The rise of defensive engineering: how personal liability considerations impact decision-making

Hayes, J, Maslen, S, Scott-Young, C and Wong, J 2018, 'The rise of defensive engineering: how personal liability considerations impact decision-making', Journal of Risk Research, vol. 21, no. 9, pp. 1131-1145.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title The rise of defensive engineering: how personal liability considerations impact decision-making
Author(s) Hayes, J
Maslen, S
Scott-Young, C
Wong, J
Year 2018
Journal name Journal of Risk Research
Volume number 21
Issue number 9
Start page 1131
End page 1145
Total pages 15
Publisher Routledge
Abstract Based on a survey of Australian engineers (n = 275) this paper examines the impact of personal liability considerations on engineering decision-making. Almost all respondents who make high-stakes decisions saw questions of liability as having both positive (90%) and negative (87%) impacts. Our analysis shows that awareness of personal liability acts to focus the attention of many engineers on the moral dimension of their work. However, it also encourages more expensive decision-making, inhibition of innovation and professional paralysis. We argue that while personal legal liability is a legitimate way to focus engineers' attention on the potential impact of their work, a problem arises when decision-makers are held responsible for disasters over which they had little control. The focus then shifts to 'defensive engineering' practices that are aimed at limiting individual liability rather than disaster prevention. Legal processes that are seen to unfairly allocate blame do not encourage practices that support future disaster prevention.
Subject Applied Sociology, Program Evaluation and Social Impact Assessment
Keyword(s) Safety
expertise
blame
accident investigation
professional practice
DOI - identifier 10.1080/13669877.2017.1391319
Copyright notice © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
ISSN 1466-4461
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