There is scope for unethical practice by engineers in relation to the selection and use of materials in any product or construction. Engineers may be encouraged to choose materials because they are cheaper (or more expensive), irrespective of their adequacy to the task. Engineers inspecting machinery and buildings after construction, may be encouraged to overlook weaknesses, irrespective of the hazard they may constitute to personnel or the environment.
In a highly competitive construction industry there are frequent cases of buildings collapsing because of use of inappropriate materials. During the Los Angeles earthquake in 1994, questions were raised concerning the failure of certain buildings and sections of highway that were supposed to be earthquake proof. The failure of many oil tankers and cargo vessels has been partly attributed to inappropriate certification whereby unsafe vessels were allowed to continue to operate. Analogous examples have been cited in relation to nuclear reactors where engineers fail to report defects of which they are aware or are accomplices in the concealment of that information, whatever the risks to the surrounding environment or population.