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Monday, March 18 - 11:38amSanction this postReply
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I posted this to start a discussion of the issue of protecting public safety from engineering incompetence in a free society.

 

Please share your thoughts on how to prevent or discourage disasters like this one under laissez-faire conditions.

 

The National Society for Professional Engineers (NSPE) frowns upon the Institute for Justice (IJ) for its role in reducing state licensing requirements in the engineering profession and cites disasters like this one for why engineering licensure is needed.



Post 1

Tuesday, March 19 - 3:42amSanction this postReply
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licensing never produced better trained experts - full responsibility for their work does ... only a fully responsible expert will make sure he acquires the expertise required for his job - licensing just put's paper overhead in place that's usually not worth the paper it's printed on ... I can't speak for the engineering community but in the IT services we have a saying: "whoever has time to get licensed does not have time to do it in the real world" - hands-on experience, preferably with a proper mentoring system, is by far superior to bureaucrats printing more weasel-worded paper asking ridiculous prices for their worthless services (unless they also take responsibility for the service licensed by them?) ... taking responsibility for your work used to be called 'taking pride in one's work' - so sad it has to be spelled out explicitly these days ...

VSD



Post 2

Wednesday, March 20 - 10:03amSanction this postReply
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If we want to persuade the people who think we need licensing, we may need to explain this more fully.  This means both explaining the fundamental principles involved and answering their questions.  

 

I'll play devil's advocate and list some possible questions.  Not necessarily good questions, just what we might get asked.  How can we make sure engineers are responsible?  What do we do about the ones that aren't?  Do we have to wait for something bad to happen to take action?

 

I might do some answering, but I'll let others have a chance first.



Post 3

Thursday, March 21 - 2:41amSanction this postReply
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How can we make sure engineers are responsible?

by making the engineer fix all problems he created through his work - pay for all damages following from his work

 

What do we do about the ones that aren't?

blacklist them :D in reality there is not much we can do except make it known that they are not responsible engineers - however after the first mess-up that cannot be fixed by them (physically or monetary or indemnity) they'll soon end up in jail anyway ;)

 

Do we have to wait for something bad to happen to take action?

 afraid so - you can't make an engineer responsible before he's actually done something

 

I understand the point you're driving at: sort of a society based vouching through licensing, titles, mandatory training, etc. ... sounds like a good idea on the surface but underneath it only replaces self-responsibility with society-responsibility ... plus those licenses, titles, trainings have been failing badly in recent years - same as our mandatory school system, which once was put in place to give everyone a chance to learn (like training to be allowed to call yourself an engineer) however have been perverted to 'everybody learns nothing as that is the lowest common denominator' ... if you don't have the individual will and ability to learn and train and take responsibility for your actions, then all this mandatory schooling, training, licensing is just pushing that responsibility on to others ...

VSD



Post 4

Thursday, March 21 - 4:21amSanction this postReply
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I am personally leaning in favor of private certification versus public licensing.  For instance, I have both a public professional engineer (PE) license and a private Project Management Professional® (PMP®) certification.  Notice that the latter is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute® (PMI®) which is itself also trademarked.  States can still require that their municipal projects are managed by a PMP®, but the certification itself is private.  If the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) followed a similar path, it would be a step in the direction of a market approach.  Insurance companies may require such certifications before providing professional liability insurance.

 

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 3/21, 5:44am)



Post 5

Friday, March 22 - 1:18amSanction this postReply
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Luke,

you bring up another interesting regulatory aspect: insurances.

They are after all the ones who will pay for the mistakes of the engineers, so they should have a vested interest in a proper evaluation system which engineer they insure.

Sadly in Germany in IT business you can actually sue an insurance if she denies you her services (as long as you haven't messed up yet and have a claim pending), so anyone can just apply for such an insurance, go mess up the customer's systems, and then have the insurer pay for their damages :(

In your case the insurance could set mandatory certifications or trainings because they a) would not limit an engineer to go out and seek work - he'd just have to work without an insurance and probably few people would hire him and b) the insurance pays for the engineers that slipped through their own certification process - contrary to the state licensing where the state does not pay a cent (unless they have cronies in the government who get your taxes for free like bailing out banks). So in this case it's your value as an engineer traded for their value as an insurer and both parties make sure they trade with full knowledge of their services (which should include some form of proof the insurer is actually capable of insuring such work).

VSD



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