In the world of industrial plants and equipment, good maintenance hinges on engineering competence.

Smoke stacks

However, this competence extends beyond technical abilities; it encompasses a crucial element: ethical practice. Four fundamental principles of the Engineering Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering's Statement of Ethical Principles contribute to effective plant maintenance, particularly in tackling the rising threat of irreversible global warming.  

The four principles serve as the bedrock of ethical engineering:  

  • Honesty and integrity: Upholding the highest standards of professional conduct, characterised by openness, fairness, and truthfulness.  
  • Respect for life, law, the environment, and public good: Complying with relevant laws and regulations, prioritising factual accuracy, and considering the wider public interest in decision-making.  
  • Accuracy and rigour: Acquiring and applying deep understanding, knowledge, and skills relevant to one's role.  
  • Leadership and communication: Setting and promoting high standards in leadership and effective communication.  

These principles are not mere ideals; they are deeply interconnected with effective plant maintenance and responsible climate action. Consider the current global warming challenge. Numerous actions, often presented as ‘perfect’ solutions, inadvertently push the industry further down an unsustainable path. The main reason for this is the disconnect between these actions and the core objective: reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.  

Take the increased use of hydrogen, for example. While undeniably offering local emission reduction benefits, hydrogen production currently relies heavily on carbon-based fuels, leading to a net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Similarly, while renewable energy can diversify energy sources and facilitate reduced fossil fuel dependence, not all renewable sources are created equal. Biofuels might be renewable, but they still emit carbon dioxide, contributing to the problem.  

Applying Ethical Principles in Plant Maintenance: How can you apply these principles to plant maintenance and climate action?  

Honesty and transparency: Communicate the true impact of any plant modification in terms of expected benefits and potential changes in carbon dioxide emissions. Hiding behind misleading narratives disrespects the public good.  

Rigorous decision-making: Basing decisions on accurate data and sound scientific understanding is crucial. Choosing solutions based on hype or incomplete information hinders progress.  

Responsible leadership: Engineering professionals have a duty to champion solutions that align with reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide while ensuring that continued societal needs are met. Advocate for research and development in truly carbon-neutral energy sources like wind and solar.  

By proactively embracing and promoting the four fundamental principles, as engineering professionals, you can ensure that your plant maintenance practices contribute to a safer, more sustainable future. By acting with honesty, integrity, and respect for the environment, you can pave the way for effective climate action that doesn't compromise the needs of present and future generations.  

SOE is the professional home for engineers working to inspect, maintain and manage the equipment and machinery which keeps people and businesses safe on a daily basis. Our members work to implement smarter ways of working, improve maintenance and inspection processes, and embed environmentally friendly and sustainable engineering practice.  

Learn more about becoming an SOE member.