The Bay Area Rapid Transit was a way to solve the transportation problems in the San Francisco bay area. It was a massive undertaking that took many years to construct and implement and it involved many new technologies. Different people and companies were involved in its development and they each focused on a specific area. Part of the control team noticed problems in the automatic control system and they took measures to notify different people concerned with the project of their concerns. Since no action was taken, they took their concerns to the board and the news eventually reached the press. The management was not aware of the people responsible. The engineers who had raised these concerns were forced to leave employment because they had lied about their involvement and they failed to follow the required procedure to air their grievances. Despite the involvement of the IEEE in their case, they were forced to settle out of court and they received minimal compensation.

Designs have to meet acceptable engineering practices. Engineers have to ensure that their designs are able to meet the safety standards expected by others in the profession and it might mean going beyond the legally accepted standards (Fledderman, 2012). BART was reluctant to take any action concerning Westinghouse when the engineers raised their concerns. They believed that Westinghouse had the required skills and it would be able to deliver. BART management failed to recognize the safety concerns of some of the professionals involved in the project. Recognizing the acceptable engineering practices would have ensured that all safety concerns were dealt with. The engineers were right to identify the existing concerns and they were working within their responsibilities.

Engineers have responsibilities and rights. Some of their rights do not depend on their profession. For instance, they have a right to object to the policies that a company implements or intends to implement if they feel that such policies are not in line with the recommended standards, and they should not have to face any form of retribution for doing this. They also have a right to use their professional judgment regarding their duties in an ethical way. However, the way they raise their concerns is also important. Using an anonymous memo may not be effective and people may not take the issues raised seriously. The receivers of the memo might not pay attention to the contents because they have no way of verifying their accuracy and they may take this to mean that the information is not credible

The three engineers met the criteria for whistle blowing. Whistle blowing should only be attempted if the conditions of need, proximity, capability, and last resort are met (Fledderman, 2012). They were genuinely concerned about the possible harm that would happen if the automatic control failed. People would be hurt if there was an accident. They had examined the issue personally and they had sought consultation. They did not depend on what others told them and their expertise enabled them to make the conclusions they did regarding the issue. In addition, they had already attempted to contact the management at BART with their information but no action was taken following their concerns. The IEEE was right to intervene in the court case. It was acting on behalf of employees who were acting on the belief that they had a responsibility to the public.

Having a clear line of command could have improved the situation. It is clear that the engineers did not know who to contact after their previous meeting with the management failed. BART could have eased the communication process by having human resource department, which could have been tasked with the responsibility dealing with all employee issues. Whistle blowing could have been unnecessary in this case, if the management had taken appropriate action when the two managers raised their concerns. People who take the effort of disclosing information expect the relevant authorities to act on it (Fledderman, 2012). However, this did not happen when the two engineers raised their concerns.

Engineers should strive to ensure that they have raised their concerns using the necessary channels. They should not give up their quest especially if it is matters concerned with safety of individuals and the public. If the engineer has exhausted all options, then he or she might have to consider external whistle blowing. This should only be attempted in dire situations and it should only be used in matters concerning public safety (Fledderman, 2012). Using contractors offers several benefits to companies. However, the management has little control over how the contractors perform their work. The company pays the contracting firm for the completed work and it expects the contractors to finish the work at the requested time (Schneeman, 2012). When selecting the firm to contract it is necessary to conduct a thorough background check to ensure that it has the sufficient resources to complete the work well. The management should not only believe what the contractors say and it should not assume that the company has the required expertise. The terms of the contract and agreement should stipulate the job requirements clearly and the consequences of failing to meet those requirements.

Documentation is necessary as it details information concerning a project. In this case, if the documentation from Westinghouse were not sufficient, then the engineers would not know how the automatic system functioned. Moreover, they would not know how to maintain the system once the contractors were done with the project. It is ethical to provide the required information. This will ensure that one is able to avoid possible mistakes, errors, and risks that can jeopardize work and put people’s lives in danger. Moreover, it is a sign that the contractors are aware of what they are doing and that the company can rely on the information provided. The contractors show that they do not have anything to hide and that they have done the work as required by providing the necessary documentation. Engineering organizations have a responsibility to ensure that the systems work as they should. They should be present during the implementation phase because this will ensure that they are able to correct any mistakes made in the design.

The management did not show that it had deeply considered the engineers concerns. They took a defensive position and they were quick to defend their choice of contractors. Had they shown the engineers that they had considered their concerns about the testing, then the engineers would not have dwelt on the same issue again. The engineers would have considered acknowledged whistle blowing instead of opting to become anonymous. This action would have given more credibility to their reports. The management would have been concerned that the information they receive is from professionals and they would not have been suspicious. In addition, the engineers would have proof of their report in case the system failed to function. Copying the memo to BART and Westinghouse could have probably improved the situation, as it would have shown the seriousness of the issue

I think that the engineers deserved better treatment than they got. Although they requested help from IEEE, this did not seem to help them much. When the engineers were pointing out the flaws in the testing, they were not concerned with individual gain. Instead, they showed a genuine interest and concern for the safety of the public. They were more interested in doing the right thing, since they would not benefit individually if any changes were to be made. The IEEE should have done more to protect the engineers’ interest. It would have defended their position regarding the issue and it would have ensured that they found a way to retain their jobs. The engineers did try to contact the management initially but no action was taken. Moreover, the engineers were only responsible for internal whistle blowing.


Fledderman, B. C. (2012). Engineering ethics (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

Schneeman, A. (2012). The law of corporations and other business organizations. New York, NY: Cengage Learning

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