A balanced outlook on law stresses the necessity of laws and regulations and their limitations in directing engineering practice.
In order to live, work and play together in harmony as a society, there must be a balance between individual needs and desires against collective needs and desires. Only ethical conduct can provide such a balance.
This ethical conduct can be applied only with the help of laws. Laws are important as the people are not fully responsible and because of the competitive nature of the free enterprise system which does not encourage moral initiative.
The model of engineering as social experimentation allows for the importance of clear laws to be effectively enforced.
Engineers ought to play an effective role in promoting or changing enforceable rules of engineering as well as in enforcing them. So the codes must be enforced with the help of laws. The following are the two best examples.
Babylon’s Building Code : (1758 B.C)
This code was made by Hammurabi, king of Babylon. He formed a code for builders of his time and all the builders were forced to follow the code by law.
He ordered If a builder has built a house for a man and has not made his work sound, and the house which he has built has fallen down and so caused the death of the householder, that builder shall be put to death.
If it causes the death of the house holder’s son, they shall put that builder’s son to death. If it causes the death of the householder’s slave, he shall give slave for slave to the householder.
If it destroys property he shall replace anything it has destroyed; and because he has not made the house sound which he has built and it has fallen down, he shall rebuild the house which has fallen down from his own property.
If a builder has built a house for a man and does not make his work perfect and the wall bulges, that builder shall put that wall in to sound condition at his own cost.
The above portion of Babylon’s building code was respected duly. But the aspects find only little approval today. This code gives a powerful incentive for self-regulation.
The United States Steamboat Code: [1852 A.D]
Steam engines in the past were very large and heavy. James Watt, Oliver Evans and Richard Trevethik modified the old steam engines by removing condensers and made them compact.
Beyond careful calculations and guidelines, explosions of boiler happened on steam boats, because of the high speed of the boats.
The safety valves were unable to keep steam pressure up causing explosion. During that period in 18th Century more than 2500 people were killed and 2000 people were injured because of the explosion of boilers in steam boats.
Due to this, the ruling Congress in USA passed a law which provided for inspection of the safety aspects of ships and their boilers and engines.
But this law turned out to be ineffective due to the corruptions of the inspectors and also their inadequate training regarding the safety checking.
Then Alfred Guthiro, an engineer of Illinoise had inspected about 200 steam boats on his own cost and found out the reasons for the boiler explosions and made a report.
His recommendations were published by a Senator Shields of Illinoise and incorporated in senate documents. With the help of this, another law was passed.
Now it is in the hands of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers who formulated the standards for producing steam boats.