive acts.
    1. Engineers shall not falsify their qualifications or permit misrepresentation of their or their associates' qualifications. They shall not misrepresent or exaggerate their responsibility in or for the subject matter of prior assignments. Brochures or other presentations incident to the solicitation of employment shall not misrepresent pertinent facts concerning employers, employees, associates, joint venturers, or past accomplishments.
    2. Engineers shall not offer, give, solicit, or receive, either directly or indirectly, any contribution to influence the award of a contract by public authority, or which may be reasonably construed by the public as having the effect or intent of influencing the awarding of a contract. They shall not offer any gift or other valuable consideration in order to secure work. They shall not pay a commission, percentage, or brokerage fee in order to secure work, except to a bona fide employee or bona fide established commercial or marketing agencies retained by them.

III. Professional Obligations

  1. Engineers shall be guided in all their relations by the highest standards of honesty and integrity.
    1. Engineers shall acknowledge their errors and shall not distort or alter the facts.
    2. Engineers shall advise their clients or employers when they believe a project will not be successful.
    3. Engineers shall not accept outside employment to the detriment of their regular work or interest. Before accepting any outside engineering employment, they will notify their employers.
    4. Engineers shall not attempt to attract an engineer from another employer by false or misleading pretenses.
    5. Engineers shall not promote their own interest at the expense of the dignity and integrity of the profession.
  2. Engineers shall at all times strive to serve the public interest.
    1. Engineers are encouraged to participate in civic affairs; career guidance for youths; and work for the advancement of the safety, health, and well-being of their community.
    2. Engineers shall not complete, sign, or seal plans and/or specifications that are not in conformity with applicable engineering standards. If the client or employer insists on such unprofessional conduct, they shall notify the proper authorities and withdraw from further service on the project.
    3. Engineers are encouraged to extend public knowledge and appreciation of engineering and its achievements.
    4. Engineers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of sustainable development1 in order to protect the environment for future generations.
  3. Engineers shall avoid all conduct or practice that deceives the public.
    1. Engineers shall avoid the use of statements containing a material misrepresentation of fact or omitting a material fact.
    2. Consistent with the foregoing, engineers may advertise for recruitment of personnel.
    3. Consistent with the foregoing, engineers may prepare articles for the lay or technical press, but such articles shall not imply credit to the author for work performed by others.
  4. Engineers shall not disclose, without consent, confidential information concerning the business affairs or technical processes of any present or former client or employer, or public body on which they serve.
    1. Engineers shall not, without the consent of all interested parties, promote or arrange for new employment or practice in connection with a specific project for which the engineer has gained particular and specialized knowledge.
    2. Engineers shall not, without the consent of all interested parties, participate in or represent an adversary interest in connection with a specific project or proceeding in which the engineer has gained particular specialized knowledge on behalf of a former client or employer.
  5. Engineers shall not be influenced in their professional duties by conflicting interests.
    1. Engineers shall not accept financial or other considerations, including free engineering designs, from material or equipment suppliers for specifying their product.
    2. Engineers shall not accept commissions or allowances, directly or indirectly, from contractors or other parties dealing with clients or employers of the engineer in connection with work for which the engineer is responsible.
  6. Engineers shall not attempt to obtain employment or advancement or professional engagements by untruthfully criticizing other engineers, or by other improper or questionable methods.
    1. Engineers shall not request, propose, or accept a commission on a contingent basis under circumstances in which their judgment may be compromised.
    2. Engineers in salaried positions shall accept part-time engineering work only to the extent consistent with policies of the employer and in accordance with ethical considerations.
    3. Engineers shall not, without consent, use equipment, supplies, laboratory, or office facilities of an employer to carry on outside private practice.
  7. Engineers shall not attempt to injure, maliciously or falsely, directly or indirectly, the professional reputation, prospects, practice, or employment of other engineers. Engineers who believe others are guilty of unethical or illegal practice shall present such information to the proper authority for action.
    1. Engineers in private practice shall not review the work of another engineer for the same client, except with the knowledge of such engineer, or unless the connection of such engineer with the work has been terminated.
    2. Engineers in governmental, industrial, or educational employ are entitled to review and evaluate the work of other engineers when so required by their employment duties.
    3. Engineers in sales or industrial employ are entitled to make engineering comparisons of represented products with products of other suppliers.
  8. Engineers shall accept personal responsibility for their professional activities, provided, however, that engineers may seek indemnification for services arising out of their practice for other than gross negligence, where the engineer's interests cannot otherwise be protected.
    1. Engineers shall conform with state registration laws in the practice of engineering.
    2. Engineers shall not use association with a nonengineer, a corporation, or partnership as a "cloak" for unethical acts.
  9. Engineers shall give credit for engineering work to those to whom credit is due, and will recognize the proprietary interests of others.
    1. Engineers shall, whenever possible, name the person or persons who may be individually responsible for designs, inventions, writings, or other accomplishments.
    2. Engineers using designs supplied by a client recognize that the designs remain the property of the client and may not be duplicated by the engineer for others without express permission.
    3. Engineers, before undertaking work for others in connection with which the engineer may make improvements, plans, designs, inventions, or other records that may justify copyrights or patents, should enter into a positive agreement regarding ownership.
    4. Engineers' designs, data, records, and notes referring exclusively to an employer's work are the employer's property. The employer should indemnify the engineer for use of the information for any purpose other than the original purpose.
    5. Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers and should keep current in their specialty fields by engaging in professional practice, participating in continuing education courses, reading in the technical literature, and attending professional meetings and seminars.

    Footnote 1"Sustainable development" is the challenge of meeting human needs for natural resources, industrial products, energy, food, transportation, shelter, and effective waste management while conserving and protecting environmental quality and the natural resource base essential for future development.

As Revised July 2007

By order of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, former Section 11(c) of the NSPE Code of Ethics prohibiting competitive bidding, and all policy statements, opinions, rulings or other guidelines interpreting its scope, have been rescinded as unlawfully interfering with the legal right of engineers, protected under the antitrust laws, to provide price information to prospective clients; accordingly, nothing contained in the NSPE Code of Ethics, policy statements, opinions, rulings or other guidelines prohibits the submission of price quotations or competitive bids for engineering services at any time or in any amount.

Statement by NSPE Executive Committee

In order to correct misunderstandings which have been indicated in some instances since the issuance of the Supreme Court decision and the entry of the Final Judgment, it is noted that in its decision of April 25, 1978, the Supreme Court of the United States declared: "The Sherman Act does not require competitive bidding."
It is further noted that as made clear in the Supreme Court decision:

  1. Engineers and firms may individually refuse to bid for engineering services.
  2. Clients are not required to seek bids for engineering services.
  3. Federal, state, and local laws governing procedures to procure engineering services are not affected, and remain in full force and effect.
  4. State societies and local chapters are free to actively and aggressively seek legislation for professional selection and negotiation procedures by public agencies.
  5. State registration board rules of professional conduct, including rules prohibiting competitive bidding for engineering services, are not affected and remain in full force and effect. State registration boards with authority to adopt rules of professional conduct may adopt rules governing procedures to obtain engineering services.
  6. As noted by the Supreme Court, "nothing in the judgment prevents NSPE and its members from attempting to influence governmental action . . ."

NOTE: In regard to the question of application of the Code to corporations vis-à-vis real persons, business form or type should not negate nor influence conformance of individuals to the Code. The Code deals with professional services, which services must be performed by real persons. Real persons in turn establish and implement policies within business structures. The Code is clearly written to apply to the Engineer, and it is incumbent on members of NSPE to endeavor to live up to its provisions. This applies to all pertinent sections of the Code.

Copyright © National Society of Professional Engineers. All rights reserved.

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