The Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers (PSPE) and other groups within our national NSPE association are again asking our legislators to reconsider the “industrial exemptions” that are often provided manufacturers, especially those having multi-state and multi-national footprints.

If you want to know why know why this is important, you need look no further than some recent headlines.

The announcement that GM may avoid criminal charges for deaths that I consider murder of well over 100 people, that VW is being investigated for massive environmental fraud, and many other such instances, puts to the test the idea that corporate governance and monetary liability  will protect the public health, safety and welfare. (See One Professional v. Governance by Many: The Industrial Exemption in Light of the GM Recall).

Murder is a strong word, but that is my opinion.

After how many deaths was failure to alert the public to be deemed depraved indifference? As to the VW debacle, while one may not point to a specific health injury, the deliberate intent to deceive both their customers and the authorities appears to involve a conspiracy among dozens of “engineers,” technicians and managers. 

Would this have occurred if any felt the threat of personal criminal conviction and incarceration?

In Philadelphia, a crane operator claiming to just be following instructions plead guilty to manslaughter when a wall being demolished falls the wrong way. But an equipment operator requires a license because society demands this person to provide an independent assessment to assure the public health, safety and welfare. ”Instructions” only begin the process of that assessment. This may sound and be harsh, but LIVES MATTER.

In Corporate America, no one individual is held to accountability. The $900,000,000 fine to be paid by the shareholders of GM will likely not impact but a single “engineer” or “manager.”

Instead, some managers will likely receive a bonus for once again diverting attention from what I consider the corporate mantra: LIVES MATTER but PROFITS MATTER MORE.