(329d) Chemical Engineering Student Moral Reasoning within Hypothetical Process Safety Contexts | AIChE

(329d) Chemical Engineering Student Moral Reasoning within Hypothetical Process Safety Contexts


Stransky, J. - Presenter, Rowan University
Anastasio, D., Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Bodnar, C. A., Rowan University
Cooper, M., North Carolina State University
Burkey, D. D., University of Connecticut
In light of recent industrial process safety incidents, ABET requires accredited undergraduate chemical engineering programs to train students to make effective and accurate process safety decisions. While many programs train their students to effectively identify and evaluate risks relevant to process safety, the continued occurrence of incidents indicates that elements of the environment in which engineers are tasked with making decisions may not be effectively captured through current instructional methods. As such, we have examined how senior chemical engineering students apply moral reasoning when faced with process safety decisions in two contexts: a text-based assessment instrument and a virtual process safety environment.

In the text-based assessment, students took the Engineering Process Safety Research Instrument (EPSRI) which consists of 5-7 process safety dilemmas and decisions. Students are then asked to rate the importance of 10-12 considerations, unique to each dilemma, to their decision-making process. In the second method, a virtual environment was developed to simulate a chemical plant, including safety hazards, interactions with co-workers, and other authentic constraints. After certain decision points, students were asked to rate how important certain considerations were to those decisions. Based on the responses to the considerations on the EPSRI and the virtual environment, students’ moral reasoning could be determined by the ratings they assigned to considerations that were pre-conventional (focused on self), conventional (focused on immediate contacts such as family, employees, and company), and post-conventional (focused on the greater community) as outlined in Kohlberg’s moral development theory. Comparisons of students’ moral reasoning between the text-based EPSRI and more authentic environment of the virtual simulation will be discussed in the context of behavioral ethics, examining how the different scenarios impact ethical behavior and decision-making.