Mechanical Engineering: Ethical Issues in Radiation

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Engineering Ethics Microwave Ovens After graduating from State University after 7 years of grueling undergraduate engineering classes, Charles goes to work for XYZ Industries. XYZ Industries manufactures microwave ovens and other kitchen gadgets. Charles is hired into a low-level engineering position and as his first task he is asked to test a series of microwave ovens to test their defrosting capability. He proceeds to the lab where he finds a few dozen microwave ovens in their boxes waiting for him to start his tests. He notices that every brand of microwave oven is here, including all of XYZ’s competitors’ brands. Charles unpacks all of the microwave ovens and begins tests. It is kind of boring testing microwave ovens (he has to wait up to five minutes to defrost some of the test items), so he begins to dig through the cabinets in the lab to see what is there. He quickly finds out that this was used to be the lab where they tested the microwave oven doors for radiation permeability (the amount of radiation that could escape through the glass door of the microwave ovens). He finds a neat little piece of hand-held equipment which apparently was used to measure radiation levels. Being an engineer, he can’t resist trying it out. Charles switches on the meter and points it around the room and out the window, etc. He notices that when he points it at some of the microwave ovens it goes off the scale. He quickly turns off all of the other microwaves, and discovers that the reading is not some fluke. The microwave ovens he is standing in front of are emitting higher-than-average levels of radiation. He looks and discovers that one of the ovens is from XYZ and the other is from ABC, XYZ’s arch-rival. These microwave ovens are currently the best-selling ovens on the market, because they are the cheapest ones available. It appears that these bargain ovens may not be as safe as they seem. Seeing something fishy, he decides to look around a little more. He finds the test report that discusses the radiation emissions from all of XYZ’s models of microwave ovens. He learns that only the top of the line and the mid-level microwaves were tested. The bargain oven’s results had been extrapolated from the test results from the other ovens. Charles immediately reports the matter to Michael, his immediate supervisor, but gets a stern response from Michael to concentrate on the assigned task of testing the defrosting capability of microwave ovens and submit the test report in next three days. Michael also reminds Charles that his first report would be very important as it would give him (Michael) an opportunity to properly evaluate Charles.

What should Charles do? Discuss all ethical issues.

 

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