PEO on track to complete industrial exception research study

PEO is continuing its review of relevant Ministry of Labour prosecutions, field visit reports and stop work orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, despite the current government’s position that it has no plans to repeal the controversial industrial exception.

The industrial exception (section 12(3)(a) of the Professional Engineers Act) allows non-licensed workers to carry out engineering acts on machinery or equipment used to produce products in their employers’ facilities. PEO believes the exception, which exists only in Ontario and which had been slated for repeal in 2013 after a change to the act in 2010, represents a gap in its ability to regulate professional engineering practice in Ontario.

The Ontario government announced its intention in November 2015 to permanently maintain the industrial exception.

While PEO recognizes that repeal of the exception is no longer a government priority, it is still working with the Ministry of Labour and other safety organizations to determine any causal links between a lack of engineering oversight and accident rates in industrial and manufacturing settings. A final report is expected to be ready for PEO council in June.

On March 3, PEO President Thomas Chong, P.Eng., FEC, President-elect George Comrie, P.Eng., FEC, and Registrar Gerard McDonald, P.Eng., met NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to discuss the repeal.

Horwath attended the meeting with Chief of Staff Michael Balagus, and NDP Chief Researcher Bilbo Poynter.

Over the course of the meeting with the NDP leader, President Chong outlined the role and function of PEO, while Registrar McDonald explained the regulator’s position with respect to the industrial exception.

Horwath later asked PEO officials to explain why the repeal would be beneficial to the people of Ontario and to demonstrate how its elimination would satisfy the government’s stated policy of reducing red tape and improving administrative efficiency. She has since been provided a written response to her questions.

The NDP has been generally supportive of PEO’s case for repeal of the industrial exception, arguing that any move to improve worker safety in the province is welcome.

Last September, a PEO delegation met with Progressive Conservative Party and Opposition Leader Patrick Brown to discuss the exception.

In addition to meeting with government leaders, PEO is continuing to work with the labour ministry to gather data and look at how reporting processes might be changed to make data easier to access. PEO is also developing a program to highlight the value of using licence holders in industry, as well as ensure the scope of the exception is not exceeded in Ontario manufacturing.