Piling Canada

Need to hire an engineer?

Make sure they're licensed first

Need to hire an engineer? The first step in the hiring process is ensuring the potential engineer is a “P.Eng.” or professional engineer. A quick search of Professional Engineers Ontario’s (PEO) directory of practitioners (www.peo.on.ca/directory) will tell if the potential hire is licensed, in good standing with the regulator and authorized to provide engineering services to the public.

If the individual is presenting themselves as a P.Eng. or engineer and they can’t be found listed in the PEO directory, walk away and report the individual to PEO’s enforcement hotline: 416-224-1100, ext. 1444, or enforcement@peo.on.ca. Full details on PEO’s enforcement activities can be found at: www.peo.on.ca/public-protection/complaints-and-illegal-practice/report-unlicensed-individuals-or-companies.

PEO is Ontario’s engineering regulator and, under the authority of the Professional Engineers Act, regulates the engineering profession within the province to protect the public interest. PEO licenses qualified engineering graduates to practise engineering, investigates complaints against licence holders and dispenses disciplinary action for those found guilty of professional misconduct, and acts against individuals who identify themselves as engineers without being licensed.

Only those who have been licensed by PEO may identify themselves as a professional engineer or use the abbreviation P.Eng. Additionally, only a P.Eng. or company with a PEO certificate of authorization may offer engineering services directly to the Ontario public.

The consequences of an unlicensed individual performing engineering services can be serious and can include financial and legal liabilities, and risks to property and health.

Unfortunately, some people unwittingly hire unlicensed individuals – including those falsely identifying themselves as engineers.

Consider the case of Dole Contracting Inc., a Woodbridge, Ont.,  contactor convicted of breaching the Professional Engineers Act by the Ontario Court of Justice and fined $5,000 for the use of a professional engineer’s seal.

Dole was retained as the contractor for a building retrofit in Toronto in April 2015, and was working under the supervision of the project architect. As part of the project, Dole was responsible for the demolition of a non-loadbearing cinder block partition wall. Dole was required to install temporary shoring, for which a professional engineer was needed to prepare drawings and review its installation. The partition wall was demolished without temporary shoring or the involvement of a professional engineer.

A Dole employee submitted two letters to the project architect stating the temporary shoring had been installed and had been reviewed by a professional engineer. These letters bore a professional engineer’s seal without the affected professional engineer’s knowledge or consent.

Dole was convicted of two offences relating to the use of the seal.

Or consider the case of Amr Adel Mousta Robah and Revival Design and Management Group Inc., who were fined $27,500 for unauthorized use of professional engineers’ seals.

Revival was retained to provide design services for second-storey additions for two residential properties in Oshawa, Ont. The firm was also retained to provide design and construction services for interior alterations and basement finishing for a residential property in Pickering, Ont. For each of the projects, Robah submitted documents to the respective cities’ building department containing a professional engineer’s seal without the engineer’s knowledge or consent.

Robah and Revival were each convicted of three offences relating to the use of the seals, with Robah fined a total of $7,500 and Revival fined a total of $20,000.

In each case, had the unlicensed engineering work and fraudulent use of engineering seals resulted in damage, the client would have no recourse, but to seek recovery of damages in court.

“If something goes wrong and a client reports this to PEO, as the regulator we can prosecute them for not being licensed, but this doesn’t cover the client’s damages. They would still need to go to court,” said Cliff Knox, P.Eng., PEO’s manager, enforcement.

“If the client hired a P.Eng. and something went wrong, the engineer must carry liability insurance or disclose up front that they don’t have insurance and are personally liable for errors in the work. If there were damages caused by the engineer’s work, PEO could investigate. If PEO found that the damages were due to incompetence or professional misconduct, it could suspend or revoke the engineer’s licence, depending on the circumstances.”

In fact, there are several instances where clients are legally required to hire a professional engineer. For example: renovations requiring structural design work outside of Part 9 of the Building Code, such as an open concept living space that involves removing load bearing walls, or when a pre-start health and safety review is required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it must be conducted by an engineer before an organization implements new machinery or a new manufacturing process.

Knox suggests that clients meet with the engineer who will be providing sealed drawings or documents, if possible. This can give some assurance that the engineer named on the seal has indeed reviewed the associated drawings or documents.

Working with professional engineers

There are many other good reasons for hiring an engineer. They have met rigorous licensure requirements, including an engineering degree from an accredited post-secondary institution (or equivalent), at least four years of engineering experience after graduation and completion of an exam on ethics, professional practice, engineering law and professional liability.

Engineers must also adhere to PEO’s code of ethics – a guide for professional conduct that imposes duties on practitioners with respect to society, employers, clients, colleagues (including employees and subordinates), the engineering profession and themselves.

Most importantly, they are held accountable by their peers through PEO.

For more information on hiring engineers, see PEO’s Guideline for the Selection of Engineering Services, which offers selection processes that can be used when choosing a professional engineer. 🍁

Category: Business

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