Canadian Consulting Engineer

Ontario reports some progress on Elliot Lake recommendations

October 20, 2015   CCE

Right on cue, the Auditor General of Ontario has reported on what progress the government has made so far in implementing the recommendations of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Elliot Lake disaster.

Justice Bélanger released his report on October 15 last year about the causes of the tragic collapse of the parking deck roof over the Algo Mall in the northern Ontario town. He required the government and stakeholders to respond with their progress on the safety recommendations within one year.

Last week the government issued a statement: “While additional research, consultation and planning continues to address many of the more complex, long-term changes called for in the report, Ontario has moved forward with a number of actions to date…”

There follows a list of five points, but only the first relates to engineering. The government says it has moved forward in: “Establishing an expert panel with representatives from the engineering and architecture professions, as well as municipalities, to provide advice to government on ways to improve the safety of existing buildings, including what buildings should be subject to mandatory inspection.”

The remaining four points of progress related to improving emergency response procedures. The disaster at the mall was followed by a controversial and chaotic rescue effort, which failed to extricate one trapped person in time.

Professional Engineers Ontario held a meeting in July with the Attorney General and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on implementing Justice Bélanger’s recommendations. PEO has also been holding a series of town hall meetings for its members across the province this fall.

Several of the recommendations have deep implications for the licensing body. They include that existing buildings should be inspected regularly and that PEO should establish a performance standard for that purpose. Furthermore, those inspections have to be conducted by structural engineering specialists. Another recommendation is that information about licensed engineers should be made available to the public, specifically about past disciplinary actions. ‘

One of the most challenging questions PEO is wrestling with at the town hall meetings (“You Talk. We Listen”) is whether there should be specialist designations for licensed engineers.

Another, related, matter is what kind of continuing professional development program should be implemented. The Elliot Lake Inquiry said PEO should establish a system of mandatory continuing professional education for its members “as soon as possible, and in any event no later than 18 months from the release of this Report.”

PEO’s Professional Development, Competence and Quality Assurance Task Force, chaired by Annette Bergeron, P.Eng.,  is proposing a “tiered, risk-based” approach. Under this proposal individual professional engineers would have their levels of professional activity determined by how much risk his or her work presents to the public.

PEO town hall meetings are being held beginning 7 p.m. in London (November 3), Toronto (west) November 9, and Toronto (east), November 12.

For more details click here.

To read an extract from the Elliot Lake report in Canadian Consulting Engineer’s December 2014 issue, click here.

Article revised October 22, 2015, 9.40 a.m.

 


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