To: "SEAOC Newsletter" <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
Subject: Re: Exposure D Wind/ People in authority
From: Christopher Wright <chrisw(--nospam--at)skypoint.com>
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 00 14:40:36 -0500
>The problem, as I see it, is the whole process by which we abdicate our
>authority as specialists in our business to people other than
>ourselves. We begin this process when we create building codes meant
>to be adopted as law. This process is governed by "the few" for the
>"benefit" of "the many."
Another take on this. Any design code is intended to be a brief, ideally
unambiguous, summary of prudent engineering practice as reflected by
field service. (We can argue whether the building codes are or not--I
claim that's what they are intended to be.). No engineer abdicates
responsibility by resorting to the validated experience of other
engineers. In fact these engineers _are_ the specialists. We're not
abdicating anything by relying on our peers.
And a building code which hasn't the force of law is pretty much useless.
It pretty much allows anyone to do anything, and when it kills someone,
back out by saying, 'No one said I had do do it that way.' When
manufacturers or builders will stand beside a pile of wreckage and say,
out loud, for the record, 'Yeah, we built this, it was our work and it
killed people. We screwed up big time, and we're gonna make restitution,'
we won't need the force of law. Until then...
You want a good example? The steamboat Sultana blew up in 1865 near
Memphis, killing more than 1500 people, mostly Federal troops on their
way home from Confederate POW camps. No one, unless you count the
soldiers who died, took the rap--not the owners, not the Army, not the
crew, not the people who were supposed to make sure the boiler was safe
(The suspected cause was a faulty patch put on a boiler after an argument
over whether the boiler needed major work after a low water excursion
caused a bulge.). After a few years, when the ruckus died down, the dead
passengers _did_ get a nice bronze plaque.
No laws--no accountability.
Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant from
chrisw(--nospam--at)skypoint.com | this distance" (last words of Gen.
___________________________| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)