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THE SEVEN FUNDAMENTAL CANONS

OF ASCE’S CODE OF ETHICS
Engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor, and dignity of the engineering
profession by :

using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare and
the environment;

being honest and impartial and serving with fidelity the public, their
employers, and clients;

striving to increase the competence and prestige of the engineering
profession; and

supporting the professional and technical societies of their disciplines.
The seven canons reflect an attempt to span the potentially infinite range of
circumstances in which an engineer's commitment to these fundamental principles may
be put to the test. Today these canons read as follows
1. Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public
and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the
performance of their professional duties.
Perhaps the most demanding of ASCE's ethical standards is the engineer's duty to "hold
paramount" the public's safety and welfare. Under this canon an engineer is expected
not only to protect the public in his or her own work but also to take action if he or she
has knowledge that any other person's actions may undermine the public welfare, a
requirement that may include reporting such actions to a government authority with the
power to act on behalf of the public. In 1996 ASCE added the "sustainable
development" language to this canon, reflecting its belief that ensuring public welfare
also requires consideration of ecological and environmental factors.
2. Engineers shall perform services only in areas of their competence.
In addition to the more obvious guidelines here, for example, the requirement to take
work only when qualified by education or experience to carry out the work, this canon
means that an engineer may not seal an engineering plan or document unless that
document has been prepared or reviewed under his or her supervisory control. As
discussed in this column in the August 2007 issue, this provision is considerably less
restrictive than the licensing laws in many U.S. states and jurisdictions, underlining the
need for civil engineers to be aware of state codes of conduct as well as those of ASCE.

It promotes transparency and scrupulous control of funds and prohibits engineers from knowingly participating in fraudulent or dishonest practices. This canon considers the many ways in which an engineer may share his or her expertise with the public and reflects principles that underlie many other provisions of the code. Under today's canon. must indicate when a statement has been paid for by an interested party (much like the conflict disclosures required by canon 4). canon 4 is in some respects reminiscent of the original. Such unfair practices include bestowing gifts or gratuities to obtain work. integrity. This canon also reflects the most recent revision to the code. and dignity of the engineering profession and shall act with zero tolerance for bribery. even institutionalized. and maliciously criticizing the work of another. fraud. Engineers shall act in such a manner as to uphold and enhance the honor. . and corruption. But whereas that code barred an engineer only from "accept[ing] remuneration other than his stated charges for services rendered. Engineers shall act in professional matters for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees. This canon can be viewed as a catchall for acts that while not expressly proscribed in other canons nevertheless violate the spirit of the code. taking credit for the work of another. and are obliged to notify their employers before availing themselves of outside employment opportunities or engaging in work that may give rise to a conflict of interest. 6. support. Engineers shall build their professional reputation on the merit of their services and shall not compete unfairly with others. With its focus on fidelity to employers and clients.3. may not take part in decisions as a public servant for services involving their own private practice. and may not promote his or her own interests in a manner derogatory to the integrity of the profession (canon 6). For example. 4. 1914 code. 5. a 2006 amendment stating that bribes and corruption are not to be tolerated and warning engineers to beware of situations where such practices have broad. Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner. an engineer may apply his or her technical expertise only when competent to do so (as per canon 2). An important point to remember here is that this canon does not restrict competition among engineers per se. falsely portraying one's qualifications and credentials. and shall avoid conflicts of interest. engineers may not use confidential information in a way that is detrimental to an employer's or client's interests. only methods by which an engineer may attempt to gain an unfair advantage over his or her competitors." the current canon provides a more complete picture of the types of conflicts that can lead an engineer astray.

. attending conferences and seminars. and shall provide opportunities for the professional development of those engineers under their supervision. Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers. for example. and to support the development of engineer employees by providing them with an environment that encourages professional growth and licensure.7. Engineers are encouraged to continue honing their skills. to share their knowledge by. The final canon is unique in that its focus is on professional growth rather than professional conduct.