02 February 2016

Updating our code of ethics: what it means for you

The IPENZ code of ethics sets out Members’ ethical obligations. As professionals, Members agree to meet these obligations, in addition to what’s legally expected of engineers.

The code underpins the way we work as engineers and IPENZ Members. It’s the foundation document through which we demonstrate our professionalism – how we choose to behave.

“It’s the foundation document through which we demonstrate our professionalism – how we choose to behave.”

The IPENZ code of ethics has not been subject to a comprehensive review since around 1996, although in 2005 we refined it. The CPEng code of ethics was drafted in 2002. In the last ten years, our profession has changed significantly. The Canterbury earthquakes, Pike River and new technologies have all changed engineering and the way we work. Since 2013 the two codes have been undergoing a review, and we are now getting ready to release our updated Code of Ethical Conduct. The review aimed to develop a code which has a logical structure, is easy to interpret and addressed the clarification issues raised by the Canterbury Royal Commission.

Key changes to the Code of Ethical Conduct

There are some fundamental changes from the existing code of ethics:

  • Reporting adverse consequences – under the new Code of Ethical Conduct, Members/engineers have an obligation to enquire into, and potentially report on, engineering matters which are of concern to them. In practice, this means if you observe something of concern, such as a problem in the construction of a building which potentially could lead to adverse consequences, you will be required to act.
  • Reporting breaches of the Code – Members/engineers are now required to report significant breaches of the Code of Ethical Conduct they’re aware another Member/engineer has made.
  • Professional development – Members/engineers are obliged to keep their knowledge and skills up to date, for example, by keeping track of the latest developments in their areas of competence.
  • Professionalism – the new Code of Ethical Conduct requires Members/engineers to treat others with respect and courtesy, as is expected of any professional.

The obligation to inform another engineer you’re reviewing their work has been removed from the code, but is still considered a professional courtesy.

Other key elements of the code, such as obligations in relation to health and safety and the environment, remain unchanged.

We’ve been working with the Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) to draft an amendment to the Chartered Professional Engineers Rules, which contains the code of ethical conduct for CPEngs. These will align exactly with the proposed new IPENZ Code of Ethical Conduct. Once the amended Rules are approved, both codes will come into effect. We’ll update our Practice Note: Engineers and Ethical Obligations to reflect the Code, and offer further training to explain your obligations under the Code and how they relate to your day-to-day practice.