The safety article was an interesting read. The article acknowledges early on that practitioners aren't taking the problem seriously enough. According to the ASCE ILC Roundtable moderator, the small and mid-sized companies that employ the majority of engineers "are less likely to promote and support safety to a high degree.
" Yet the industry appears to be defaulting more heavily on the undergraduate engineering education sector to solve this mammoth problem affecting public safety and trust in our industry.
Colleges and universities in general are neither tasked nor equipped to solve all of the world's problems. Their duty to society is to impart a depth of knowledge and set of critical thinking skills necessary in a particular area to both apply and extend the existing body of knowledge and practice. These cognitive attributes are necessary for society's continued progress and evolution, but are not generally expected of those who have not been fortunate to have received this level of formal training. In my opinion, when we award degrees from fully accredited institutions and issue professional practice certifications and licenses following rigorous examination, we accept that the universities have for the most part fulfilled their duties.
Expanding degree credit and educator qualifications requirements may not be the optimal solution to this problem. After all, those requirements would mostly benefit the sub-set of engineers with significant exposure to safety hazards/risks, and perhaps unnecessarily burden the rest, making our profession even less appealing. The safety article repeatedly referred to the 120-credit 4-year degree, but my and many other undergraduate engineering programs already require over 130 credits. Would adding additional safety-related coursework actually make a net-positive contribution?
First and foremost, a level of personal and professional accountability should compel engineers to acquire the level of job-specific safety knowledge and training required to protect themselves, the public and/or the environment based on their specific duties and responsibilities by whatever means are available to them. Secondly, engineering companies also have a business and ethical responsibility to promote safety to the greatest extent possible and prudent, to protect themselves, their employees', the public and the environment. Finally, I'm all for less government intervention, but federal, state and local regulatory agencies must expand their role, as needed, to minimize harm to the public where individual engineering practitioners and companies/industries fail to address the needs.
Can educators do more? No doubt they can, and perhaps should. But all considered, I believe that colleges and universities are currently doing their fair share to address the safety problem without further burdening that institution.
Ronald Eyma P.E., M.ASCE
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Sent: 12-12-2021 09:29 AM
From: Mitchell Winkler
Subject: ASCE Safety Initiative Highlights Flaws in Current CE Education System
I applaud the initiative to strengthen the teaching of design and personal safety into the undergraduate curriculum ref Academic Safety Challenge. Civil Engineering, September / October 2021
However, the challenges with implementation reflect a somewhat sad and disturbing commentary on our current educational system. Specifically, and as highlighted in the article, many civil engineering educators are focused on theory and / or lack practical experience to teach safety. The article is specific to safety but safety in my opinion is a proxy for a more extensive gap in engineering skills. Bringing in lecturers or professors of practice to teach topics like safety treats the symptoms and not the root cause of a larger problem in my view. Getting the educational system to get the right balance back between educators with theory and practice is not going to easy but we need to try.
How do others see the problem and solutions? Did others see the irony in the safety article?
Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE