The second day of the conference began at 7:30 am with a plenary breakfast, along with a panel. The panel had representatives from LA County who were there to talk about the difference changes that the county has changed, expects to change and the difficulties in attempting to change. I hate to say it but I missed the majority of this panel. I was there but… mentally wasn’t. The main issue I’ve had with conferences is the late nights and the early mornings.
However, out of all the panels later that day, the most interesting one to me was the Engineering Ethics Workshop. Whenever I have the chance to go to a session that involves I make sure to go to them. This is mainly because They are usually interactive, involving the guests and lets everyone participate. This session was led by Carlos Bertha and Steve Starrett. They started off with ethical dilemmas that they either first experiences or a dilemma that had the biggest impact on them.
Mr. Starrett’s dilemma was what he experienced when he was an intern. The engineer, who was about to retire was on site for a project that was about 98% complete. He just did a site inspection and was in the trailer with the general contractor. On the desk was a handsaw and the engineer asked the contractor to give it to him. The GC agreed and he took it home with him. Starrett saw this as an issue and was suspicious about whether or not there were some sort of back-door bribing involved in this project.
I wasn’t too sure about the issue with this. I haven’t experienced any sort of bribing so far, however, the company I currently worked for made it clear I do not receive any sort of “gift” from any professional. It could potentially lead to issues in the future even if the provider means it in good will. I probably won’t be accepting any sort of “gift” from a professional but personally I don’t see it as much of an ethical issue because that would mean that I need to suspect every other person and see if there’s any sort of ulterior motive behind their actions.
Mr. Bertha, was deployed to Afghanistan as an engineer. He was in charge of about 70 projects and he didn’t have the resources to be able to get to the actual sites nor the connections to ensure the project is completed with the quality that was expected. He worked with engineers local to the area and at the end when the first project was about to be completed, the engineers submitted their time sheets. It said that they worked for 16 hours a day, everyday. He knew that this was nor right but had no idea what he should do. He said that because of his lack of knowledge in the culture he ended up signing it and approving it. In reality, the engineers that submitted the time sheet were expected to barter, which seemed to be how their system worked and how the culture functioned.
I’m not sure if this was an ethical issue in Afghanistan. From the way Bertha presented it, it seemed like that was the culture and if he was deployed there, that information should have been provided to him if it wasn’t. It definitely weird because that would mean the hours they worked don’t matter… However, in the case that this situation occurred in the United States, it would be a different story. Lying about your time sheet is illegal and you are expected to submit the correct hours. What would need to be done if this were to happen to me or someone I know?
The session continued to present a couple of case studies where we, the guests, would ask questions and gave our point of view on the issue. The main issue I saw with the session was that the presenter, or whoever made the presentation, included too many case studies. Mr. Starretta was too caught up in having the session move forward that we weren’t able to have a meaningful discussion. Everything was cut short, which made the session seem “shallow”, considering the topic. However, it was enjoyable nonetheless.