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International Journal of Scientific Research in Computer Science, Engineering and Information Technology

2017 IJSRCSEIT | Volume 2 | Issue 1 | ISSN : 2456-3307

Electrical Issues in Engineering Ethics and Solutions : A Compilation of

Uwakwe C. Chukwu, Okezie A. Nworgu

Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial & Electrical Engineering Technology of South Carolina State
University, U.S.A.
Lecturer, Electrical Engineering, department of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Nigeria

Engineering Ethics is a growing concern, especially as interest in public and industrial safety increases. The
knowledge of Engineering Ethics acquired by Engineering students in the Colleges and Universities is not
sufficiently enough to prepare them to handle safety challenges in the industry as pupil Engineers. Knowledge of
Engineering Ethical issues, and how there were solved is very crucial on perspective of industrial and public safety.
The purpose of this project is to identify issues in Engineering Ethics, what caused the problem (s), and the solution
strategy employed in solving the problems. A collection of different failed Engineering projects in the field of
Electrical Engineering are compiled. It is observed that majority of the catastrophic failures, most of which could
have been avoided, were directly attributed to poor ethical decisions or practices. Most of the failure cases found in
the study were at the consumer level- the demographics affected by these failures is more diverse and potentially
more vulnerable than that of a large scale disaster. The majority of the consumer goods related to these cases were
attributed to poor materials used to manufacture them, as well as lack of proper quality tests and validation through
field experimentation. Some of the failures were catastrophic, and resulted in large scale damages. This paper,
therefore, highlights the dangers of lack of proper ethical practices in Electrical Engineering, and further reveals the
need for proper ethical practices and decisions.
Keywords : Safety, Engineering Ethics, Failures, Decisions, Fire, Maintenance.

I. INTRODUCTION build their professional reputation on the merit of their

services. Engineers shall act in such a manner as to
The Engineering Ethics is the study of moral issues and uphold and enhance the honor, integrity and dignity of
decisions that apply to the practice of Engineering. It the profession.
examines and sets the obligations of Engineers to the
society, to their clients, and to the profession. This This paper is organized as follows: In section II, the
paper identifies issues in Engineering Ethics, what Electrical issues in Engineering Ethics are presented. In
caused the issues, and the solutions employed. The section III, the conclusions are presented.
paper is a compilation of different Ethical issues in
Electrical Engineering. The paper attempts to highlight II. ELECTRICAL ETHICAL CASES
the need for Engineering policy makers to closely
sentinel people, institutions and corporations involved S/N The Situation Ethical Issues Ref
in technological activities for professional Ethical 1 GM recalled The motor of a [1]
practices. This way, Engineers should hold paramount 32000 vehicles Windshield wiper
the safety, health and welfare of the public in the for repair due to overheating due to poor
faulty design causing
performance of their professional duties. This paper windshield electrical short that
serves as a silent reminder to Engineers on the need to wiper motor. could cause the wiper

CSEIT172143 | Received: 20 Feb 2017 | Accepted: 28 Feb 2017 | January-February-2017 [(2)1: 241-248] 241
motor to catch fire. control bit flip could trigger
modules. such an event.
2 Coby The rechargeable [2]
Electronics batteries were flawed in
recalled 19,600 design and could
rechargeable overheat and cause a
batteries sold fire. Coby Electronics 8 2 million The airbag electrical [8]
with portable reported 8 cases of vehicles were control module would
devices. Date: property damage from recalled due to receive interference
2009 fire as a result. faulty airbag from the vehicle and
3 Sayano- Plant maintenance was [3] systems. trigger an airbag
Shushenskaya ignored leading to deployment at any
Hydroelectric severe plant vibrations. time, without a crash.
Power Station It was eventually put Toyota recalled The power window [9]
Accident. under full load despite 9 about 6.5 master switch short-
vibrations and known million vehicles circuiting, resulting in
issues. The turbine due to the the melting of the
exploded, resulting in power window switch and burning of
fires and power loss. master switch. the door panel. Several
4 Soyuz 11 was A design flaw in the [4] cases of minor damages
the first ejection of the descent resulted. Recall was
successful visit module caused a initiated to prevent
to the worlds breathing ventilation further injury or fire
first space value that resulted in from occurring.
station, Salyut the death of all of the 10 Therac-25, was Therac-25 system [10]
1. However the crew members. The a computer relied on circuitry to
mission ended redesign of the next based radiation protect against faults
in disaster when module allowed only machine that and prevent
the crew two astronauts so that overdosed overdosing. Fault
capsule they could be fully patients at least developed in the safety
depressurized, suited during launch 6 times in a circuitry leading to the
killing all crew. and landing. course of two overdosing of some
5 Dells laptop Dell recalled 4.1 [5] years. patients.
battery million laptop batteries 11 Federal Pacific 220V circuit breakers [11]
exploded because the battery had residential have manufacturing
leading to the potential to short circuit breaker error. This caused the
factory recall. internally and explode, panels failed to breakers to fail to trip
Dells poor starting fires and trip causing under excessive load
laptop battery injuring people. fires. causing fire in most
design Someone was injured homes.
contributed to and there were many 12 Flight MD-11 Investigations revealed [12]
property reports of property flying from that arcing caused a
damage and damage. New York to wire to melt, setting
personal injury. Switzerland fire on the insulation,
6 In 1967, Apollo Upon investigation, [6] crashed in the which ignited
1 was the first several electrical arcs Atlantic. All flammable materials on
manned mission and power failures passengers on board. The engineers
to the moon - were discovered. After board died. failed to use very
but the investigation, there efficient over current
command were heavy protection relays. This
module caught modifications to future prompted the FAA to
fire during engineering designs, increase its standards
launch, killing manufacturing, and for flammable
the crew. quality control. materials. US Navy got
7 A court case The throttle control [7] rid of similar wiring in
resulted in the code within the engine their systems.
study, control module could 13 Flight 800 Despite a history of [13]
discovery, and cause the vehicle to combusted in fuel system issues,
recall of certain accelerate out of midair, killing maintenance men
Toyota engine control, even a single all 230 of its overlooked the habitual

Volume 2 | Issue 1 | January-February-2017 | 242

passengers. It issues. There was also a device rated for 600V.
had been poor ventilation system
previously for fuel vapors. 17 Poor circuit The Fluke 37A meter [17]
inspected and Between these two board assembly has connection problem
had some of its issues, when a high could result in with the board and the
issues ignored voltage line shorted to false readings input jack for the test
for the sake of it one of the low voltage on Fluke 37A lead. This could result
to continue lines that go into fuel clamp meters. in no voltage condition
flying. tanks, it created a spark on a live circuit and
that caused the plane to could injure someone
explode. It is with electrocution.
speculated that poor Failure to field-test and
wire maintenance and error in manufacturing
wire routing designs design issues were the
led to this issue. ethical issues in this
14 Chevrolet The ignition was poorly [14] instance.
recalled the designed and the excess 18 Users of LG There were 42 reports [18]
ignition weight of a key ring or Electric Ranges of the range failing to
switches in its jarring of the vehicle are urged to turn off after the switch
2010 Chevy could cause it to switch discontinue use was placed in the OFF
Cobalt model from the run to the after the wiring position. This is very
car as well as in accessory position. The issues prevent dangerous for the
other models engine would shut the units from consumer and exhibits
that fell within down, causing loss of powering off. poor ethics on the
the model and power and the engineers part for
time frame. degradation of steering. failing to ensure the
The airbags would not device was safe for use.
deploy without the 19 Cargo door on Senior engineer knew [20]
engine ON. This DC-10 aircraft of the possibility of the
problem could have bad design problem and informed
been avoided had the causes door to senior management of
switch been better open allowing a the situation. This
designed and a quick problem was ignored
redundancy installed decompression because of redesign
for the electrical system of cargo area cost until crash
to deploy the airbags in and leads to occurred.
the vehicle is in crash of plane.
motion. 20 Breakthrough in Bell Labs supposedly [21]
15 EDI Solar This product was [15] organic material created semiconductors
Panels recalls designed with internal in place of that use organic
its solar panels circuitry problems that silicon in the materials in place of
from 2012 to have the potential to manufacture of silicon materials, which
2013 due to the cause fire outbreak, and semiconductors turned out to be a lie
potential for other issues. turns out to be told by the engineer
electrical shock. false. after receiving many
16 Short circuit The continuity beeper [16] awards for the work.
problem due to internal to the meter 21 WakaWaka WakaWaka recalled [22]
faulty circuitry has design fault that Electrical 900 total electrical
in Fluke 116 could potentially Adapter Kits adapter kits sold in
meter, with the dismantle and cause can overheat North America. The
potential to short circuiting inside. and catch fire or adapter kits convert AC
cause fire or arc There were no injuries expose to DC voltage in a
explosion. reported but the components, variety of connectors.
potential for them exist. creating a shock The device was poorly
The design team should hazard. designed or made of
have tested the beeper cheap materials and
for integrity and should have been
recognized the danger thoroughly tested
with a moving metal before selling.
part within a measuring

Volume 2 | Issue 1 | January-February-2017 | 243

22 A PNY portable PNY recalled about [23] when IBM stopped the
lithium battery 56,800 units after one use of these chips.
pack could vent portable lithium battery 26 Big Lots Model No. FH107A [30]
flames during pack vented flames ceramic heaters has an issue with the
use, posing a during use. There was were distributed product causing
fire hazard to all only one report of to the overheating and
users. venting and flames consumers with melting. There should
without injuries, but the faulty insulation have been more
defect could cause fires leading to fires. adequate testing on the
or injury. The defect product. An over
was likely due to low current sensing device
quality batteries, or a would have prevented
design flaw in the this problem. There
battery. were 4 reports of the
23 GE recalled During certain [24] component failing.
33,500 heating operating conditions, 27 A defibrillator The RIATA model [31]
and air moisture can collect known as the defibrillator contained [32]
conditioning near electrical RIATA two main flaws:
units due to risk components, creating a contained internal wires can work
of fire. short to ground. This deadly flaws their way out of their
short could result in resulting in casings and the silicone
arcs and a fire hazard. electrical coating on the
This design flaw could failures or even defibrillator leads could
have been prevented if random jolts potentially wear out.
the unit had been tested to the heart. When the silicone
thoroughly in a variety wears, the device could
of conditions. There short circuit. The
were only 3 reports of company was slow to
smoke or fire and some warn doctors about the
property damage. lead problem.
24 Amprobe Amprobe released a [25] 28 In 2012, BMW The battery cable cover [33]
recalled a meter digital multimeter rated recalled 1.3 inside the trunk of the
that was faulty for CAT III/IV. The million vehicles vehicles was
regarding its meter however was world-wide to incorrectly mounted.
ability to safely released not meeting replace a The flaw could result in
measure these standards. The battery-cable the vehicle failing to
voltages. purpose of standards is cover. start, electrical
to establish a baseline malfunctions, or even
for quality and allows risk of smoke/fire. One
engineers and month earlier, BMW
developers to make agreed to pay $3
quality decisions. A million in penalties for
failure to meet failing to report safety
standards is an defects in a timely
unethical decision. manner.
25 Pentium Intel was aware of the [26] 29 Lenovo recalled Lenovo released a [34]
released a problem and replaced [27] many of their product that was not
processor that the subsequent chips. [28] laptop batteries fully tested in operating
had major errors However, initially they [29] due to the conditions. This is not
in its required users of the potential fire safe and is unethical. In
calculations and flawed chip to prove its hazards and remedy of this issue
it was utilized malfunction instead of actual fire however the company
in many major replacing them without incidents the attempted to correct
corporations. question. They were power supplies this mistake by offering
aware of the issue and causes. free replacements of
did not initially make it known faulty
public. It would also components.
seem that this 30 When Patriot There was a limit to the [35]
replacement was Missiles Timing time estimate on this
brought to the table impacted an missile. As a result 28

Volume 2 | Issue 1 | January-February-2017 | 244

American American soldiers were 38 Lexus GS 350 A brake switch located [43]
encampment in killed. This is poor Defective brake on Lexus GS 350 a
Iraq, their testing and cost lives. It switch failing causing the car
software was also illustrated the to start braking and
called into improper training that potentially causing an
question. It was accompanied the accident.
found to be product and showed the 39 GE Defective GE sold microwaves [44]
faulty. need for constant microwave that have turned on by
software updates. themselves and caught
31 ARIANE 5 This issue was [36] on fire. Reports filed
rocket exploded attributed to the have concluded that
costing software safety failing. this was a known
European Space The engineers failed to problem.
Agency (ESA) check the features 40 FORD Ford knowingly [45]
$5 M Defective speed installed defective
32 Bad electrical The installers installed [37] control module speed control
component on bad component on a deactivation modules
the control ventilation control within their vehicles as
system failed to system preventing the a result several fires
set off alarm. alarm from coming on have occurred.
and causing the death 41 Rober Bosch The tools circuit board [46]
of 100,000 chickens. Tool Corp. is would overheat and
33 Horizon Hobby The charger could [38] recalling 95,750 melt the tools casing,
is recalling overcharge batteries Dremel Micro which could result in
1,300 E-FLITE and cause a fire, injury, tools for several burns. Some tools
battery chargers or property damage. reasons. could also lose their
because they The charger should speed control and
can overcharge have included a feature change to high speed
batteries. that prevents batteries during use, turn on
from being over- during use, or not turn
charged. off at all. At this time,
34 BSH Home Wrong cable amperage [39] Bosch Tool received 6
Appliances used in the product, reports of overheating
recalled perhaps to cut cost. By tools without injuries.
194,000 using cheaper wires Bosch made the right
dishwashers due that were unable to move by recalling the
to a fire hazard. handle the current, risk tools before any
of fire hazards emerges. injuries were inflicted.
35 Sensor not Engineer incorrectly [40] There were several
placed placed side air bag flaws in the tools
correctly. sensor on the design that could injure
TIBURON model customers.
inside the vehicle 42 Ambient The AC adapter for the [47]
causing the sensor not Weather radio can overheat,
to release air bag when recalled 12,500 posing a fire hazard.
crash occurs. radios due to The company received
36 Defective unit Defective control board [40] fire hazards. three reports of fire and
on on the dishwasher [41] smoke in the battery-
WHIRLPOOL causing fire and area of the radio, no
dishwasher product failure. injuries have been
37 BMW BMW engineers [42] reported. This is likely
Defective installed a defective due to cutting corners
electrical fuel fuel pump in their turbo and using cheap
pump model cars and then materials in the AC
component. installed software to adapters.
hide the problem. Viking has An electrical [48]
Complaints of sudden expanded their component inside the
loss of power has put recall of dishwasher can
consumers at rist. dishwashers to a overheat creating a fire
total of 20,600 hazard. There were

Volume 2 | Issue 1 | January-February-2017 | 245

units. over136 reports of of the device
overheating connectors overheating.
and 42 reports of fires 47 LG has to pay LG continued to sell [53]
with property damage the max penalty the defective appliances
(from both recalls). The of $1.825 from 2003 to 2009 and
faulty device was not million for were finally recalled in
thoroughly tested failing to report 2012. The problem
before sales. defective with the dehumidifier
43 Instant Pot The thermal probe in [49] humidifiers. was a defective fan that
recalled 1,140 the base of the pressure caused the dehumidifier
pressure cooker was shocking to overheat, smoke,
cookers due to users. The finished melt, or even catch fire.
electric shock product was not It was unethical for LG
hazards. thoroughly tested, and to continue selling
no effective quality products with
control. knowledge of potential
44 The The ORTHOVOX [50] harm to customers. LG
ORTHOVOX beacon transceiver is was aware of 107
transceiver may supposed to transmit an incidents by 2012,
not transmit an emergency signal in including $7million in
emergency case an individual is property damage.
beacon signal buried in an avalanche. 48 Guidant LLC Guidant was ordered to [54]
even when 3,000 units have been was formally pay more than $296
appearing to recalled with no convicted and million in criminal
function reported injuries. The sentenced for fines and forfeiture and
normally. company did the right failing to report submit to three years of
thing to recall the life-threatening supervised probation.
transceiver- it would defects in The Justice Department
have been unethical to medical charged Guidant for
sell a device that devices. failing to notify the
doesnt rescue people FDA about short-circuit
as promised. Its failures in three models
interesting that the of its implantable
device would appear to defibrillators. Guidant
function normally even was acting highly
if it wasnt capable of unprofessional and
transmitting a signal. unethical. This resulted
45 Failure of The control systems on [51] in three deaths.
emission the c-13 and c-15 49 In August 2015, The Matrix Fitness [55]
control system engines result in not Johnson Health Ascent Trainers and
on certain meeting EPA Tech agreed to Elliptical Trainers were
Caterpillar standards. Caterpillar pay $3 million recalled in 2014.
engines. sold these motors in civil penalties Moisture coul build up
knowing they do not for failing to in the power sockets of
meet standards. report defective the units from sweat or
46 Vornado Trust From 1993 to 2004, [52] fitness cleaning liquids, which
was forced to Vornado received over equipment. caused the machines to
pay a $500,000 300 reports of electric short circuit. The
civil penalty for heaters overheating, company received
failing to report melting, smoking, or multiple reports of
defects and even catching fire. smoking, sparking, or
hazards in a They failed to report melted power
product. these incidents in a components and even
timely manner. Clearly reports of fires.
the product was unsafe Johnson Health Tech
and the company did not report defects or
should have issued a cases of injury within
recall. It was unethical 24 hours, which was
to not issue a recall unethical on their part.
after over 300 reports

Volume 2 | Issue 1 | January-February-2017 | 246

50 In 2009, According to the [56]
America that its Oscillating
Trading LLC Tower Fans contained a
agreed to pay a wiring defect and posed [1].
civil penalty of a fire hazard, but failed recalls-suvs-tells-owners-not-to-use-windshield-
$587,500 for to follow Federal law wipers
failure to report by reporting the defects
serious defects in a timely manner.
in one of their When oscillating, the electronics-recalls-rechargeable-batteries-sold-
products. wires can break after with-portable-dvdcdmp3-players-due-to-fire-
bending too many hazard-65555342.html?$G1Ref
times. The risks [3].
include: fire hazard,
burns, and electrical
shock injuries. HAIER [5].
did not report the million-batteries/
defective fans until the [6]. "Apollo-1 (204)." NASA Apollo Mission
CPSC requested the Apollo-1. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.
reports. HAIER
received 14 reports of
the fans catching fire 323631
and one report of [8].
injury. HAIER acted 02/faulty-air-bag-electronics-spark-additional-
unethically and could recalls/index.htm
have prevented fires
and injuries by
reporting potential ses/toyota+voluntary+rec all+oct20.htm
hazards. [10].
Polaroid The TV has been [57] [11].
Defective LCD causing fires since ic.pdf
TV 2006 due to
overheating. Users
have been complaining, messages/safetymessage-2010-02-07-
but the company did swissair111crash.pdf?sfvrsn=4
nothing. [13].
In this paper, Ethical cases in Electrical Engineering is Recall_Notices/RCL13-033.pdf
presented. The problems were identified, how the cases [16].
were resolved (in most cases) were indicated. It is Recall_Notices/RCL14-01.pdf
noted that most of the Ethical violations resulted in fire [17].
outbreak, or at least burning. Common cause of fire L13-010.pdf
being deliberate use of underrated devices or poor [18].
design materials as well as lack of proper quality tests- Recall_Notices/RCL12-54.pdf
all in the bid to save cost, but at the expense of safety. [19].
The catastrophic failures, most of which could have errobot/article-5.aspx
been avoided, were directly attributed to poor ethical [20].
decisions or practices. This paper leaves one with the Week%2001/Engineering%20Ethics%20&%20c
knowledge and conviction that every Engineer has a ases.pdf
professional and moral responsibility. It is expedient to [21].
expose any questionable practice that will lead to ndal
an unsafe product or process. [22].

Volume 2 | Issue 1 | January-February-2017 | 247

[23]. [46].
Recalls-Portable-Lithium-Polymer-Battery- Bosch-Tool-Recalls-Dremel-Rotary-Tool/
Packs/ [47].
[24]. Weather-Recalls-Weather-Radios/
Recalls-GE-Air-Conditioning- [48].
[25]. Range-Expands-Dishwasher-Recall/
Recall_Notices/RCL12-28.pdf [49].
[26]. B. Crothers, Pentium woes continue, Alerts/2015/Instant-Pot-Pressure-Cookers-
Infoworld, vol. 16, no. 48, pp. 118, Nov. 18, Recalled-by-Double-Insight/
1994. [50].
[27]. Flawed chips still shipping, Infoworld, vol. 16, X-Recalls-S1-Avalanche-Transceiver/
no. 49, pp. 118, Dec. 5, 1994. [51].
[28]. J. Castro, When the chips are down, Time caterpillar-concealed-defects-in-2007-2010-
Mag., p. 126, Dec. 26, 1995. engines/
[29]. D. Kirkpatrick, The fallout from Intels Pentium [52].
bug, Fortune Mag., p. 15, Jan. 16, 1995 Releases/2008/Vornado-Trust-to-Pay-500000-
[30]. Civil-Penalty-for-Failure-to-Report-Defects-and-
portable-ceramic-space-heaters/15336046 Hazards-with-Electric-Heaters/
[31]. [53].
444223104578036752346768278 million-for-failure-to-report-defective-
[32]. dehumidifiers/
s-in-st-jude-heart-defibrillator-shake-the- [54].
industry.html 261368/Guidant-Fined-296M-for-Failure-to-
[33]. Report-Defibrillator-Defects
seat/2012/03/26/bmw-recalling-1-3-million-cars- [55].
to-fix-electrical-flaw/ releases/johnson-health-tech-agrees-to-pay-3-
[34]. million-civil-penalty-for-failure-to-report-
computers-due-to-fire-risk/ defective-fitness-equipment-300128784.html
[35]. Tom Forester, Computer Ethics, MIT Press, 1994 [56].
[36]. 21/cpsc-fines-manufacturer-587500-for-failure-
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lawsuit-claims-malfunction-killed-100000- [57].
chickens settlements/lawsuit-news/1206-defective-
[38]. polaroid-lcd-tv-class-action-lawsuit/

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