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Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
10/7/21 5:31 p.m.

Right?  And I just berkeleying started there.  Big win for me.

Not an in-house issue, thankfully.  Contractor that we are working for has revealed to us that they have severely cut corners, haven't told the people they are working for though.  Problem is going to cause the entire system to fail when its under strain.  When the system is under strain it is possible that Very Bad Things will happen.  Worst an engineer can imagine, really.  A friend in the military used to say about similar situations "Things fall down.  Puppies will die." and... yeah.  Puppies will die.

That's about all I can really say without revealing enough to ID any company involved.  I know how I plan on dealing with it, and I've got a timeline for this, but one thing I haven't figured out is where that fits in for work.  Internally I'm starting to get concerned with how long it is taking the boss man to deal with this.  The contractor has pulled sketchy E36 M3 throughout the build of this and it sounds like the boss wants to keep this as an ace in the hole in case the contractor decides to pull one last act of berkeleyery.  To an extent I can respect that, but I don't like it.

Like I said, I've got a plan, I know when I'm going to start taking steps, but I'm feeling... itchy. 

 

I guess I just want to hear similar stories and how they worked out.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
10/7/21 5:37 p.m.

You had a Contractor actually admit to you that they had cut corners? 

Sorry, I got nothing comparable to that.  Most of the time we badger Contractors to admit they berkeleyed up, and they never do. 

 

Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/7/21 5:37 p.m.

Is it the SLS? 

Seriously though, you do not want to be caught knowing about the cut corners and not doing anything in the investigation after the inevitable explosion. Any way to file an anonymous whistle-blower report with whatever government oversight agency is appropriate?

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
10/7/21 5:46 p.m.

I used to be a registered professional engineer and that situation would have sent me directly to my superiors and on to the provincial authorities if they failed to take action. That was a legal obligation, not a moral choice. It would be a very difficult position to be in, but I have to look after my reputation and that of my employer and especially the safety of the final customer or their customers/employees.

Closest I got to a conflict between me and an employer was my boss wanted me to do all the drawing for a building addition to save the fees of the engineering firm. I wasn't a civil engineer, nor was I insured for liability should the structure fail, so I refused. He asked aloud why he had wasted company money hiring a professional engineer then. He ended up being forced into retirement over that and a bunch of other issues, and I stayed with the company for 25 years.

11GTCS
11GTCS Dork
10/7/21 6:01 p.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

Without disregarding the potential dangers of falling objects causing grave harm to our young canine friends, my thought is this:  If I’m reading correctly, you know that boss man is aware of the issue and the potential ramifications. With you being a relatively new employee and already being aware of the situation I would imagine that the situation is well understood among your co workers and management team.  

This is not a Mr. Asa problem from where I sit.  I would hold on for now and await the the boss man’s next move.  I expect that they are actively working on this and are documenting your company’s involvement in the project before taking action.  

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
10/7/21 6:04 p.m.
volvoclearinghouse said:

You had a Contractor actually admit to you that they had cut corners? 

Sorry, I got nothing comparable to that.  Most of the time we badger Contractors to admit they berkeleyed up, and they never do. 

Again, without getting too involved in the particulars, they reached past us to one of our contractors that verified some info for us and asked them "hey can we get away with this being under spec?" and our contractor called us and asked us "WTF is going on here?" and that's how we found out

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
10/7/21 6:06 p.m.
Javelin (Forum Supporter) said:

Is it the SLS? 

Seriously though, you do not want to be caught knowing about the cut corners and not doing anything in the investigation after the inevitable explosion. Any way to file an anonymous whistle-blower report with whatever government oversight agency is appropriate?

Yup.  I have looked up the website, I have looked up proxy servers to ensure that it won't come back to me.  That's one of the last steps in my plan, I'm just waiting to talk to the boss tomorrow and go over everything with him about when he plans to talk to someone.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
10/7/21 6:12 p.m.
11GTCS said:

In reply to Mr_Asa :

Without disregarding the potential dangers of falling objects causing grave harm to our young canine friends, my thought is this:  If I’m reading correctly, you know that boss man is aware of the issue and the potential ramifications. With you being a relatively new employee and already being aware of the situation I would imagine that the situation is well understood among your co workers and management team.  

This is not a Mr. Asa problem from where I sit.  I would hold on for now and await the the boss man’s next move.  I expect that they are actively working on this and are documenting your company’s involvement in the project before taking action.  

We are a very small company.  Very very small.  Maybe if we include our shop workers we can field a softball team.  Its impossible for me to not know as all of the CAD Monkeys were in the room at the time we found out, all two of us.  We've known for maybe a week?

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
10/7/21 6:13 p.m.

Is your company "clean" in this whole thing? 

Often, the leading offender draws the other players into the scheme to "get them dirty too" as a way of keeping them quiet. 

I'm not questioning you directly but you just got there.  What was being "played" before you arrived?

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
10/7/21 6:20 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

100%  All documentation stated that This Needs To Meet This Spec.  Outside of us confirming that and confirming our simulations based on that spec, we weren't even involved with the piece of this puzzle that has been cut in half.

Based on the sketchy E36 M3 that I've seen, I wouldn't doubt that's coming down the pipe.

11GTCS
11GTCS Dork
10/7/21 6:30 p.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

OK, understood.   I know you can’t get into specifics but is the timetable so critical that action needs to be immediate or really bad things potentially happen?   My first job as an engineer was involved with propulsion systems on nuclear powered submarines, I can relate to the potential for bad outcomes if people don’t do their jobs.  I’m not trying to diminish your concerns, I respect that you have them. I’d just hate to see you become a professional martyr when the person with the actual responsibility to do the right thing (boss man) may already be on that path.

I’ll leave with this; have a talk with boss man like you’ve planned.  Ask leading questions and then make your decision.   Thank you for being a person with principles, I hope you’re pleasantly surprised tomorrow and find out you work for another one.  

New York Nick
New York Nick Reader
10/7/21 6:37 p.m.

At my company ethics are ethics. If you know about something like that you better say something ASAP. We have multiple paths to do it, some are anonymous some are not. The policy is if you make a good faith disclosure you can't be retaliated against. I am sure hat happens but I would rather ring the alarm and be wrong then not and have he stink on me. 

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
10/7/21 6:37 p.m.

In reply to 11GTCS :

Timetable is weird on this.  Its an emergency use system.  The emergency probably won't happen this year, but the season its designed for isn't over yet.  It might happen before the end of this year, it might take a decade before it gets deployed in anything more than a practice situation, y'know?

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/7/21 6:49 p.m.

The only ethical issue I see is remaining silent. 

Apexcarver
Apexcarver UltimaDork
10/7/21 7:08 p.m.

Damage to persons or to property?

If it's persons, you must act. Full stop. If it's property, it would still be a good idea.

 

 

 

kazoospec
kazoospec UberDork
10/7/21 7:30 p.m.

Dead puppies = DOCUMENT EVERYTHING, including the date, time & place you provided notice to the boss, including that he/she was specifically informed the defect/foulup/subspec would likely result in dead puppies.  Schedule an appointment to speak with the boss via email.  Keep a copy of the email.  Summarize the conversation in a report, keep a copy for yourself, especially if dead puppies may not occur for a period of years.  Ask the boss if they would like you to prepare a report for the end user or  if they need help explaining the issue to the end user.

If the boss doesn't like any of this, I'd take it as a sign that rolling with it and hoping for the best has as least crossed the boss's mind.  

Just remember, if dead puppies occur under this kind of circumstance, it becomes every man/woman for themselves.  Your documentation makes you more useful as a witness than a defendant.

nocones
nocones UberDork
10/7/21 7:41 p.m.

Yeah If you know about a material deficiency being built into a device that will potentially result in Loss of Life or injury you HAVE to act.  Like Tomorrow.  Or possibly tonight.  Call your boss.  Tell them how you are going to elevate it to the appropriate authorities later today if they do not. 

Engineers get put into a wierd spot on moral/ethical delimas because of the way we are trained to answer questions.  Your management will ask you "sure this is underspec but will it absolutely result in death or injury" and being an engineer you'll have to go do a bunch of research and simulations and analysis to determine if that particular spec has sufficient safety margin to answer a simple yes or no question.  And during that time you'll find out that it *might* be okay and you'll answer will become..  maybe, and your management will say "you want us to stop production on product X for a Maybe" and you'll loose face and slink away. 

It really sucks to have to make career limiting decisions in situations like this but in the end it will be better.  

I have asked to sign off on several questionable situations in my career that would probably be "ok" despite cutting corners.  Without giving to much information one involved rolling a massive steam turbine before vibrations where bellow the OEM recommendations.  This situation has resulted in equipment exiting it's enclosures at high velocities in the past in other people's turbines.  It was basically a million dollars an hour to not do what was wanted.   I refused to sign off based on having no reason to go against the manufacturer.  I found myself in phone meetings with people whos job titles had Sr VP in front of them at 2 am and was the only person in the organization that was against it.  In the end we didn't do it.  I'm sure that cost me something but it was the right call and no one got hurt.  Another situation cost the company ~$500k to do something right Vs. easy because I refused to compromise.  I had been at the company for a few years but overall was low on the totem pole.  There is something releasing about you making your own moral/ethical decision and standing by it.  People motivated by saving $$ or going with the flow can't take it away from you and can't move you.  I made my choice and was prepared to be walked out of the building because in the end I was not going to be part of risking people's health for saving time/$$.   

I always think to myself in these situations what headline will be written about you when the investigation occurs after the accident that kills someone happens?  Will you be the guy that knew that the O-rings where not sufficiently pliable below 35F and leakage would result in Loss of vehicle but didn't push hard enough?  Will you be the guy that could of prevented it but was to uncomfortable to say something or trusted someone else to prevent it?

It will always be harder to stop the process tomorrow or next week or next month.  Summit fever is real and the closer you get the more likely it is to lead to bad decisions.  The right day to pull the plug is Now.  

Good luck.  I've been there, I know how it feels and it sucks/is hard.  Despite costing my company Millions of $$ I remained employed.  Ultimately retaliation protection is real and is one of the few things HR will actually benefit employees to protect the company from follow up suits/liability.  Do the right thing to protect people.  Property is different as is a calculation you can't make.  If it's a equipment protection or lost production question you have to work that through your management.  If it's people safety you prepare yourself to go as far as you need (internal, state regulators, OSHA, Fed regulators, local media) to make it right.  

 

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
10/7/21 7:42 p.m.
Apexcarver said:

Damage to persons or to property?

If it's persons, you must act. Full stop. If it's property, it would still be a good idea.

Another question that's weird.  I haven't seen the simulations, but based on what I know I assume it will fail horribly, and at that point property damage is guaranteed.
Persons is a much harder question, presumably when this thing is deployed for full use no one will stay in the vicinity.  People do dumb things and stay in places no one sane should.  I could see it happening.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
10/7/21 7:46 p.m.

I just read a report today on the Hard Rock Cafe building that collapsed in New Orleans.  Investigators have found there were a number of structural beams that were undersized, and there are civil lawsuits and possible criminal negligence charges involved.  I don't know the size or scope of your project, but if you think there are life threatening issues going on, speak up now and not later.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
10/7/21 7:47 p.m.
kazoospec said:

Dead puppies = DOCUMENT EVERYTHING, including the date, time & place you provided notice to the boss, including that he/she was specifically informed the defect/foulup/subspec would likely result in dead puppies.  Schedule an appointment to speak with the boss via email.  Keep a copy of the email.  Summarize the conversation in a report, keep a copy for yourself, especially if dead puppies may not occur for a period of years.  Ask the boss if they would like you to prepare a report for the end user or  if they need help explaining the issue to the end user.

If the boss doesn't like any of this, I'd take it as a sign that rolling with it and hoping for the best has as least crossed the boss's mind.  

Just remember, if dead puppies occur under this kind of circumstance, it becomes every man/woman for themselves.  Your documentation makes you more useful as a witness than a defendant.

Yeah, I realized today that I needed to be doing that.  I wrote a doc with everything I know, when I knew it, etc.  Put it on a flash drive and brought it home for safe keeping.

wake74
wake74 Reader
10/7/21 7:47 p.m.

Each state will have both a GC Licensing Board and an Engineering Licensing Board, although each state calls them something slightly different.  They will all have means of filing complaints, often anonymously.  If you personally are a licensed PE, there are very specific rules in your state that govern how you deal with these types of situations and your obligation to report.  If your company carries a License to perform engineering that the company bares responsibility to report.

As someone who has spent their life in the Engineering and Construction industry its amazing some of the E36 M3 people do.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
10/7/21 7:53 p.m.
wake74 said:

Each state will have both a GC Licensing Board and an Engineering Licensing Board, although each state calls them something slightly different.  They will all have means of filing complaints, often anonymously.  If you personally are a licensed PE, there are very specific rules in your state that govern how you deal with these types of situations and your obligation to report.  If your company carries a License to perform engineering that the company bares responsibility to report.

As someone who has spent their life in the Engineering and Construction industry its amazing some of the E36 M3 people do.

So, how would that work if we're doing the design in Florida, but its being constructed in *cough cough*?

Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter)
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
10/7/21 7:54 p.m.

People that let these things slide end up in jail. Maybe not soon, but some day. Act accordingly.

No Time
No Time SuperDork
10/7/21 8:04 p.m.
Mr_Asa said:
Apexcarver said:

Damage to persons or to property?

If it's persons, you must act. Full stop. If it's property, it would still be a good idea.

Another question that's weird.  I haven't seen the simulations, but based on what I know I assume it will fail horribly, and at that point property damage is guaranteed.
Persons is a much harder question, presumably when this thing is deployed for full use no one will stay in the vicinity.  People do dumb things and stay in places no one sane should.  I could see it happening.

"Foreseeable misuse " is something that needs to be considered, even if the normal use case would have people clear of any harmful situation caused by the thing. 

wake74
wake74 Reader
10/7/21 8:12 p.m.
Mr_Asa said:
 

So, how would that work if we're doing the design in Florida, but its being constructed in *cough cough*?

I'm by no means qualified to provide legal advice on this topic, I work for a very large (globally large) and we maintain staffs of lawyers for these types of situations. 

The jurisdiction in which the project is being constructed is the governing jurisdiction.  In simple terms (someone will quickly reply that this isn't 100% true and list the exceptions, I get it), you are not legally allowed to offer or provide engineering services in any state (project location) without a PE License in that state, even more technically your company is required to be licensed in that state as well (something called a Certificate of Authorization).  The State the design labor was completed in is irrelevant, it's about where the physical construction work is taking place.  You are actually not required to be licensed in Florida if you provide design services for projects construction only outside the state.

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