The community expects infrastructure to be safe (not harmful) and useful (achieve what it sets out to do). This is based on the idea that prior to committing to an undertaking or project, all those with a vested interest in the outcomes (any duty of care) agree in advance that everything that could have reasonably been done to ensure that the endeavour is successful (and not harmful) is in place. This means that if what is agreed is done and it comes unstuck, recriminations are minimised. It represents a form of social contract between stakeholders that is typically enforceable under common law.
Engineers and scientists are among many in the community who assume that the world is not chaotic and the natural material spacetime universe is governed by the laws of nature. Classically, establishing the laws of nature is what (pure) science strives to achieve whereas engineering applies the understanding of scientific insights for the benefit and convenience of mankind.
The laws of nature appear to be immutable in themselves. There is no court of appeal. Whatever happens remains the case despite various human interpretations post event. Mid-air collisions, ship groundings, road smashes, electrocutions, fires and explosions, oil well blowouts, train crashes and building collapses are manifestations of the laws of nature in the physical material spacetime universe. Understanding the laws of nature is therefore vital to all those who directly deal with such matters, notably engineers.
Nevertheless, from an engineering viewpoint, it does not matter how brilliant a proposed design might be. If it is not symmetrical with all relevant governance requirements, it will fail. In a sense, this means that engineering due diligence refers to ensuring a sensible (or perhaps arguable) congruence between the laws of nature and the laws of man if matters do go awry.
The material on this page is drawn primarily from the following sources:
- Robinson Richard M and Gaye E Francis (2019). Engineering Due Diligence (11th Edition). R2A Pty Ltd, Consulting Engineers.