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Re: Ethics 101

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(Nuke plant seismic)
>Q: What is your responsibility to notify the State Board of your
>conclusions? What is your responsibility to notify Emergency
>Planning of your conclusions?
Your legal obligation is to notify the NRC under 10CFR21 if you're 
talking about nuclear reactors. Failure to do so is a federal offense. 
But make sure you've done your homework (A certain number of people with 
technical training get a real kick out of pretending they're John the 
Baptist.) and you're certain. I doubt in this case that such certainty 
exists, but if it does you should notify the appropriate jurisdiction. 
The engineering board has no jurisdiction over the chemical company's 
behavior. I'd certainly make sure that the chemical company got a letter 
explaining your concerns and that the letter showed that someone else got 
a copy, maybe your lawyer.  Beyond the federal law your ethical 
obligation is to hold the public welfare paramount and not to abet any 
illegal behavior. 

>The real estate developers of a local "historical" 
>district come to you for structural advice for renovation
Obligation here is to divulge in writing to the owners that the structure 
is unsafe, since public safety is involved. That's true whether you got 
paid or not. The owners don't seem to have behaved improperly or 
illegally. If I were involved, I'd make sure that the letter to the 
owners know that someone else got a carbon of the letter. I should have 
thought that the work would have involved a written report containing the 
conclusions to begin with. The someone else could be the engineering 
board, since there are concerns about public safety.

>An international shipping company contacts you through
>a contract agency inquiring re your availability
Not much to be done here unless you have certain knowledge of unethical 
behavior. An outrageous proposition by the shipping company isn't enough, 
since the plans weren't improperly stamped at the time. If you know who 
eventually stamped the plans improperly, your obligation is to notify the 
board at that point. Probably you won't know who did the deed, though.

>A west-coast trucking company sets up an inspection 
>business, calling themselves "XYZ Engineering Corporation".
Your ethical obligation is to inform the engineering registration board. 
Minnesota and Florida law require that you do so.

>the unusual roof has sagged measurably.
Seems like the only obligation is to notify the client of what you've 
found and point out that collapse is imminent. If a lawsuit is coming up 
I'd make sure that some third party has a copy so that you're on record 
as having informed your client of the problem. Again, since public safety 
is involved, you have a duty to warn a responsible individual, and the 
architect seems like a good one.

All these cases imply certain knowledge of unequivocally improper 
behavior or hazard. My experience is that such certainty is rare. If you 
know for absolute certain that a structure will collapse, you should be 
pretty strident about who you warn, up to and including the jurisdiction 
involved. If you uncover improper behavior with no specific and certain 
public danger, you should be fairly circumspect for a couple of reasons. 
You don't want to alarm the laity unduly maybe doing more harm than good. 
And you also don't want to appear to be capitalizing on someone else's 
misfortunate or ignorance.

Christopher Wright P.E.    |"They couldn't hit an elephant from
chrisw(--nospam--at)        | this distance"   (last words of Gen.
___________________________| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)