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Topic Title: Regulated Engineering profession
Topic Summary: Proposal for an act of law to make engineers more accountable
Created On: 25 February 2014 11:20 AM
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 25 February 2014 11:20 AM
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garethwood

Posts: 43
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I read the following in disbelief. http://tinyurl.com/kuuftlr once again the engineering community concentrates on a fix , rather than tackle the root cause. Shouldn't the engineers involved in making decisions ( that's if they were engineers) be brought to task on the misery caused and the impact and loss of people and the economy.

With a regulated profession , engineers would be accountable for their work and not have their decisions overridden by poorly qualified upper management. The engineer is responsible for public safety and not some quango of self-appointed officials with no experience. I don't buy into the fact the UK engineering bodies tried to create a regulated profession but were turned down by government. Times have changed, its time to revisit.
 25 February 2014 01:25 PM
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jarathoon

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As you say engineering staff, even chief engineers, are not the final arbiters of what happens in any large company, the board and chief executive is.

For example, if an engineer recommends that a continuous process be shut down for inspection or maintenance, and there is a dispute with production staff over whether or not this is absolutely necessary because of the costs involved, then all the engineer can do is force a decision or choice up the management chain.

Once this is done, senior management have to balance the benefit of a uninterrupted income stream vs. the elevated risk of an equipment failure leading to injury, death, environmental damage, company reputational damage etc.

If engineers can overrule senior management in certain circumstances as you suggest, then they in effect rise to board level or even chief executive for certain classes of decision. You would have to develop you argument more to convince me how this might work in practice.

Perhaps it would be better to train engineers, production staff and the upper management arbiters on how to communicate with better clarity on the topic of risk, and risk context.




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James Arathoon
 25 February 2014 05:52 PM
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garethwood

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James thank you for the comments. As an Engineer we have a primary duty to protect the public.No, I am not stating that an Engineer can overrule senior management and it should be their secondary duty to inform and prevent loss for their employer. If that employer disregards the advice and there are good grounds that the issue has not been resolved, the Engineer should be responsible for reporting this.

Of course there is always the issue of vicarious liability placing the onus of responsibility on the employer. But is that fair? Shouldn't the Engineer be held accountable as well.

Let me put this to you. Do you believe that if a Doctor or Lawyer provided professional advice to the board of a company; would the members of the board listen? So then why wouldn't an Engineer hold the same professional value: After all the Engineer may be the most technically qualified to make that judgement and not necessarily the Director with a BA in Modern history.

I put it to you. Making the Engineer more responsible for their decisions may in fact improve their overall professional standing.
 25 February 2014 09:15 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: garethwood
As an Engineer we have a primary duty to protect the public.

OK then what about the engineer who is fixing a machine inside a factory where there is no public?
If that employer disregards the advice and there are good grounds that the issue has not been resolved, the Engineer should be responsible for reporting this.

So what is stopping you from doing this already? https://www.gov.uk/whistleblowing
Shouldn't the Engineer be held accountable as well.

If the engineer has done their job correctly and they have reported the issues as you suggested then why should they be held accountable?
Do you believe that if a Doctor or Lawyer provided professional advice to the board of a company; would the members of the board listen? So then why wouldn't an Engineer hold the same professional value: After all the Engineer may be the most technically qualified to make that judgement and not necessarily the Director with a BA in Modern history.

The Doctor and Lawyer both have relevant degrees etc., whereas the majority of 'engineers' do not. By the way the Director you mentioned is regulated by law, it's covered in the Companies Act 2006 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/46/contents
Making the Engineer more responsible for their decisions may in fact improve their overall professional standing.

With regards to who? I think that most people know about doctors because most people go see them on a regular basis and generally this is because they need something and the doctor supplies a service. I tend to think most people know about lawyers because either they have heard about a court case, they have sold a house and used a solicitor and/or else they have made a claim and/or else they have seen films/TV Drama's etc., with lawyers in them. Engineers do not really get that same type of exposure and so I tend to think if they did then that would improve their professional standing and that has little to do with making them more accountable for their decisions.

You made this statement in your earlier post "I don't buy into the fact the UK engineering bodies tried to create a regulated profession but were turned down by government." . You do not really need to buy it, the Government did turn it down and have been turning down all the requests to protect the title 'Engineer' etc., maybe because they understand it's not really practical.

It's interesting actually that you post a link re some floods and use that as your argument for regulation. As I understand things the banks were regulated, did it stop the financial crisis, mis selling, Libor rate fiddling etc.? Many houses have been built on flood plains http://www.independent.co.uk/e...od-plains-9101710.html

"This is exactly the kind of decision-making that has made flooding more of a problem than it should be and that threatens the lives and livelihoods of many people," Mr Ward added, calling on the Government to intervene."

"The agency, while it must be consulted during planning, does not have powers to stop a development - which rest with the local planning authority."

Can you please advise on who ultimately regulates the local planning authorities? Can you please advise how many of the people in these authorities who approved building on flood plains even though the EA argued against it have been held to account?

I would suggest that regulating the engineers would make little difference to public safety, because the issues are actually with those who already make the relevant laws and they do not seem to be too keen to hold themselves to account.

Regards.
 27 March 2014 05:55 PM
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mbirdi

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Originally posted by: garethwood
Let me put this to you. Do you believe that if a Doctor or Lawyer provided professional advice to the board of a company; would the members of the board listen? So then why wouldn't an Engineer hold the same professional value: After all the Engineer may be the most technically qualified to make that judgement and not necessarily the Director with a BA in Modern history.

Doctors and Lawyers work on level playing fields. You don't get the situation in a hospital where Doctors work as junior members of staff taking orders from Nurses working in senior position. In engineering you can get senior engineers working in junior positions, from a hierarchical point of view, and technicians or managers being in senior positions delegating the work. So engineers cannot be held responsible for their actions when people above them are telling them what to do.

I put it to you. Making the Engineer more responsible for their decisions may in fact improve their overall professional standing.

The only way to change things round is to legislate into law defining specific job roles of engineers and technicians; then charge them with responsibility for their work and grant them protection from being sacked if they go against their ill-informed managers. And let's not forget a decent pay rise due to them for the added responsibility on their shoulders.

Edited: 28 March 2014 at 01:33 AM by mbirdi
 27 March 2014 08:16 PM
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kasese

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My engineering professional review panel took the attitude that if you are a consultant - this carries no weight as nobody need to take any notice of what you say. your views held no weight and there was no responsibility level. What chance does an employed engineer have?

Tim Guy
 28 March 2014 01:12 AM
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mbirdi

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That is because the panel have been trained to think in corporate terms and follow the guidance on scoring given in the UK-Spec script; they are told how to award points according to what the script recommends. So for instance a consultant would receive a low score, because (according to the script) their decision has little impact on the company's overall reputation; but the company manager, in charge of a team of specialists and with a budget to deliver an outcome that effects the company's profits, standing or reputation would score highly. The one who authorises the company's cheques is the one who gains the highest score.

Whilst this method of assessment (in order to determine pay awards) may be appropriate with companies who pay their employees salaries; it is not appropriate for the IET and the EC to assess suitability for CEng registration, because the applicant and the members of the panel are on the same side and it is the applicant (engineer) who pays into the IET and EC, and not the other way round.

In other words your peers in the IET and EC should judge you (through the eyes of an engineer) as a valued professional engineer, and not the eyes of some virtual head of HR, which is what the UK-Spec is forcing them to do.

The medical profession doesn't distinguish between a top rank surgeon, who's skills enhances the reputation of their hospital and the lone medical Doctor working on their own in helping injured people in some war torn country. They are both recognised as Doctors of equal value.

In this respect, the IET and EC have lost focus on what it is to be an engineer. It's not all about working for a multi-billion pound company and managing large teams and signing large cheques. The technical skills gained through years of experience and valuable advice they provide are just as important.

Frankly, I don't see how the CEngs on review panels can feel justified with their decisions, when the IET and EC, over decades, have failed in providing their members with a proper trade union movement with scope for pension provisions, to fight for better pay, status and conditions; whereas the medical and teaching professions, who's members aren't trained in management, have succeeded.

On surface the CEngs running the IET want everyone to see the organisation as 'The Institution of Engineering & Technology' in order to attract engineers and technicians to join; but beneath the surface lies the real organisation called 'The Institution of Engineering Managers' and that is why the panel view a consultant as not carrying any weight compared to a manager.

Edited: 28 March 2014 at 01:52 PM by mbirdi
 28 March 2014 07:26 PM
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Zuiko

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I don't care for the quite often quoted comparisons with engineers and medical doctors.

In the vast majority of cases (at least in the UK) medical doctors are much more highly educated and trained; 5-6 year degree, followed by several years in training; and a much more rigourous expectation of CPD, and they have responsibilities that far outstrip that of an engineer.


So maybe the reason why its easier to define a medical doctor than an engineer, is that because to be a medical doctor, you have to prove, using a very standard procedure (degree + NHS training) that you have the qualifications, skills and knowledge.


Any Tom, Dick or Harriet can can themselves an engineer (I'm not even sure what a consultant engineer is, other than it sounds rather pretentious). The guy that fits your sky box is an engineer, and so is the girl that designs space ships. The IET have to assess the competencies against an almost infinite amount of possible experiences that engineers possess.

Of course, they could make it tough - like it is tough to become a doctor. They could demand a six-year degree of academic and technical parity with a medical degree; then demand exact and difficult competencies are met in the workplace, and demand evidence; then they could get experts in your field to assess you.

I guess we would end up with a handful of engineers in this country.



Engineering is a wonderful deregualted mess in this country, and long may it remain like that: it gives it some of its strength and vitality (as compared to highly regulated countries).


Agree with the bit about "The Institution of Engineering Managers" - managing large teams and writing cheques. That is a managers job. The competencies are far too skewed towards management and finance. There are superbly able and academcially brilliant "operational" engineers working in research, design, construction and maintenance that would struggle to fulfil the competencies of UKSPEC for CEng. Which is wrong.

Edited: 29 March 2014 at 09:39 AM by Zuiko
 29 March 2014 04:00 AM
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jarathoon

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"Engineers" from a media perspective...

Extreme Jenga: Whole building collapses after 'engineer took out the wrong brick'

by Heather Saul of The Independent

"An engineer was left staring at a house-shaped hole after an entire building collapsed seconds after he dislodged a few bricks from the exterior wall.

In video footage captured by a bystander, the man can be seen tackling exposed beams and brickwork at the side of a disused building in possibly the most extreme game of Jenga on record."


Journalists used to be selected for their observational skills and ability to record events accurately and dispassionately using the written word...

"He can be seen picking at bricks at edge when suddenly the whole - yes whole - building collapses into a heap without warning."

Despite using the word "whole" twice the journalist fails to notice that the roof of the building for the most part stays in place, still held up by the buildings either side. The wonders of Victorian engineering!

A comment from Phill Davies lower down the web page says

"Indeed, I spent years at University studying engineering. Little did I know that I could have achieved this status merely by repeatedly hitting a beam with a crowbar. Who needs differential equations when a lump hammer will do!"

This goes too far because an "Institution of Demolition Engineers" does exist and a knowledge of differential equations may not be a compulsory requirement for membership and professional accreditation; however being able to knock a wall down efficiently with minimum effort, and without getting hurt, might.

The Independent journalist should have asked the Institution of Demolition Engineers to comment on whether or not what happened showed good demolition engineering practice. A discussion on this point would have made for a more interesting and thought provoking article (from an engineering point of view).

Institute of Demolition Engineers

Th building was in fact the family home of the English poet Francis Thompson.

http://www.tameside.gov.uk/blueplaque/francisthompson

His poem the "Hound of Heaven" contains the line "Deliberate speed, majestic instancy" which to some extent captures in words the essence and visual beauty of demolition as theatre and public spectacle. The article implies this was a case of "Accidental speed" rather than "Deliberate Speed".

http://www.tameside.gov.uk/blueplaque/francisthompson

If you examine the video closely you will see that the blue plaque was still on the building when it collapsed. Luckily he wasn't tempted to do the wrong thing and try to remove the blue plaque first.



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James Arathoon
 29 March 2014 12:26 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: Zuiko
In the vast majority of cases (at least in the UK) medical doctors are much more highly educated and trained; 5-6 year degree, followed by several years in training; and a much more rigourous expectation of CPD, and they have responsibilities that far outstrip that of an engineer.

Some good points and in many respects I can agree with them. However, that said a CEng should have an MEng which requires 4 years of study and also have relevant experience and so the differences are not as big as they would seem.

Now if the engineer does say the BSc (Hons) in engineering and then say a MSc in engineering then let's not forget that in the USA the masters is a 2 year program whereas in the UK it has been condensed into a 1 year program. Of course we can debate the merits of this and so on but for arguments sake let's 'assume' that it has the same overall amount of content. The other thing is that some 3 year degrees are now being condensed to 2 years. So nowadays it's not just about the 'years' aspect.

With regards to responsibilities, I would think that the engineer who designs the 747 has some responsibility, makes a big mess when one of those come down in a crowded area! How about the engineer who designs the car which is driven by millions of people? And the engineer who designs, bridges, trains, tunnels, pacemakers, etc., etc.

A CEng should be the crème of the crop and the doctor should be the crème of the crop and I do not think the differences between them in many respects should be that great, be this with regards to the education or experience required to do the job or else with regards to their responsibilities.

Of course in practice it does not work out that way and in many respects CEng is given out far too easy and the maintenance of CPD requirements are derisory and so based on how it is overall the doctors are as you suggest, but really it should not be that way if the CEng program was run properly.

So maybe the reason why its easier to define a medical doctor than an engineer, is that because to be a medical doctor, you have to prove, using a very standard procedure (degree + NHS training) that you have the qualifications, skills and knowledge.

Any Tom, Dick or Harriet can can themselves an engineer (I'm not even sure what a consultant engineer is, other than it sounds rather pretentious). The guy that fits your sky box is an engineer, and so is the girl that designs space ships. The IET have to assess the competencies against an almost infinite amount of possible experiences that engineers possess.


Good point. A doctor is a doctor and it's not like there are people who just hand over an aspirin and then get called a doctor.

Of course, they could make it tough - like it is tough to become a doctor. They could demand a six-year degree of academic and technical parity with a medical degree; then demand exact and difficult competencies are met in the workplace, and demand evidence; then they could get experts in your field to assess you.


Actually it is supposed to be tough, in reality, to gain CEng!

I guess we would end up with a handful of engineers in this country.


I think if it was run properly we would have properly qualified and experienced CEng, and with the appropriate high level qualifications and experience, and we would have IEng and EngTech and we would of course have our other 'engineers'. It's just that those with Chartered Status would then be more comparable to the doctors whereas the others would of course not be.

Engineering is a wonderful deregualted mess in this country, and long may it remain like that: it gives it some of its strength and vitality (as compared to highly regulated countries).


Excellent point. Even in the 'highly regulated' countries it is a mess, it's just that the regulators do not admit it because they would be seen to be the failures that they are. I know because I have worked in one of those countries and basically things are 'out of sight, out of mind'. It's rather like the regulation on not driving whilst using a mobile phone, it works very well and everyone complies!

There are superbly able and academcially brilliant "operational" engineers working in research, design, construction and maintenance that would struggle to fulfil the competencies of UKSPEC for CEng. Which is wrong.


Good point.

Regards.
 29 March 2014 12:54 PM
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Zuiko

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Originally posted by: westonpa
With regards to responsibilities, I would think that the engineer who designs the 747 has some responsibility, makes a big mess when one of those come down in a crowded area! How about the engineer who designs the car which is driven by millions of people? And the engineer who designs, bridges, trains, tunnels, pacemakers, etc., etc.


Well, the obvious answer is that an "engineer" does not build a 747.

Boeing builds 747s, and they employ tens of thousands of engineers; some who have ultra-specialist skills, others who skills are quite general. It would be quite impossible for an "engineer" to design and build a 747.

Ditto all the other examples you mention. Nowdays, even very simple engineering projects wil involved scores of engineers. It's become quite difficult to even unscrew a bolt without several people signing on to a RAMS that has seen several revisions with everybody sticking their oar in.

Of course, the buck stops somewhere, but that is not often with the engineers: with big projects it is with a director (who may be, and increasingly is likely to be, an accountant).



You compare that with the responsibility most single doctors have: especially those whose rotations take them into A&E or surgery. GPs, the front line of the NHS, have to make daily potentially life or death decisions. There are very very few engineers that have such a resonsibility. When they get it wrong, they hit the news.

Its probably fair to say that the gas engineer or electrician fixing your house, or the mechanic fixing your suspension in quick-fit has far more personal responsibility for your safety than CEngineers!



And as for a MEng being even remotely comparible in academic intensity, academic and technical content, and the sheer amount of knowledge gained to a Medial degree. Nah. Its not that difficult for somebody with their head screwed on and some motivation to complete an MEng. It really is not. (I did qualify the 5-6 year time frame with the statement about comparible levels of academic content)

Edited: 29 March 2014 at 01:08 PM by Zuiko
 29 March 2014 04:51 PM
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jarathoon

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I did look into gaining CEng a few years back following a mental breakdown whilst studying for a masters degree at Imperial College and UCL. I could have looked into gaining CEng before this, and my opinion of the process might have been completely different.

I wanted to talk about my mental breakdown in the process and how it has affected me and other peoples attitude toward me once I told them. I didn't feel able. I wanted the process to be more objective and substantive, than it has become.

The question is wider and exists for all health or well being changes that could affect pre-existing competences: unsteady hand, eyesight problems, hearing problems, inability to climb steps in a work or factory environment. Surgeons are now increasingly asked to retire from surgery if they get the shakes. Are there certain tasks which engineers should retire from if they experience a particular difficulty, transient or long term, in their health or well being?

How would your new laws be written to accommodate this across a wide array of industries and competences?

The Diversity Issue....

In addition we have to think about encouraging further diversity in the profession: race, colour, creed, outlook on life, small company/large company mindset, academic background and educational and vocational route into the profession. I am not sure the CEng process helps us fully appreciate and understand the sheer variety of engineering talent that can exist in our culture.

It is well known that the engineering community in the UK has to significantly rebalance in terms of the numbers of women and ethnic minorities, especially so in certain industries, like nuclear and defence. Does the exiting CEng process help or hinder this rebalancing process?

In addition we have to admit that generalist engineers coming from small and medium sized enterprises can and do have a completely different yet valid engineering outlook, completely distinct from single subject specialists with a majority of their careers spent working in large corporates.



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James Arathoon
 30 March 2014 12:43 PM
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jencam

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If all engineers had to register with a professional body that prevents them from practicing engineering unless they are registered, then will it impose legislation refusing membership to anybody with criminal convictions? In effect such a policy will close the doors to engineering for a person who has a conviction for an offence that has nothing to do with engineering such as robbery or possession of printed materials that may be used for terrorism.

There is anecdotal evidence that engineering managers are not very sympathetic towards the employment of ex-cons and some would probably welcome similar legislation that will exclude people from engineering who have convictions similar to the situation for medicine, nursing, or teaching. There was a case a few years ago where a university refused to allow an applicant to study medicine because he was a convicted burglar.
 30 March 2014 05:28 PM
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mbirdi

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Whenever an organisation creates some rule(s) for admission, there is always some form of idiosyncrasy introduced to bar certain people from admission.

Examples are:
London University External Graduate Diploma courses require candidates to have a UK first degree from full-time education, This bars other graduates who gained their degrees through part-time or distance learning and those with equivalent qualifications; but there is no such restriction applied on their masters degree courses.

There is also the so called bedroom tax, which denies certain disabled people from claiming benefits if they have an extra bedroom(s); even though journalist reporters investigating the practicalities of this rule, have found the extra bedrooms tended to house either a career or vital medical equipment and are not just empty rooms.

And so on...

I don't see compulsory registration ever working for engineers; it certainly wouldn't benefit them as they would find their job roles and salaries fixed (just like doctors and teachers) as a result of registration; whilst non-registrant engineers would enjoy working in varied job roles within the profession and benefit from accelerated pay awards.

One example of this is: NHS managers or would be doctors who never qualified to get onto the medical register; but were ambitious enough to find other routes to climb the career ladder in the medical profession. Another example could be senior BBC managers, and so on.....

Edited: 30 March 2014 at 06:37 PM by mbirdi
 03 April 2014 03:29 AM
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llondel

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Originally posted by: garethwood
With a regulated profession , engineers would be accountable for their work and not have their decisions overridden by poorly qualified upper management.


Herein lies the problem: who makes the regulations? How much say, as an engineer, are you likely to have in that process, given that you're going to be stuck with the result if it's backed by law?

Engineering is interesting to compare to the legal or medical professions, in that both of those have a well-defined path to professional practice with training and exams. You can't practice as a doctor without being well-advanced down that path, and while learning, you are directly overseen by someone with the experience to stop you killing people should you make a mistake. When you look back at engineering, many of the famous names were self taught and often had no formal training. Even now, the IET has an entry method that can be used by those who never got a degree, recognising that enough years of practical experience demonstrates competence and allows a person to apply for CEng status. This is also where engineering diverges from the other professions, in that one does not need a CEng to work as an engineer in most cases. Where a CEng is required, there is usually a public safety issue, and even then, that's usually only when the specific job requires the holder to sign the bit of paper that states that it's all been put together properly. I never bothered to apply for CEng and I've never been in a position where having CEng status would have made any difference to my career (except being a few pounds a year better off).

I am accountable - if I screw up then I can be fired. If senior management chooses to ignore my advice, then it's them that may well be fired because you can sure that I'll have put everything down in writing and kept a clear record of my objections to the decision and why. Management is all about risk - I can advise on the risks of (not) doing something and that is then weighed against all the other risks involved. There is often more than one right way to do something.

In the limit, if an engineer is always overridden by his manager, he can go look for a new job in a better environment. In our largely unregulated profession we always have that option.
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