The iron ring is an ethical symbol worn on the pinky finger of the working-hand of practicing Canadian engineers to re-enforce their obligation to the profession; to hold public well-being as paramount, to act in loyalty to their employers and clients as a faithful agent and trustee, to disclose conflicts of interest, to be competent and knowledgeable in engineering work and comply to all other arguments of the Code of Ethics of their governing Professional Engineering body. The ring is provided to graduating engineering students across Canadian universities from undergraduate engineering programs accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEBA).
First introduced in 1925, the practice of wearing the ring is said to have surfaced fromthe Quebec Bridge collapse in 1907 and 1916 that killed 88 construction workers. After a thorough investigation, the accident was credited to be caused by the negligence of chief engineer, Edward Hoare and consulting engineer, Theodore Copper. The disaster revealed the power of the engineer on society and the dire consequences that could occur when they do not adhere to their responsibilities toward the public. As such, the iron ring was created to act as a constant reminder to practicing engineers of the tragic incident and their duty to act with integrity and professionalism.
The rings are physically distributed in a ceremony known as the Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer. After the recital of the Obligation, which lists the ethical responsibilities and obligations of an engineer, the iron rings are placed on the fingers of graduating engineers. The ceremony is closed to only the graduating students, the engineering faculty and practicing engineers.
In addition to that, the symbolism behind the Iron in the Iron ring is that it came from the collapsed parts of the wreckage of the Quebec Bridge. Whether or not this is a fact it is to be seen as a symbol of the seriousness of the engineering profession's responsibility and the dire consequences of negligence or mistakes in an engineer's work. Furthermore, the Iron ring stands for the long standing history of the engineering profession and the skill and tradition that engineers have obtained from the dozens of generations of members of the engineering field whether they were engineers, masons, or craftsmen that came before the engineers of today. To that history, engineers who wear the ring bear it as a sign that they believe in an ethical, moral, and professional obligation to serve their community in performance of their duty and practice utmost fidelity in their profession.
All these concepts of tradition, rings, and symbols may sometimes lead to a shrouded air of mystery about the nature of the engineering rings and the nature of an engineers obligations to the professional engineering society. Some may even go as far as to make references to such actions as being representative of the behaviour of secret societies such as the free masons. While the Iron Ring is exclusive to professional engineers and while said engineers must uphold certain traditions; bringing in such allegations is not healthy for the profession because it brings about a certain amount of misconception that may threaten the public confidence in the fact that professional engineers belong to a self regulated organization that does not tell the public everything the public needs to know. This leads to the public questioning the organizations goals and motives.