#4: Ethics in Engineering

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For this blog post assignment, I would like to discuss briefly about the ethics involved in engineering.



source: http://www.culecorea.com/bbs/data/l_free/I_009561sampoong.gif


In June 1995, South Korea witnessed one of the most tragic calamities the country has ever experienced. The Sampoong Department Store collapsed resulting in the death of 502 people and sustained injuries of 937. The collapse was mainly due to a structural failure. The loss of human lives on that day could have been prevented or at least minimized if the management had handled the situation responsibly in a timely manner.

The building, which was originally designed to be an office building, was redesigned to be a department store. Later, the owner added another floor to the building. The redesign involved cutting away a number of building supports to install the escalators. The plan to redesign was rejected by the initial contractors due to the risks involved in the redesign but the chairman of the building, Lee Joon, fired them and hired his own company to reconstruct the building.

On the day of collapse, civil engineering experts discovered some cracks that revealed the high risk of collapse. However, the owner of the building continued operating the stores and tried to cover up the evidence of the structural failures. Due to the failure to take action and evacuate people when the danger was revealed, the casualties from the collapse reached overwhelming 1400 with the fatalities of 500.

This tragic event is a good example of unethical decisions that resulted in the mourning of many families and the loss of much property. Many faced imprisonment for negligence and bribery after the incident.

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It sounds like Lee Joon cares about nothing but his own profits. It is a shame that an incident such as this has to occur to get people to consider the consequences of poor engineering. The fact that the engineers noticed these problems and the store was still allowed to operate seems to show a lack of safety regulation by the South Korean government. Hopefully regulation has improved since then, maybe due to this accident.

This is a really disturbing event. I can't believe someone could be so stubborn that they would risk the integrity of the building in that way. Is Lee Joon still in prison?

Profits matter. I always wonder how much money they lose when buildings collapse, how can this be profitable? We should attach a price to souls and charge for the lost ones, but, maybe, we already do this. How can we teach ethics to people who are responsible for lives and livelihoods?

This building collapse looks so sad and horrific.

In my opinion Lee Joon is a very unethical man. As an engineer the safety of the people needs to and has to comes first. The engineers should have done everything necessary to stop the addition to the building. It sounds like many more lives could have been saved.

Its an interesting situation because the owner of the building is obviously not an engineer and when his plans were rejected by one company, he chose another. While the first contractors made the right choice in rejecting the redesign, the second company obviously chose profit over safety. Despite this, I believe the owner is at greater fault for rejecting the first company's advice and then not evacuating the building when something was obiously wrong.

It is really sad that a man could ignore safety to that level to make money. What is also sad, is that the engineers that discovered the danger did not act besides informing Lee Joon. The engineers should have informed the police to the situation.

This tragic example shows why it is important as an engineer to hold yourself to a high level of ethics. Not only did this exemplify the poor ethical decision of the chairman of the building, but also the new contractors that had their design decision "bought."

This is a very good example of ethics in engineering. It covers ethics in the design phase of engineering as well as when there is a problem found on the building that has been engineered. I was surprised to hear that after the redesigning plan was rejected by the initial contractors, no one said anything when construction continued and the contractors were fired.

It is a shame that someone would put so many lives in danger just for his own personal gain, with no regard for anyone else.

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