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 licensed 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.
Beginning with a very brief history spiel. The industrial exception has been enacted since 1984. The requirements, at the time, were to get approval by the engineers from Ontario’s Ministry of Labour for pre-development of processes and equipment. The requirement proposed by the exception was later replaced by a different regulation (Regulation 851), which fell under the Occupation Health and Safety Act. This, in fact, is the current requirement for industry where they must seek approval from professional engineers for pre-start health and safety reviews.
The Government of Ontario brought in this change to promote more competition in the current business market. However, there are a few problems that seem to have been overlooked. The first problem circles around start-ups and any other newly proposed businesses that are aiming for mass production. With the need to either hire and train another permanent employee (who is a licensed professional engineer or plans on applying to be one) or to hire an external consulting firm, the cost of starting up an industrial company increases. With everything from new equipment to modifications now needing a seal of approval from a licensed engineer, the cost of set-up may be unfeasible for many of the entrepreneurs out there.
However, all these additional costs also impact current industrial companies. Large companies may not have enough licensed professional engineers to accommodate the changes being imposed by this repeal. This would mean that these companies need to rush to hire more professional engineers as well, which does create more jobs, but the selection is from such a specific group of people that it doesn’t really help society at all.
Another issue that arises is the amount of wasted time due to getting constant approval from a licensed professional engineer. Rather than having the design and implementing the changes within the company, this act will now require the company to wait until everything is properly reviewed, signed and sealed. All of this will also depend on the availability of the licensed engineer, which could be a hassle if the company is relying on an external consultant to undergo the review process. This delay could then result in major financial losses, depending upon the importance of implementing the new design.
Furthermore, with the implementation of the modified act, it will allow companies to have more standard regulations. However, now meeting these regulations is dependent more on the professional engineer rather than the government itself. This could lead into many ethical problems, where licensed engineers could provide approval with very little concern over any alarming aspects of the design. This could then lead to many workplace hazards and possibly endanger employees significantly. An additional ethical problem could be the implication of a company using its licensed engineers from different departments for the approval of the said equipment implementation. Though the person approving the design is a licensed professional engineer, by signing and sealing a project that is outside their field of knowledge, they are in fact going against the Professional Engineers Act and what it stands for.
To continue, like with any other law or act modification, it requires the use of tax payer’s money. The government has spent a great deal of money to host seminars and webinars, company site visits, etc. over the past 3 years. All this money spent for changing a section of the Professional Engineers Act that has brought up very little problems in the past, if any.
Finally, the biggest problem of the repeal of this act is that it will actually take money away from the economy. The reason for this is that the additional cost of the licensed engineer approval can go nowhere but to the pockets of the engineers who sign and seal the papers. It can’t even go to the Professional Engineers of Ontario organization because that is non-profit. Therefore, industrial money will go straight to a small group of individuals rather than to hiring more employees to increase the job market, create more products that consumers can buy to help stimulate the economy or even research for the improvement of processes and products.
It can possibly be said this is almost like monopolizing the available money, where a few people really benefit from the change, but that is all. How does this help the common folk? Increased safety and more standard requirements is what we are told, but has anyone really had a problem with the way industries designed and maintained their equipment in the past? Employees could always rely on the health and safety act to ensure their own safety in the work environment. Does having additional approval of a licensed engineer, who is already approving the pre-start and safety reviews, really improve upon it enough to justify this repeal? Not too long ago there was a huge concern about the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer; does this not fit into this concern?