The Ontario government has suddenly reversed its commitment to repeal a section of the Professional Engineers Act that provides a so-called “industrial exception.”
Professional Engineers Ontario, the licensing and regulating body for professional engineers, is not pleased and says it leaves people working for manufacturers vulnerable because they may feel obliged to do work of an engineering nature that they’re not qualified to do.
Section 12(3)(a) of Ontario’s Act enables non-engineers to carry out certain acts of engineering in a manufacturing workplace. Ontario is the only province in Canada where this exception exists.
After passing the “Open for Business Act” in 2010, the province was set to repeal the Section 12(3)(a) exception, but last Wednesday, June 12, the government reversed course. The exception was supposed to be proclaimed on September 1, 2013.
“We are shocked the Ontario government has taken this course of action,” says PEO President Annette Bergeron, P.Eng. in a statement. “This is an important workplace health and safety measure that would close a serious regulatory gap, and allow workers, under protection of law, to refuse to do work that they may not be qualified to do.”
Michael Price, PEO’s acting chief executive officer and registrar, says: “PEO objects, in the strongest possible terms, to the government’s reversal on this important issue.” He points out that manufacturing accident and fatality rates in Ontario are higher than other provinces.
Price also notes: “The repeal would have been implemented without any expense to taxpayers and little cost to employers, since PEO had committed to offsetting almost half of the licensing fee of anyone required to be newly licensed as a result of the repeal … PEO had also put in place a regulation to enable employers to transition over a one-year period.”
Bergeron adds: “We will continue to monitor workplace accidents as they are reported, and believe we have a responsibility consistent with our mandate as guardians of public safety where engineering is concerned to let the people of Ontario know when incidents involving unlicensed workers engaged in acts of engineering have occurred.”
She says PEO will be looking to meet with their members of the legislature in the coming weeks to share its concerns, “including the MPPs in key manufacturing communities like Windsor, London and Ottawa.”
Price noted that the most recent Ministry of Labour fines under the Occupational Health and Safety Act have averaged $105,000 each, while WSIB costs in Ontario are in the billions of dollars.
Through the Professional Engineers Act, PEO governs over 80,000 individuals.