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Classic Ethics and Engineering - An Audio Course

Thomas Mason, PE

Course Outline

This two hour online audio course presents the concepts and examples of use of engineering ethics. The concepts are referenced to sources which you can review independently. The examples are from recent engineering catastrophes and less serious failures which may illustrate the consequences of different choices.

The course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for architects, project managers, engineers, contractors and construction managers who must make daily engineering decisions. The initiating force was the New Mexico 2006 requirement for 2-pdh in ethics for PE renewal, though there is nothing specific to New Mexico in the content (per private communication with the NM Board of Registration). Interested technical persons will get value for insights into how philosophy interacts daily with engineering design and construction.

Benefit to Attendees

Some questions do not lend themselves to easy answer. The value is created by identifying the stakeholders, carefully thinking through consequences and making and documenting the most acceptable rational and emotional decision. This course does not present "right" answers, but does present some tools to assist in analysis of the questions.

Course Introduction

The study of ethics is simple: Do good. Avoid evil. Or, Pursue right. Avoid wrong.

The study of ethics is complex; stakeholders include the innocent (naive) public, each business trying to profit from the construction, public services, politicians seeking re-election, muckrakers, whistle-blowers and mis-informed partisans. Each group defines right and wrong differently.

There are a wide range of acceptable ethical decisions, but we must work from a single set of facts.

These are the things we will discuss and demonstrate in this course. I hope that you will be able to participate in each of the various viewpoints and use the experience to help you make better ethical decisions.

Course Content

This audio course consists of the following three (3) modules (files) in MP3 format. You may click on and listen to each module online using Microsoft Windows Media Player (free download) or RealPlayer (free download). You may also download these files to your computer or save them to an audio CD for personal use. The audio CD can be played in any CD player capable of playing MP3. A copy of the lecture notes is also available below in PDF format.

Introduction of speaker (0.5 MB)

Section 1 of Content (42 MB)

Section 2 of Content (26 MB)

The lecture notes for this course are contained in PDF format as follows. You may open or download this document for reference and further study - for personal use only.

Classic Ethics and Engineering
(PDF Content File).


You need to open or download this document to study this course.

You may need to download Acrobat Reader to view and print the document.

Course Summary

Ethics are as real as every design decision you make. On the other hand, guides available are absolute, in a world of probable future outcomes rather than clear consequences. There are legal and licensing liabilities to wrong design decisions but also life-safety consequences. Unfortunately, there are also commercial and career continuity consequences. This course attempts to present the guides available and real-world interpretations. The goal is that you are in a better position to justify and live with the decisions you have to make.

Related Links

These sources are offered for reference and educational value. None of the products is particularly recommended by the author or PDHonline.



Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.