The mining engineer, moral luck, and professional accountability

Science and Engineering Ethics 4 (4):437-456 (1998)
Abstract
The professional mining engineer has a number of different duties. He must: produce engineering designs, meet the production requirements set by the mining operation he works for, ensure efficient cooperation between the different departments in a mine, and he is responsible for mine planning. Also, and very importantly, he is responsible for meeting high safety standards and ensuring that his mine is as injury and fatality free as possible. However, it is unfortunately the case that accidents do occur in mines, and that miners are sometimes injured or even killed. Such tragedies raise questions about whether the mining engineer bears some responsibility for the injuries or deaths. In this paper, we argue that the engineer does bear responsibility, but that depending on the circumstances surrounding any particular accident, ascriptions of moral responsibility do not always mean that the engineer is morally blameworthy. We conclude that professional accountability and moral responsibility require that the mining engineer take practical steps to ensure that high safety standards are upheld, and that, when accidents occur, steps are taken to identify the causes so that similar tragedies can be avoided in the future.
Keywords professional accountability  mining engineering  moral luck  responsibility  blameworthiness
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