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Ontario repeals industrial exception for engineering work

TORONTO (Canadian OH&S News)


TORONTO (Canadian OH&S News)

Changes are coming to Ontario workplaces where machinery is being built or modified.

Beginning March 1, the industrial exception in the province’s Professional Engineers Act is being repealed, and now, anyone doing engineering work on machinery and equipment that is used to produce products for their employer, in the employer’s workplace, must now be licensed by Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), the province’s licensing and regulating body for engineers.

“The [industrial exception] legislation has existed since 1984 and there were certain types of activities that ordinarily would have to be done by a professional engineer that essentially could be done by anyone as long as they were done in an employer’s workplace,” but if it was outside of a workplace the work would need to be done by a licensed engineer, explained Steven Haddock, a compliance officer with PEO.

Haddock gives the example of a pulp and paper machine: “Because those are so complicated — they have to be properly guarded, they operate at really fast speeds — care has to be taken to design them properly so not only do they work correctly, they’re safe to work with. Ordinarily a professional engineer would have to be involved in its design in the same way they would have to be involved in the design of a four-storey building.”

The industrial exception meant that if a pulp and paper company decided to build the machine from scratch inside their own facility, a professional engineer would only have to be involved in a prestart health and safety review of the machine — but it’s difficult to tell how much rebar is in a concrete foundation after it has been poured.

“At that point, the machine’s finished, all the engineer can do is perhaps point out where there are some obvious safety flaws,” Haddock said.

The change will mainly impact small to mid-size firms who may not have a lot of licensed professional engineers on staff available to them, Haddock said, forcing them to hire new licence holders or redistribute their existing professional engineers to cover the gaps — many who were moved to different work when the exception was introduced, and technicians brought in to cover their role.

“Repealing the industrial exception in the Professional Engineers Act will improve oversight to help workers and the public stay safe and promote more efficient and productive workplaces,” said Attorney General John Gerretsen in a news release.

Employers will have one year to meet the requirements, as long as they file a transition plan to the PEO by March 1. To help with the transition, the PEO extended its financial credit program and will waive the licence application fee to all employees named in the transition plan if those employees apply for a licence by March 1, the organization said in a news release.

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1 Comment » for Ontario repeals industrial exception for engineering work
  1. Doug Nix says:

    Unfortunately, this article misses an important point – the ‘Open for Business’ act that brought in the repeal of the Industrial Exception also expanded the definition of engineering practice to include the planning and management of activities that have an impact on health and safety. This could mean that everyone who manages health and safety in Ontario must be a licensed engineer.

    Confusion is created by one key fault in the definition of ‘engineering practice’. The phrase ‘engineering principles’ is undefined. The definition revolves around this phrase, but PEO refuses to define what this means. There is no way to know clearly, without the intervention of the courts, what this means in any given circumstance.

    Do these changes require OHS professionals to be licensed engineers in Ontario? They might. If you are concerned about these changes, please write to Attorney General Gerretsen with your concerns:

    The Honourable Mr. John Gerretsen, M.P.P.,
    Attorney General, jgerretsen.mpp@liberal.ola.org, attorneygeneral@ontario.ca

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