Repentance as rebuke: Betrayal and moral injury in safety engineering

Sidney Dekker, Mark Layson, David Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Downloads (Pure)


Following other contributions about the MAX accidents to this journal, this paper explores the role of betrayal and moral injury in safety engineering related to the U.S. federal regulator’s role in approving the Boeing 737MAX—a plane involved in two crashes that together killed 346 people. It discusses the tension between humility and hubris when engineers are faced with complex systems that create ambiguity, uncertain judgements, and equivocal test results from unstructured situations. It considers the relationship between moral injury, principled outrage and rebuke when the technology ends up involved in disasters. It examines the corporate backdrop against which calls for enhanced employee voice are typically made, and argues that when engineers need to rely on various protections and moral inducements to ‘speak up,’ then the ethical essence of engineering—skepticism, testing, checking, and questioning—has already failed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number56
Number of pages13
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Repentance as rebuke: Betrayal and moral injury in safety engineering'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this