Engineering ethics on BP oil Spill Essay
Oil is one of the core industries that are driving the economic state of most oil-producing countries. Investment into the oil industry is quite lucrative because of the high turnover rewards for investors and workers. However, danger posed by mining of oil to the environment cannot be neglected following dire consequences that affect natural life and ecology in cases of an oil spill. Oil spills happen due to accident caused by engineering mishaps on the engineering equipment and pipes that carry the oil. Sometimes, a vessel carrying oil can capsize and cause an oil spill in the sea or deep ocean. The case of BP oils spill happened in the deep sea off the Mexico Gulf as a result of a severed link that connected the oil mining spot to the oil ship that floats on water while being refilled with oil from the deep sea.
The year 2010 Bp oil spill in Mexico is one of the largest marine oil in the history of crude oil mining. The spill originated from the deepwater drilling of oil in the BP’s well. The accident left eleven workers dead and over 206 million gallons of oil being spilled from the well two thousands meters beneath the sea bed. The spilling went on for three months before it was completely sealed in September the same year using diverse technologies that helped to avert an international crisis that would have polluted the ecology within Mexico Gulf. This disaster caused a lot of damage on health, the ecology, tourism and the overall economy. The environment was greatly affected by the continued spilling of the oil for three months whereby fish, marine animals and birds dies out of suffocation from the floating oil that cut oxygen from the atmosphere besides sticking to skins of the marine life causing direct skin problems like compromising skin-based respiration. Marine life was compromised by the spill that interfered with the economic life of fisheries who complained of depressed fish and marine and that action affected thousands of fishing companies and workers who had to stop business without any economically compensation. BP oil spill compromised the ethics set by engineering plants that are expected to solve human challenges and not increase destructive actions that compromise the innovations and industrial development of oil mining technology.
The oil spill accident damaged the reputation of the engineers for they failed to anticipate the potential risks to focus on large profits. The capacity to arrest the accident was poorly planned and the media and public attributed this to poor ethics held by the engineers involved in that explosion since they tried to hide the situation. Delayed action to arrest the situation got public and media outraged and when it happened, BP company reputation was affected and investors avoided trading in the company to avoid being associated with failed ethical concerns. Every business operating in the community must bear the corporate social responsibility. This responsibility includes the relevant protection of the environment, promotion of local community and promotion of health and education. The engineers operating this BP well did not follow the rules of fair competition and this led to this huge damage.
The action of using shortcut procedures to cut on the cost of mining and raise profits at the cost of the surrounding community was highly criticized the United States lawmakers. Many lessons needed to be learned from this accident and the engineers had the task of improving their ethics in relevance to that oil spilling. This disaster is strongly believed to have been contributed by the engineers’ ignorance of the suitable safety measures to be adopted in the overall practice. The urge for profit made the engineers to overlook the required detailed procedures to adopt shorter but more risk operation.
There are several engineering ethics, which should not be taken into granted in the operation of oil drilling to avoid spilling just like the one, which occurred in Mexico. Firstly, it is ethical for the organizational culture of the company not to take extra risks, to have technical advisors, and not to overlook simple warnings on the safety of the operation process. Furthermore, the organizational culture should define specific responsibilities to avoid blaming the shortcomings on one or more persons. The blaming of one person is such a scenario may not be genuine when the organizational setup could not permit the permit that ethically correct decision. This company has a poor reputation and it is reported to have violated many moral standards concerning health, environment, and the social set up.
Thus, it becomes important for the organization to put its management into order to avoid impromptu changes while the operations are ongoing. This is what happened in the BP oil spilling accident when a section of the management overruled the contractor to adopt a quicker and cheaper procedure in the process shortly before the explosion. This section of management did ignore the high risk of the gas pressure and went on to take the course. If the management was in good order, there could not becontradicting decisions (Fred, 2010). It is quite ethical to embrace the spirit of teamwork in the organizational culture. Blame game is minimal in organizations, which encourage employees to work as a team to attain a set goal. Every one becomes the custodian of the other.
The management as well ignored the danger warning of high-pressure gas, which appeared on the rig. This is the gas claimed to have caused the accidental explosion. The company is also said to have left another similar well when it noticed it had no gusher qualities they required by then. They should not have followed the direction and process they had initially followed since after abandoning the former well, new operation procedure was necessary. This is also unethical.
It is ethical to anticipate any impending mishaps and avoid uncalculated optimism that not all the operations would result to any accident. A year before the explosion, the BP Company claimed that there was unlikely that any accident would happen and thus no action plan was placed in case of any accident (Fred, 2010). This was an unethical assumption because the management already knew how risky the oil industry was, given the substantial depth they planned to operate on.
Taking the necessary precautions in risky situations defines how well developed is the companies social responsibility. In case of the anticipated accident, the damage is not as high as it would have if no precaution was taken. Accepting the mistake is the first step towards exercising the required social responsibility. This defines the willingness of the company management to fix the accident by either compensating the victims or initiating community-healing programs.
Pointing fingers at each other in case of an accident is not ethical. The management should learn to take responsibility and address the issue solemnly, putting the issues of the community affected in the frontline. Management is liable as a whole when such accidents happen and therefore putting the blame on single or selected individuals would highly be against the morals of engineering management. The management has the moral obligation of improving the social cohesion after such accidental disasters happen. It is highly ethical for the company management to exercise intellectual leadership by promoting healing rather than exposing their blames amongst themselves.
The primary goal of every business is to maximize profits and simultaneously minimize costs. This principle however should not be misused by the application of its literal meaning without considering how to minimize the costs. Cost minimization may involve risk procedures which when followed the resulting costs would be higher than the avoided operation costs. It is unethical to put profit before the safety of the workers and the surrounding society. The management should not ignore safety rules, which appear to be costly in favor of less expensive but highly risky safety procedures. The cost of the human lives lost in that accident could not be compared with any cost of preventing the whole incidence.
It is therefore important for any company to introduce relevant safety protocols and make them familiar with all the employees through either experience or practical experience. The safety rules should be backed by harsh rules that attract high fines if people go against. It is extremely important for the culture of any company to put the health and social needs of both its works and the community in the first priority.
It is evident that engineering ethics take up four main dimensions: ethics in the technical design, human ethics, ethics on the organizational system and ethics on the social cultural set up. There is a compromised testing procedure both on the foam cement slurry and on the gas pressure. The strength of the well largely depended on the type of cement used in the construction of the initial stage of construction. It is important to make use of good quality cement on the construction of the foot of the well. On the other hand, the mixing ration ought to be tested because the use of wrong mixing ratios may render the foam not strong enough to withstand internal and external gas pressures. The mixture may also be affected by oil mixtures underground, which make the wall weak and hence prone to gas explosion.
The design ethics also include the installation of safety systems in the operation procedures. The mechanism of heating, mechanical and natural ventilation be programmed to switch on directly upon the detection of a gas. This caters mainly for the welfare of the workers who bear substantial level of risks if the safety measures are not installed. Safety includes most, the emergency systems, which act simultaneously with the occurrence of any explosion. In the case of oil exploration, the blow out preventer system limits the intensity of the explosion in case it occurs. The emergency system should be programmed to detect any impending danger at any given time of the exploraation.
The human aspect of ethics involves the right and the authority bestowed upon him/her to make decisions either solely or as a team. This involves making warranted assumptions in making any judgment. Assumptions are very important in making decisions but they become unnecessary if they are grounded on unrealistic hypothesis. Such assumptions, as if nothing is going to happen are not warranted. The decision on the best design to be applied and the relevant safety systems to be installed depends largely on the assumptions underlying the whole exercise. Many unproven assumptions will greatly influence the validity of the design in question. The mixing ratios, based on unwarranted assumptions, will come up with weak mixture of cement and thus the foundation of the well will be weak.
If on the other hand, safety systems are installed based on the assumptions that reduce the possible risks, then they may not be sufficient to function in the event that an explosion has occurred. This is because unwarranted assumptions omit important risks in most cases to safe on the costs involved in the installation and maintenance of the systems. It is therefore wrong to overlook some risks assuming that their occurrence is zero or minimal. The occurrence of the overlooked risks brings about damages whose cost is many times the cost the company would have used to install a safety system.
Human ethics also includes the detailed evaluation after the first stage of construction. This evaluation could reveal some cement placement error and thus correction will be done early before any disastrous accident. The detailed evaluation as well eliminates many unnecessary risks, which would occur from poor startup of the foundation. In the process of evaluation, it is not ethical to down play small issues because in more sensitive industries, the issue may be the stabling block. Finally, on human ethics in relation to oil spilling, the management should have a professionalism attitude towards any accident. They should take the situation at hand and show extreme commitment.
The last dimension of the engineering ethics is the ethics of the organizational system. Like in assumption making, the structure of the organization may greatly influence the design of the well and hence the life span of the structure developed. If the decision is not based on research, then it means it is dominated by assumptions. Assumptions will in turn convert the decisions into risks, and later damages. If he decisions are geared towards the maximization of profit, they are likely to overlook some lengthy and costly procedures of exploring oil in favor of faster and riskier processes. The organizational structure should adapt the decisions and advice given by experts in different fields. It is unethical to reject the advice of the contractor since he/she holds substantial knowledge on the suitability of any kind of design in the respective environment. Teamwork in this case refers to the act of taking each ones decision valid without any rejection.
The organizational system should have a well-defined authority. The decision making process should not be competitive as this will confuse the contractors since they do not know which decision to follow. On the other hand, the whole management should agree the decisions collectively and they should not be left on one person. This reduces the level of subjectivity on the decisions made and hence the possible outcome of the design is strong.
The four dimensions of the engineering ethics are all not mutually exclusive and they can simultaneously affect the performance of the company if they are violated. It is evident that they all influence each other if they are violated. Poor decision-making based on unwarranted assumptions will lead to the undesired design, and finally weak structure. Valid decisions on the other hand will have few assumptions and hence the risks involved are very few. Valid decisions are likely to be as result of realistic assumptions made in the company.
Installation of safety systems will depend on the decision to install such systems from the management. If the management is ignorant on various impending risks, then there are no safety systems to be applied. This may result to high levels accidents and subsequently, negative impact on the social well-being of the society. Careful decision-making will incorporate safety systems in the operation process and thus the risks involved will be less.
Violation of these ethics poses a great effect on the environment especially the marine world life. The impact on human life is also detrimental. Loss of lives and others disabled affects the productivity of the society involved in the accident. The economy of the country loses a lot when oil spill out into the sea. The spilled oil if it could have been exported or refined and sold locally would earn a lot of revenue. To promote the culture of engineering, it is important to uphold the relevant ethics on design, human interactions and ethics on organizational structure.