EPA Proposes PEs on Risk Management Teams by Arthur Schwartz, NSPE Deputy Executive Director & General Counsel

Professional engineers may gain a greater oversight role at chemical facilities and others that handle hazardous materials if a proposed rule increasing safety requirements is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA proposes requiring the use of PEs in its Risk Management Programs. This action is in response to catastrophic chemical facility incidents in the US, including an explosion that occurred at the West Fertilizer facility in West, Texas, on April 17, 2013, that killed 15 people.

On March 14, the EPA asked for comment on a proposed rule (Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs under the Clean Air Act) that would require PEs on the audit teams involved in third-party certifications. The aim of the proposed requirement is to ensure the involvement of “competent auditors that also have an ethical obligation to perform unbiased work” in the interest of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare.

EJCDC’s sponsoring organization, NSPE, filed a comment in support of these provisions. The Society believes that the EPA’s proposal to require a PE as a third-party auditor or a member of the audit team is appropriate, given the PE’s unparalleled commitment to the public health, safety, and welfare, as well as demonstrated expertise and dedication to compliance with safety rules. At minimum, a PE should serve on the audit team, but preferably as the lead.

NAE Relaunches Online Ethics Center – In an effort to become the one-stop shop for engineering and science ethics education, the National Academy of Engineering’s Online Ethics Center relaunched its site in January. The relaunch is part of a five-year effort to provide more resources that will aid students, engineers, and scientists in considering both the practical and ethical questions associated with their research and professional practice. The site also features prominently the NSPE Code of Ethics and Board of Ethical Review cases.

The OEC has partnered with the Ethics Education Library of the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions at the Illinois Institute of Technology to expand access to a collection of more than 15,000 case studies, educational activities, and bibliographies. The OEC continues to be managed by the NAE’s Center for Engineering Ethics and Society, which was established with the support of NSPE Past President Harry Bovay Jr., P.E., F.NSPE.

The revamped site provides new teaching resources and ethical commentaries in addition to content that will provide information for practitioners, educators, and students on ethical, social justice, diversity, and globalization topics in the areas of science and engineering. Site upgrades allow for expanded searches and give users the ability to provide feedback on the value of resources and content.