BY DR. GORDON WILLIAMS, P.GEOL.
Some members have pointed out apparent contradictions between statements in the Professional Practice & Ethics column by Ray Chopiuk, P.Eng., and my President’s Notebook in the November 2008 and January 2009 issues of The PEGG. The statements regard taking responsibility for engineering and geoscience work done outside the province.
I appreciate members taking the time to contact me. It’s great that you’re so carefully reading The PEGG and keeping me and your Association on-message.
I don’t think the messages in the two columns were as contradictory as much as they were incomplete. I take responsibility for that and I apologize for any confusion that was caused.
The Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act defines what constitutes the practice of engineering, geology and geophysics, and deals with the requirements for stamping and sealing engineering and geoscience drawings. However, the EGGP Act is silent about what constitutes practice when the design work for an Alberta project is done outside the province.
Complete engineered products that have been designed and constructed outside the province to acceptable codes and standards (television sets, cars, trucks, some oilfield equipment and the like) obviously do not have to have the engineering that went into them validated by an Alberta-licensed engineer.
Moreover, the EGGP Act, being an Alberta statute, has no jurisdiction
outside Alberta. For specified equipment being installed in Alberta, other Alberta legislation — for example, that dealing with occupational health and safety or boilers and pressure vessels — protects the public by requiring that such equipment be signed off by a licensed engineer.
Similarly in geoscience, the Alberta Securities Commission provides protection to the public by defining Alberta-licensed engineers, geologists and geophysicists with appropriate experience as being authorized to sign submissions from share-issuing companies under National Instruments NI 43-101 and NI 51-101. This, however, raises additional problems in defining what constitutes practice in Alberta — problems that revolve around location.
Does geoscience work, including mapping and reserves estimation, for example, on a project located in Alberta, always constitute practice in the province? Is a geologist in Texas, say, who provides reserves estimates on oil and gas assets in Alberta, for a company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, without ever setting foot in Alberta, practicing in the province? Is an individual or company, located in the province and doing geological or geophysical mapping or reserves estimation elsewhere, practicing in Alberta?
These are not hypothetical situations. As the EGGP Act stands right now, only someone who is physically in Alberta is considered to be practicing in Alberta.
I could have been clearer (and more accurate) in my column by simply stating that someone who comes to Alberta from elsewhere and practices engineering or geoscience without a licence is in clear contravention of the EGGP Act, keeping in mind that there are many individuals who live elsewhere and are registered in Alberta as foreign licensees. It is the role of the Compliance Department to deal with unlicensed individuals and entities in Alberta that are practicing as defined in the EGGP Act.
Much engineering and geoscience on Alberta projects is, in fact, done by unlicensed individuals (technicians and technologists, members-in-training, or engineers licensed elsewhere, for example) and then checked and validated by a licensed professional in Alberta who assumes responsibility for the work. That generally is not a problem — APEGGA’s Practice Standards Committee has examined such activities and found that most of them were being reviewed and stamped by Alberta-licensed engineers.
The Practice Standards Committee has issued separate guidelines on stamping and relying on work done by others. Most individuals and companies seem to be adhering to the guidelines. All guidelines and standards are available online at www.apega.ca.
My reference to the offer by an offshore company to provide engineering services as being in contravention of the EGGP Act reflected my incorrect interpretation of the act. I am not a lawyer and my interpretation is apparently not supported by a strict legal reading. However, if APEGGA is to provide full protection to the public, the EGGP Act could be clearer in defining what constitutes practice in Alberta, regardless of where the professionals doing the work reside.
Obviously APEGGA has no jurisdiction over out-of-province individuals calling themselves engineers, geologists or geophysicists, wherever they reside, and “doing” engineering or geoscience there. On the other hand, our very reason for existence is to protect the Alberta public from practitioners who are unqualified or unethical.
We should have the authority, under our legislation, to require that only suitably qualified individuals, licensed to practice in Alberta, can take ultimate responsibility for projects mapped, designed, interpreted or constructed in whole or in part in the province.
I continue to receive complaints, usually from geoscientists, about how difficult it is for someone to become licensed who doesn’t have the standard, four-year honours degree or equivalent but has many years of experience. Usually the complaint is expressed as something like, “I know someone who tried to get licensed 20 years ago and was assessed a bunch of irrelevant second-year exams. I have 30 years of experience and I am a good oil-finder, so why do I need it?”
In the past, academic qualifications and experience requirements were assessed by the Board of Examiners as being separate and distinct. That policy changed and, by the late 1980s, the board began looking at combinations of academics and experience to evaluate applicants with a significant number of years of experience. Exams could still be assessed, but fewer and less frequently than before.
The policy has further morphed into a new approach under which the board actively tries to reduce or eliminate the number of exams assessed. An applicant with substantial experience who would otherwise have been assessed examinations can be exempted from having to write up to 15 or more exams. Because experience is unique, each applicant is considered individually under the overall policy.
Statements such as the one referred to above are ill-informed and not factual. It is unfortunate that people still know a lot of things that are not true!
I welcome your comments and questions. Please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.