Point vs. Counterpoint

Point: Industrial Exemption Repeal for Ontario Regulation 941 for Professional Engineers

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

Disclaimer: Since 2010, the Government of Ontario began to implement changes to section 12.(3)(a) of the Professional Engineers Act. This section of the act gave exception to industrial companies for the need to have a professional engineering license in relation to the machinery or equipment being used or produced by the company. The repeal of this act will now require industrial companies to have licenced engineers to either supervise or be the person responsible for performing the work previously mentioned. Other examples of professional engineering work include designing, installing, evaluating and composing the layout of new equipment and much more. As of March 1st, the repeal of the industrial exception act will become an official law.

While the procedure changes made above seem convoluted and unnecessary as a student who works in such environments, the question is, would you keep this opinion when it comes to the safety of you and your family as consumers? Is the safety of the average person worth this inconvenience of being certified?

For one, what is the purpose of becoming a professional engineer and what is there to gain from such a title? With this designation, there comes, in its responsibility, additional accountability in the actions taken by such individuals. With that said, professional engineers are held accountable to any actions unlawful as well as unethical that would not be said otherwise when it comes to other unauthorized counterparts. Where a technician can only be held for negligent or illegal actions, a professional engineer can be held for much more than that. For instance, failing to mention conflicts of interest, being uncooperative with peers, or even being inattentive when it comes to technical documents can be punishable under the Professional Engineers Act. Such punishments include heavy fines, suspension of  licenses, and, in some cases, criminal charges. With more severe punishments for working professionals for indiscretions as those mentioned, it would be more comforting to know that they are responsible for any products being given to the public.

What exactly is entailed in obtaining a professional engineer? While the necessary work experience under qualified professionals is required (which in itself is a learning tool for working ethically), an examination is required which tests the prospective professional engineers on the ethics and laws relevant to the profession. Again, technicians are not required to take such examinations to be qualified to work in their respective fields. While this may not seem to be of importance, it lends to the fact that every engineer has, in the very least, been exposed to the laws of being a professional and are aware of the rather serious consequences of failing to perform in their position. As such, a small form of negligence, such as inconsistencies between drawings for a new design in production would be punishable to a harsh extent for a professional engineer while a technician would not be held to such terms if the same crime was committed. Furthermore, such mistakes would become less common because certified engineers would know the consequences of such blunders and would do everything in their power to prevent them. At the end of the day, the manufacturing process will be streamlined and there will be less error overall since care is taken to prevent them. As the average worker on the production floor, the extra care taken in ensuring safe practices would ensure a safer working environment due to the reduced instance of danger.  Finally, when it comes to the average consumer, design malfunctions and dangers would be less frequent due to this added care just mentioned.

Finally, how much harm is there in ensuring that all changes are signed by a professional engineer? From the perspective of the manufacturing body itself, it just ensures that the professional engineers, who are usually managers, are involved in every decision made on the floor. Sure, it means that there will be some additional time taken to ensure that the proper measures are taken to satisfy the new amendment being passed in a couple of weeks, however, there ensures a person of authority held directly accountable to any carelessness that should happen to occur on the production floor. With that said, since said person is held accountable to a higher standard than others in that workspace, such mistakes are less likely to occur due to the dire repercussions that are sure to follow. Unless, there is a huge overhaul in production, realistically, there aren’t going to be major changes made every single day such that significant backlog occurs. Like all industry, these changes happen over time over which one more step has been added to the many required. In fact, by adding said step, there is less interference from external sources (in particular, the government) which can add significantly to the time required to make any significant change.  For instance, when manufacturing a product for the public or installing equipment for the factory floor, certain government regulations must be met to ensure both the workers and consumers’ safety. By reducing this back-and-forth communication between an external body and the industrial entity, there is a lesser probability of misunderstanding between officials since the onus of ensuring that such standards are met will be taken on by the engineer.

Going off of what was said earlier, having a professional engineer onsite especially makes the process of implementing change a more streamlined endeavour since the engineer will have a better working knowledge of the nature of work being done on the production floor compared to any external party. When authorizing such changes, the engineer will have the efficiency of the production floor in mind and will be personally invested in a modification that affects the safety of the workers and the consumers. As such, the professional engineer will use their discretion in this regard to approve such changes in a faster manner since they already know the environment as compared to an external body who would have to analyze the environment first before approving any changes. This also ensures that small changes like the layout and auxiliary plans for the production floor are done in a timely fashion as opposed to a drawn out process that is usually the case.

Yes, while this law means that there needs to be a shuffle in resources to accommodate the inclusion of a professional engineer into the normal working pace of industry, such a transition will be beneficial in the long run since someone to lose is being held accountable to uphold government standards for products and equipment while removing the unnecessary red tape to authorize any changes taking place in any manufacturing environment.

Leave a Reply