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USC Chemical Engineering Student

Laws & Ethics in ChE Practice 2018

D e p a r t m e n t o f Term/Academic Year:
Chemical Engineering Second Semester AY 2017-2018
Talamban, Cebu City, Philippines 6000

ENGINEERING ETHICS CASE STUDY

A case study submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements in the course

CHE 522N
LAWS AND ETHICS IN CHEMICAL ENGINEERING PRACTICE

Submitted by:
HUGH LAMBERT L. MALINAO

Submitted to:
ENGR. LUIS K. CABATINGAN

Submitted on:
JANUARY 7, 2018
I. Case
Lepap is a manufacturing company that produces paper-like materials for use in
construction of buildings. The paper-like products of Lepap are sold and shipped to Tapal
Sheeting, which are then bound to produce fire resistant wall sheets. To be able to meet Tapal
Sheetings demand, Lepap must operate 24 hours a day and 7 hours a week.
The paper-like material produced by Lepap must also be within the allowable range of
density and moisture content. Failure to meet the specifications would cause the wall sheets to
delaminate upon installation. Due to the variable nature of Lepap’s feedstock, batch samples of
the product are tested for their moisture content, density, and strength by the production
technicians and then reported to the duty engineer who makes the decision to keep or discard a
batch every 20 minutes. The whole batch is discarded if it fails the tests, which happens once
every two or three days. Occasionally, failed products are discovered to be off-specification only
after several hours of production.
On a Friday morning, the moisture content testing equipment broke down while being used
by a young technician, Winston. Without a spare, the equipment was fixed in a hurry. The duty
engineer, Jason, decides to keep running the plant at full capacity, since the last batch passed
and should remain that way for a couple more hours. Samples were still taken every 20 minutes
and were to be tested once the equipment is fixed to ensure that the product quality passes.
The equipment must be fixed as soon as possible, since Friday’s production will be delivered to
Tapal Sheeting early evening on the same day.
Roxanne is the process engineer tasked to manage majority of the upstream processes
where the feedstock is processed. As she was leaving for home in the afternoon, Jason told her
that the equipment was fixed and that Friday’s batches are acceptable after testing, according to
Winston. After an upstream pump failure, Roxanne was called back to work where she sees the
truck containing Friday’s production departing to Tapal Sheeting. After finishing the job, she
learns that the equipment was just recently fixed. Upon checking the moisture content sample
data sheets, it is found that they have been filled in for Friday’s production. From the dispatch
office, she was made aware that Jason authorized the shipment certifying that it meets the set
specifications.
This worried Roxanne and troubled about what to do, especially when Jason is out of town
for the weekend, Winston’s shift is over, and the shift engineer is now Adrian.
II. Framing the Problem
It is important to note that the relevant facts from the case before making Roxanne’s next
course of action. These are:
1. The moisture content test is a test done to determine whether the product from that
batch is acceptable or not which is done by the duty engineer, Jason.
2. The documented results showed the samples were within the specifications and have
been given approval.
3. It is unknown how the moisture content test was done with the equipment still broken
and whether the data from the moisture content test is reliable.
4. It is unknown why Jason said the young technician, Winston, reported that the
equipment was fixed when it was fixed just a few minutes ago.
5. The process engineer, Roxanne, noticed the inconsistency of their report and the time
the equipment was fixed
6. Tapal and Lepap has a business relationship where Lepap delivers within specification
products to Tapal.

From the listed relevant facts, two issues can be noticed: the uncertainty of the authenticity
of the data and the truthfulness of the notification of both Jason to Roxanne and Winston to
Jason, and the responsibility of Roxanne as an engineer to report her suspicion of falsified data.
The first issue is considered a factual issue, since the data and what Jason and Winston
said is now considered as uncertain. This is due to after seeing the report of the sample data
that has been accepted as being passed before the delivery and after being informed that the
equipment for moisture content determination was fixed around the time that the delivery was
preparing to leave. This could lead to a speculation where tampering of the data may have
occurred or whether someone was lying to Roxanne. This issue is a call for respect for persons
where she is being suspicious of Jason and Winston’s actions but would not want to damage
anyone’s reputation in any way.
Respect for persons is based on the idea that persons should have the right to be
autonomous as moral agents and are to be respected. Similar to utilitarian thinking, there are
many approaches on how a course of action based on respect for persons is done: golden rule,
self-defeating, and rights approach. For this case, the self-defeating approach would be
considered as the most applicable approach due to the possibility of falsification of data, which
is another form of lying and cheating. If everyone were to do just that, nothing in the world would
be reliable and no errors would ever be recorded even though it has happened. The golden rule
approach would not be considered as applicable, since if the situation was reversed, Roxanne
would not want anyone finding out. The rights approach wouldn’t also be applicable for the
reason that the culprit would the right to defend themselves and set as a negative example of
work ethics, especially if the culprit would get away with it.
The second issue is considered as a moral issue. This is due to Roxanne being an engineer
who has become aware of a possibility of data falsification. As engineering ethics dictate, data
falsification is considered as a form of lying and cheating, thus, shall not be tolerated. Ignoring
this issue would not align with her employer’s goals, since it may affect the business relationship
between Tapal and Lepap, and affect the company’s overall stability. This second issue is an
appeal to utilitarian thinking where the greatest good for the greatest number of people is being
sought by Roxanne.
Utilitarian thinking is summed up in one idea, which is “the greatest good for the greatest
number”. This ethical consideration can be approached in a number of ways, namely, cost-
benefit, act utilitarian, and rule utilitarian approach. For this case, the act utilitarian would be
approach would be most suitable since it would view through the consequences of the actions
done. The cost-benefit approach views the action by the amount gained for each amount lost
and with no direct quantities lost or gained in this case, this approach would not be very useful.
Lastly, the rule utilitarian approach wouldn’t also be considered as a useful approach, since no
rules would apply for the actions to be taken by Roxanne.

III. Analysis
Listed below are possible courses of actions for Roxanne.
A. Inform Jason and Winston that the equipment was just fixed and that the data may not
be reliable and inquire if he was aware that the equipment was still broken when he gave
the approval to the delivery and certification that it was within specification.
B. Contact and request Jason and Winston to tell the truth about the matter of the data of
the batch passing despite the equipment not being operational at that time.
C. Report the suspicions towards Jason and Winston, and evidences of data tampering to
the Human Resource Department to call the attention of the people under suspicion.
D. Request Winston and Jason to come back to work and redo the moisture content test on
another sample of Friday’s batch.
E. Do nothing.
Listed below are each course of action viewed according to the act utilitarian approach for
utilitarian thinking and the self-defeating approach for respect for persons.

Utilitarian Thinking: Act Utilitarianism Approach


A. Being able to contact Jason and Winston and learn about the truth would give time to
minimize the damage to the two companies’ relationship and to the fire-resistant walls.
This would also limit the threat of punishment or unemployment to Jason only.
B. By contacting both of them, both sides would be shed to light. But would also bring the
negative consequence of a damaged relationship between them and Roxanne due to
her accusing them.
C. Consequences would lead to direct negative effects to both Jason and Winston’s jobs
from the proper authority. However, the same effects would also be gained from act
utilitarianism of B.
D. Not knowing whether the data was tampered or not would result to two possible
consequences from acting on this. If the data was not tampered, only Jason and
Winston would lose money from their fares. If the data was tampered, the damage would
be minimized, since it is now known that the batch does not meet specifications.
E. Consequences could be either neutral or negative. If the batch was within specification,
operation will proceed like normal except for Jason and Winston, who will be left with a
warning. However, if it does not, harm to business relationships and to the people
involved and responsible would happen.

Respect for Persons: Self-Defeating Approach


A. If everyone would be keeping their fellow co-workers updated with the current situation,
work will proceed smoother.
B. If everyone would accuse everybody of mistakes that happen on their time, miserable
working relationships would be established.
C. Everyone reporting suspicions misconduct would minimize the chances of falsifying data
in the workplace.
D. If everyone was suddenly called back in their off hours for something that they have
done, this would affect their willingness to work during work hours.
E. If everyone does not do anything in the face of lying or cheating, nothing would be
reliable.
To help further resolve the case at hand, line-drawing is used as shown in Table 1. The
paradigm features listed are selected because of: their relationship with each other helps decide
how much Roxanne would avoid negatively affecting Jason and Winston; Jason’s weekend
helps her understand why Jason would do it; Jason’s timing to notify Roxanne helps her
understand how Jason was able to permit the delivery even with the equipment still broken,
since Roxanne was the only engineer who is aware of the issue at that time; and the span of the
effects of her decision helps decide why Roxanne should act.

Table 1. Line-drawing test of paradigm features


Paradigm Feature Negative Test Case Positive
Jason and Winston’s relationship
Antagonizing ---------------------X----- Friendship
with Roxanne
Jason’s weekend plans Nothing special ---------------------X----- Grand
She is
Jason’s timing to notify Roxanne She is occupied ----X----------------------
unoccupied
Span of effects of decision Self --------------------------X- Company

IV. Resolution
The course of action selected to be the best to tackle both factual and moral issues is A, the
option to “inform Jason and Winston that the equipment was just fixed and that the data
may not be reliable and inquire if he was aware that the equipment was still broken when
he gave the approval to the delivery and certification that it was within specification”. This
action does not give the feeling of accusation to both Jason and Winston. Without that feeling,
their relationship as coworkers is not negatively affected and might affect the culprit’s
cooperation on the matter. However, the appropriate punishment would still be given to the
culprit to show that the company does not support these kinds of actions. Given that the culprit
admitted his mistake, punishment would be lighter than what is expected. Incidentally, being
aware of the problem immediately would give time for the company to take action to salvage the
business relationship between Tapal and Lepap, in the unlikely event that the paper-like
materials did not pass the tests.

V. References
Harris Jr, C. E., Pritchard, M. S., & Rabins, M. J. (2009). Engineering Ethics- Concepts &
Cases. Cengage Learning.