Industrial Exception is only in Ontario – not good for worker safety or business productivity

Section 12(3)(a) of the Professional Engineers Act, commonly known as the industrial exception, was first added to the engineering act in 1984 as part of a provincial review of the legislation covering self-regulated professions. However, after reviewing all the Hansards between 1983 to 1984, unfortunately, no clear rationale can be found for introducing the industrial exception. No other Canadian province or territory has or has had an industrial exception to the need to hold a professional engineer licence to practice.

Definition of section 12.(3)(a)

No licence is required to do professional engineering work in relation to machinery or equipment*

  1. For your employer, and
  2. For use in your employer’s facilities, and
  3. To make a product for your employer

* other than equipment of a structural nature

When the industrial exception was introduced in 1984, the manufacturing industry had their process and equipment reviewed by the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s engineers to ensure health and safety. In 2000, the government put the process of predevelopment health and safety reviews into the hands of the private sector and introduced a process called the

Pre-start Health & Safety Review

(PSR). With the industrial exception still in force in the PE Act, the government had to specify that PSRs had to be conducted by professional engineers (except in the case of occupational toxic substance exposure reviews) to ensure that the PSR was not seen as falling under the Professional Engineers Act section 12(3)(a) industrial exception and therefore being exempt from having to be done by P.Engs. The PSR process was developed to ensure equipment and machinery safety before start-up but overall accountability of the process and the upfront design work on the entire process was no longer being overseen by a professional who is accountable to public safety. Removing the industrial exception today closes these safety gaps where the PE Act is inconsistent with the PSR requirement and public accountability for ensuring a healthy and safe workplace returns to the manufacturing industry.

Value Propositions #1 & #2 …Public Safety & Business Efficiencies

Integrating health and safety at the design stage and before operations begin is a cost-effective and proactive way to prevent workplace illness or injury. The benefits are numerous. They include direct savings from minimizing retrofitting; less downtime and replacement of equipment; savings in workplace insurance claims due to fewer illnesses and injuries; and, most important, maintaining productivity, health and safety in the workplace.

The repeal of the industrial exception will support productive manufacturing practices by providing to business the safety, value and innovation skills of a professional engineer. As well, under a national regulatory framework, it will be easier for Ontario companies to do business across Canada as they can move their employees and know that the licensing requirements for engineering work are the same in all jurisdictions.

Value Propositions #3 & #4 …Public Accountability & Jobs

When it comes to public safety, it’s not good enough to have competent workers but the public demands workers who can be held accountable for their actions. Professional engineers are not just skilled and knowledgeable workers but they are held to a high standard of conduct and a code of ethics. They must be responsible to their employer but they also must make decisions that are responsible to the best interests of the public welfare and the environment. With the repeal of the industrial exception, there will be more opportunities for Canadian and internationally trained engineering graduates to use their highly specialized skills in Ontario and for small businesses in Ontario with professional engineering expertise to consult and support the needs of the manufacturing industry. In addition, worker mobility is expanded as Ontarians will now have the credentials to do professional engineering work in other provinces and territories that always have required a licence to do professional engineering work in the manufacturing industry.

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