Essay 4-Engineering Design

Essay 4-Engineering Design - Engineering Design Literature...

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Engineering Design Literature On Social Responsibility Versus Legal Liability (ESSAY #4) Introduction Litigation associated with engineering design has escalated enormously over the last few decades. It has increased the intensity of debates over the question whether social responsibility or legal liability should have priority. Where does a design engineer and his/her company's responsibility end and the subcontractor's, manufacturer's and consumer's begin? The relationship between social responsibility and legal liability is complicated by the fact that laws are usually enacted only after a disaster. How can an engineering firm justify its actions based on current legal definitions? If a company's design has adverse affects on the public welfare, of necessity laws are enacted to ensure that appropriate safety standards are met. Or, at the very least, legal suits are filed so injured parties can be compensated and the culprits penalized. This phenomenon has become particularly critical regarding litigation involving engineering design and product liability. The public has become increasingly aware that the benefits of industrial progress must be balanced against the growing need to protect the public from damages caused by some products and by-products of technology. Naturally, the spirited public debate puts engineers at the center of the controversy between product safety and social responsibility on the one hand and legal liability on the other.1 How should we determine the engineer's and his/her company's social responsibility? Is it not their job to act as society's protector? Should social responsibility not precede any discussion of legal liability? And should a design engineer not take every precaution to ensure that his/her company's product is safe before it enters the market? Safety must be an essential design consideration, for as Christopher D. Stone notes in his Where the Law Ends: The Social Control of Corporate Behavior, Even if we put aside the defects in the impact of the sanctions, there still remains the problem that law is primarily a reactive institution. Lawmakers have to appreciate and respond to problems that corporate engineers, chemists, and financiers were anticipating (or should have anticipated) long before that the drugs their corporations are about to produce can alter consciousness or damage the gene pool of the human race, that they are on the verge of multinational expansion that will endow them with the power to trigger worldwide financial crises in generally unforeseen ways, and so on. Even if laws could be passed to deal effectively with these dangers, until they are passed a great deal of damage some perhaps irreversible can be done. Thus, there is something grotesque and socially dangerous in encouraging corporate managers to believe that, until the law tells them otherwise, they have no responsibilities beyond the law and their impulses (whether their impulses spring from the id or from the balance sheet). We do not encourage human beings to suppose so. And the
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Essay 4-Engineering Design - Engineering Design Literature...

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