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Need to hire an engineer? Make sure they’re licensed

Duff McCutcheon
Need to hire an engineer? Make sure they’re licensed

Need to hire an engineer? Your first step in the process is ensuring your potential engineer is a “P.Eng.” or professional engineer.

A search of Professional Engineers Ontario’s (PEO) directory (peo.on.ca/directory) will tell you if your potential hire is licensed and authorized to provide engineering services to the public.

If the individual identifies as a P.Eng. or engineer and aren’t listed in the directory, walk away and report them to PEO’s enforcement hotline at 416-224-1100 ext. 1444 or enforcement@peo.on.ca. For full details on PEO’s enforcement activities, please visit: 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 acting as enforcement.

Only those licensed by PEO may identify themselves as a professional engineer or P.Eng. And only a P.Eng. or company with a PEO certificate of authorization may offer engineering services directly to the Ontario public.

Unfortunately, some people do unwittingly hire unlicensed individuals — including those falsely identifying as engineers — and the consequences can be serious, including risks to property and health.

Consider the case of Dole Contracting Inc., a Woodbridge contactor convicted of breaching the Professional Engineers Act by the Ontario Court of Justice and fined $5,000 for 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. Dole was responsible for demolishing a non-loadbearing partition wall and needed to install temporary shoring, requiring a professional engineer to prepare drawings and review installation. The wall was demolished without shoring or the involvement of a professional engineer.

A Dole employee submitted two letters to the project architect stating shoring had been installed and 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 use of the seal.

Or 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 design second-storey additions for two residential properties in Oshawa. The firm was also retained to provide design and construction services for interior alterations and basement finishing for a residential property in Pickering. For each project, Robah submitted documents to the respective city’s building department containing a P.Eng. seal without the engineers’ knowledge or consent.

Robah and Revival were each convicted of three offences, 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,” says Cliff Knox, P.Eng. and PEO’s manager of enforcement.

“If the client hired a P.Eng. and something went wrong, the engineer must carry liability insurance or disclose 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 Part 9 of the Building Code, like 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 clients meet with the engineer providing sealed drawings or documents. This will assure that the engineer named on the seal has indeed reviewed the associated drawings or documents.

 

Working with professional engineers

There are many 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 and engineering law.

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.

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

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

Duff McCutcheon is the manager of communications at PEO.

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