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I am in a very uncomfortable situation. I was hired as a software developer, but I was somehow talked into designing electronics. I told them I can try, but I am not a electrical engineer. Everything started with low voltages and it seems like the product is working fine. Our newest development is a handheld device with mains voltage.

I need this job because I have to take care of my daughter. I've been working on this thing for months already and it feels like simply saying "I don't know what I am doing. This seems like a bad idea to let me do this task" is not viable for me anymore. I just noticed there was a major flaw in my design and luckily it can be fixed, but I wonder how many things I did not see.

I know I cannot continue like this because there is a chance someone will get injured or even die. If I tell the truth I can look for a new job and I feel like if I leave and tell them, I am certain they will still use my design even with a warning.

I already created forged documents about results of safety-relevant tests of another department (mechanical engineering), because the test station failed to protocol the results and no one noticed for three years. After I joined I looked into the system and source code. I saw it only generates dummy data, built in from an external contractor. I told them about it and it was fixed and works again, but it was too expensive to repeat three years of tests, so I was told to generate fake protocols.

I was thinking about going to the police. Maybe this way I will be fired and my company has no chance to use my work. I don't know if I will receive government support (ALG I, Germany) in this drastic case.

What should I do?

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    It looks like you asked this question last month (or one very similar to it). Are you expecting/hoping a different answer?
    – zmike
    Oct 13 at 14:08
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    @zmike I changed my view regarding the criminal energy of my employer. Simply leaving will not stop them from using my product. Many aspects of my current situation changed.
    – Hans Vader
    Oct 13 at 14:13
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    Can a bad engineer kill people? Software OR hardware? Of course... read up on Therac-25... sitepoint.com/therac-25-bad-software-kills bugsnag.com/blog/bug-day-race-condition-therac-25 - take classes, study, work to improve and find out what practices you can use to do it right with safeguards
    – WernerCD
    Oct 14 at 4:29
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    @theberzi That's not what I believe. Of course the company is at fault, but so is the OP for agreeing to do it. Even if you're not the instigator of a crime, being complicit is also an offence.
    – Touchdown
    Oct 14 at 11:17
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    This question should be posted at Law rather than here. Seriously. You have admitted to a crime, you need a lawyer, not opinions from strangers on the internet. Oct 15 at 11:08
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I need this job because I have to take care of my daughter

No. You need a job to take care of your daughter. That could be flipping Burgers at McDonald's.

In Germany as a Software Developer there should be no shortage of job offers. We are so starved for developers, we are importing them not just from other countries, but from other continents. You should be able to find a job without problems. Thanks to Corona many, many jobs are now work-from-home, so even if you live in a super remote location with only a single employer... if you have internet, go get a job somewhere else, you don't have to be physically there.

For your problem of whether they will use your (possibly flawed and dangerous) work, find a lawyer and get help.

Seriously... you need to act. No more excuses, no more waiting. You have tried waiting and it got worse.

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    Doubly so, because being ordered to commit crimes is (AFAIK) a valid reason to quit and still be entitled to ALG (which is about 60 % of previous 12 months average income). OP should contact Arbeitsagentur and talk to them.
    – phresnel
    Oct 14 at 8:24
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    Also if the company should decide to fire him he would still get unemployment money, and they are obliged to give him time enough to register for unemployment and start looking for work.
    – theberzi
    Oct 14 at 11:17
  • Yes I have to agree with this answer. I'm usually against the "you can always change jobs" idea, but here, you are litteraly putting people lives at risks, working on something you do not have the knowledge, or certification to work with. When something goes wrong (yes when, not if) do you think your employer will cover for you ? At this point in time you NEED to change jobs, yesterday.
    – user3399
    Oct 15 at 8:54
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    Of course, however is hired next will continue the dirty work. OP needs to blow the whistle on his employer.
    – henning
    Oct 15 at 15:07
  • being ordered to commit crimes is (AFAIK) a valid reason to quit and still be entitled to ALG this, of course, assuming OP has enough evidence to prove all the forging was a direct order
    – Josh Part
    Oct 15 at 20:48
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I already created forged documents about results of safety relevant tests of another department (mechanical engineering) because the test station failed to protocol the results and no one noticed for 3 years

You already committed a crime along with your employer IMO. But then again you should consult lawyer to decide how much you are liable incase this gets out.

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    @hans vader If there is investigation then OP has confessed that he forged safety documents and test results. I think forgery is a crime. Atleast due to which there were some health hazards. Oct 13 at 14:35
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    @HansVader Speak to a lawyer, yesterday if possible.
    – Unfair-Ban
    Oct 13 at 14:35
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    @HansVader: Regardless of any particular crime, you can certainly be held liable now for any damages as a result of this, and your company can quite easily scapegoat you for this now. As Studoku said, you need to consult a lawyer immediately. Oct 13 at 14:44
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    A good lawyer would be able to show that this documents were forged "under duress"
    – Peter M
    Oct 13 at 17:59
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    @HansVader "I think these documents are not required" You THINK they aren't required? willing to bet a 20 year sentence on that? Willing to see your daughter once a week on visiting day?
    – WernerCD
    Oct 14 at 4:32
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I’m in the UK, so perhaps this isn't quite right for Germany.

But usually, if an employee goes to the relevant authorities (safety standards organisations, product approval bodies, or police), and says openly, " I faked safety data. I felt pressured and needed the job. I have had time to think and I need to let someone know..", they will be sympathetic, but stern.

While they will tell you off, or may warn or sanction you somehow (for example, not letting you certify other data in future), ultimately they will not prosecute you for it, or will do so with only very mild outcome such as a police warning or suspended sentence at worst, because they know you regret it deeply, took action to prevent harm, and won’t do it again.

On the other hand, if it does come out anyway (your successor if you don’t agree to fake more data?), the outcome will be much worse.

This is whistleblowing. There is good guidance available on how exactly to do it. Ask another question here, for that ("I plan to whistleblow some faked safety data for which I was part responsible. How should I do it?").

As a rough outline, whatever you plan to do, there are three golden rules and you must do these:

  1. Ensure you secretly have/keep copies of everything, for your own protection. Yes, this probably breaches your contract, but if shit comes down, now or future, you can bet they will shift the blame to you, and deny that crucial emails or documents exist. Keep a private copy to protect yourself. After any meetings, send a follow-up email summarising the meeting ("I enclose my notes on our meeting. I'm still unhappy that after disclosing a defect in safety data we have not yet agreed a way to fix it, and your view is that no effective action will be taken."). The penalty for that breach of contract is minimal - if it’s for "legitimate" reasons such as proving faked safety data if challenged - you’ll have opinion on your side. If anything happens, get legal advice too.
  2. Raise the matter internally. Give the company a chance formally, to fix it (or to show that they won’t). Do this by email, and save every one (see above), or photo it on your phone. Be direct, "I need to disclose something....." or "As we discussed, I was pressured to....", and then "I was told to fake the safety data. (or, I was put under pressure to accept the faked safety data when I found it). I am also uncomfortable that this made demands on me that I was not capable of meeting, as you know I lacked that qualification, and the faked data remains in use, in effect the product is dangerous. Please may we discuss how to regularise this historical situation, or at least assess the risk involved." See if they will (then no problem) or if they won't (in which case it’s on record and that protects you).
  3. Like previous answers said, take action. You can get another job. Yes, you need to work and get an income, but you need to fix this problem, for which you created the data. It gets far more serious if left longer, or there is more opportunity for someone to get hurt. Pull the finger out, and do something.
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    This is the only answer that even mentions whistleblowing, it should be top rated, voted, and accepted. Oct 15 at 11:13
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    This answer has another big advantage over simply quitting: it reduces the odds that the company simply hires some other unqualified person and continues doing what they're doing. Getting authorities involved means that you can even get the dangerous products pulled off the market and barred from export. If any government agency bought these products, they'll be particularly interested in learning about this.
    – bta
    Oct 15 at 16:02
  • Going to a Lawyer should be the first item for the OP to do. They need to know their actual llegal (and criminal) liabilities and responsibilities.
    – StephenG
    Oct 15 at 17:41
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    I would only add "get a lawyer" as a pre-requisite for point 2. OP letting know the company he/she is no longer willing to "play their game" could easily tun very bad for him/her if unprepared as in the company could "whistleblow" on OP first
    – Josh Part
    Oct 15 at 20:54
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You have been put in a tough situation and have three tough, but doable, things to take care of.

  1. Find a new job. You gave the employer the benefit of the doubt for a while, but now you have decided, on good evidence, that they are unsafe. You have at least four weeks notice. As others said, the new place doesn't need to be a perfect job.
  2. Prepare a record of the problems which you have copies of offsite. You may need to tell them directly or anonymously approach a regulator with these concerns.
  3. Engage a lawyer. The internet is too full of Americans and Americans say this to everything. But there are serious safety and labour law implications here and you need some professional advice that isn't from randos on the internet.

You were able to frame the question clearly and have thought about this carefully for some time, so I think you already know these are the right actions to take. It's not easy, or fair, but it is right. All strength to you in taking these things on.

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    I would switch the priorities. Find a Lawyer first, talk with him through your next steps.
    – Benjamin
    Oct 14 at 6:45
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    @Graham That's a fairly bold statement, do you have anything to back it? I'm not familiar with German law, but in some neighboring EU countries at least, knowingly (negligently) putting people's lives in danger is not just a matter of civil liability but a crime. Saying "but my employer told me to" isn't much of a defence if it comes to a criminal trial.
    – TooTea
    Oct 14 at 7:30
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    @Graham OP admitted to forging documents. When can't tell if they pull him into hot waters, a Lawyer can. If there were no forged documents, I would agree the company is responsible. Forging documents means he walks very thin ice here. Maybe these documents have no significane, maybe they open the door for the company to claim they have been blinded by OP and put all blame on him. We can't really know.
    – Benjamin
    Oct 14 at 8:01
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    @Graham: You have a lot of interesting ideas. Please write an answer of your own. Oct 15 at 4:31
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there is a chance someone will get injured or even die.

Ethically you have no choice but to formally voice your concerns with your employer and refuse to continue. How that will end is unknown.

The product and design do not belong to you, it's rare but engineers do come across similar dilemnas in a career. You inform your superiors and trust them to do whatever needs to be done.

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    Just to be aware, the responsibility of designs in germany falls on the engineer, and rarely on the company. They do not share the company is at fault mentality like in North America, as they will say, ‘this engineer is the expert, they designed it, it’s their design, (though it belongs to us), we trusted them to know what they’re doing’.
    – morbo
    Oct 14 at 7:44
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    @morbo the OP is not an engineer (not qualified) the onus is on the company. Most of the World is like Germany, thats why engineers get qualified and paid so much. If you're not qualified, you're not an engineer.
    – Kilisi
    Oct 14 at 9:03
  • There are plenty of qualified people, who are not engineers, you are mistaking certification with qualification, one is subjective the other regulated.
    – morbo
    Oct 16 at 10:30
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Your employer almost certainly requires some sort of approval for the product before it can be sold on the open market. In Germany that is probably CE marking but could be a DIN standard or something else.

To get this they would have to approach a standards organisation, such as TÜV. You could inform whichever organisation is relevant in your case. It is probable that you could do this anonymously if you are worried about comeback.

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    CE is nothing you get from TÜV, it's a self certification. Just some parts (e.g. EMV tests) are done by other companies, there is no safety check after which someone gives you CE.
    – FooTheBar
    Oct 13 at 15:49
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    CE is a joke. TUV is who's probably going to do the certification for medical equipment, using DIN standards among other things. But even they tend to rely on data supplied by the manufacturer, data OP just admitted he faked to make the product look safe and functioning correctly when it doesn't...
    – jwenting
    Oct 14 at 8:34
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    over on DIY.SE CE stands for Chinese Excrement due to the number of self certified fire starters on the market with that logo. Oct 15 at 15:50

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