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RE: Engineering ethics

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Sounds like you may want to start looking for another job. I believe the
"legal" response is consistent with the industry from the attorney's
viewpoint but not very comfortable with the personal/professional obligation
viewpoint. The bottom line is (regardless of what your employer says) is
that you have to sleep at night and feel good about the design you have done
and are satisfied that the structure is built pretty close to your design
intent. I suspect you have some serious decisions to make in the near

Bill Allen

-----Original Message-----
From: James Hagensen [mailto:JHAGENSEN(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, June 01, 1998 4:50 PM
To: 'seaoc(--nospam--at)'
Subject: RE: Engineering ethics

I really appreciate the input by Tom Harris, Thor Tandy, Russ Nester,
Christopher Wright, Ron Hamburger, Roger Turk, Tom Chiu, Mel Slaysman
and David Murphy.  I had also gone to my employer before sending the
question to the list and had expressed my concern.  You all pretty much
verified what I was thinking.  My superiors had informed me that they
would take the issue up again with the risk management people.

Just today I was informed by my supervisor that, based on legal
concerns, (that we could be sued by the owner if the facility is "red
tagged", sued by the architect, since we are owed money and it could be
claimed that we are "trying to make it difficult for him, or sued by the
inspector for slander since we would be basically claiming that he
didn't know what he was doing) if I felt that something additional has
to be done I must act on my own.  The risk management people again
stated that we have fullfulled our professional responsibiltiy by
informing our client, who is a registered architect.  I feel quite
strongly that I must act out of concern for public safety.

I must also add that I called the inspection company and talked with the
registered professional in that firm who was responsible for the
inspection.  He verified that the welds and welders had not been
pre-qualified and no special inspection had been performed on the roof
deck.  He even stated that he felt that the contractor had been using
the wrong welding equipment for the deck welding!  The more I learn, the
less comfortable I feel!  My concern is that I am not personally covered
by any professional insurance.  Should I consult with someone, (i.e. an
attorney) before acting on my own?

Thanks again for all of your input / opinions.

Jim Hagensen, SE

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Ron Hamburger [SMTP:roh(--nospam--at)]
> Sent:	Thursday, May 28, 1998 8:21 AM
> To:	seaoc(--nospam--at)
> Subject:	Re: Engineering ethics
> On 5/27 -  Jim Hagensen wrote:
> > I have a situation on a job where, per the UBC, special inspection
> was
> > required on the structural roof deck.  The contract was written such
> > that the special inspection for the deck welding was provided by the
> > contractor.  (I know this is contrary to the UBC, but we find that
> this
> > happens on a number of jobs since owners like to roll the inspection
> > costs into one "pot of money". This client happens to be a city.
> > Instead of the city hiring an inspection company (which is the
> logical
> > way of doing it since no conflict of interest exists when the owner
> is
> > paying for the inspections) we found out later that the contractor
> was
> > telling the inspector when to appear on the site and specifically
> what
> > to inspect.  We were not hired to do any construction administration
> > aside from some shop drawing review.
> >
> > After the job was nearly completed structurally, the Architect
> called
> > and requested that we go to the site and perform a site observation
> walk
> > through.  On the walk through I noted major collector elements that
> were
> > not welded and also structural deck diaphragm welding like I had
> never
> > seen before.  80% of the roof deck had already been covered with
> > insulation and roofing.  On the exposed portions of the deck I noted
> > seam welds that did not even appear to tie the deck sheets together.
> > The welds were supposed to be top seam welds  but instead of looking
> > like a normal top seam weld, the sheets were not crimped at the weld
> > location and at the weld location a hole existed.  It did not appear
> > that the weld was engaging both sheets.   (At one location a support
> > near a deck seam was omitted and the deck was spanning for two span
> > lengths rather than only one.  I was able to step on the one sheet
> > adjacent to the seam and the sheets totally separated indicating
> that
> > there was indeed no tie between the sheets at the seam at this
> > location).
> >
> > I wrote up a site observation report clearly stating our concerns
> for
> > the structure's adequacy.  I understand that the strut and collector
> > welds were made where they had been omitted  This all occurred a
> number
> > of months ago.  The architect currently owes us a major amount of
> fee
> > and we are at a point now where we have stated that we will do no
> more
> > work until we get paid.  We have also found out through the grape
> vine
> > that no special inspection or welding prequalification was ever
> > performed on the roof deck as was specified.  (I could have guessed
> > this.)  To our knowledge nothing has been done to remedy the
> problems on
> > the roof deck and the structure is currently being used by the
> public.
> > We have informed the registered architect of our concerns in writing
> and
> > in our opinion, the structure is deficient and will not carry the
> design
> > shear forces under design lateral loads.   Nothing appears to have
> been
> > done to remedy the situation.  The structure is in a moderate wind
> zone
> > and seisimic zone 2B  and the deck shears are 300 to 400 plf. (not
> very
> > high)  What is our professional, ethical, responsibility in this
> matter.
> > On the one hand we have informed our client of our concerns in
> writing,
> > and he is a registered professional.  On the other hand is the
> concern
> > for public safety.  Risk management folks indicate we have done
> > everything professionally we are required to do by informing our
> client,
> > who is a registered professional, of our concerns in writing.  Have
> we
> > done everything we should do, or is more action on our part
> required?
> >
> I believe the SE in this case has an ethical and professional
> obligation to contact the building owner directly with his concerns
> with regard to the quality of construction and the potential building
> safety issues.  First I would make a call to the local building
> official (since this also appears to be the owner) and ask if he has
> been made aware of the structural concerns, by the architect.  If he
> has not, then I would a letter to the architect, copy to the City,
> both sent by registered mail, return receipt requested.
> With regard to issues of structural safety, engineers should not hide
> ehind the cloak of the architect.  As a profession we need to come
> out of the closet and not be afriad to address the issues, directly
> with the building owner.
> The fact that the architect owes the engineer money at this late date
> should not detract from this situation.
> Ronald O. Hamburger, SE
> Regional Manager
> EQE International, Inc.
> San Francisco, California