Disasters Behind The Engineering Ethics Issues


Wikipedia says, engineering ethics is the field of applied ethics and system of moral principles that apply to the practice of engineering. This issues is attracting increasing interest in engineering practician, since there had been series of significant structural failures at the 19th century drew to a close and the 20th century began.

There are some disaster that occured at that time which provided a strong impetus for the establishment of professional licensing and codes of ethics in the United States.

1. Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster

20110621-105043.jpg
This disaster happened at December 29, 1876 in Ashtabula / Edgewood, Ohio, USA. Caused 92 people died, and 64 others injuries. It was a train disaster caused by bridge failure. It was, at the time, the worst rail accident in American history (succeeded by the Great Train Wreck of 1918). The disaster prompted the designers to pay more attention to the standards for bridges including adequate testing and inspection.

2. Tay Bridge Disaster

20110621-110013.jpg
Happened at December 28, 1879 in Dundee, Scotland. This disaster caused 75 deaths. Similar with the first disaster, Tay Rail Bridge collapsed during a violent storm while a train was passing over it. Investigation result said there was many faults in design, materials, and processes that had contributed to the failure. The bridge was designed by the noted railway engineer Sir Thomas Bouch, using a lattice grid that combined wrought and cast iron.

3. Quebec Bridge

20110621-105211.jpg
Qubece bridge in Quebec City, and Lévis, Quebec, Canada, start builded at 1904 and collapse twice at 1907 and 1916. August 29, 1907, the south arm and part of the central section of the bridge collapsed into the St. Lawrence River in just 15 seconds. Of the 86 workers on the bridge that day near quitting time, 75 were killed and the rest were injured. Before the disaster, engineer realized that the preliminary calculations made early in the planning stages were never properly checked when the design was finalized, and the actual weight of the bridge was far in excess of its carrying capacity. But the message about this had not been passed on to Quebec, until it was too late.
The second collapse on September 11, 1916. The new design was still for a bridge with a single long cantilever span, but a much more massive one. When the central span was being raised into position, it fell into the river, killing 13 workers.

4. Boston Molasses Disaster

20110621-105314.jpg
Occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. As wikipedia record, a large molasses storage tank burst, and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150. Several factors that occurred on that day and the previous days might have contributed to the disaster. The first factor was the poor construction and not tested insufficiently. The other causes was the internal pressure from the carbon dioxide due to the fermentation process and the rise in local temperatures that occurred over the previous day also would have assisted in building this pressure.

Related books:
- Ethics in Engineering
- Ethics, Technology, and Engineering: An Introduction
- It Looked Good on Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering Follies

Back to top

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *