| Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) is a licensing andregulating body with a mandate to serve and protect the public interest bysetting and upholding high academic, experience and professional practicestandards for the engineering profession 1. An organization such as PEO plays a key rolein maintaining the esteemed stature of the Engineering profession by governingover the members of the institution and ensuring that each individual abides bythe code of conduct. The Professional Engineers Act, R.S.
O 1990 is responsible forregulating the practice of professional engineering in Ontario by authorizingpower to license qualified individuals and disciplining incompetent licenseholders under any witness of professional misconduct 1. It is the legalobligation of professional engineers to confine by The Act defining thepractice of professional engineering and comply with its mandate to protect thewelfare of the public and the credibility of the profession. This essay will establish the relevance ofpublic safety and public welfare with respect to the profession of engineeringand discuss the duties and obligations of an engineer in performing in theinterest of the public. Professionalismin engineering requires the tenure of specialized knowledge and skillset inrespective fields and striving to promote public welfare. This includes and isnot limited to abiding by the highest of standards for professional practice,moral obligation towards public service and studious representation of the Engineeringcommunity in the eyes of the public.
The Guideline for Professing EngineeringPractice states that, engineering is the only profession where the primaryresponsibility is to the third party, the “public” and this subordinates anengineer’s obligations to a client or employer 2. Practitioners must alsopossess the ability to act as autonomous decision-making authority recollectingthe ethical commitment to act in the best interests of the society. Practitionersare also expected to demonstrate behavior that will encourage clients,employers and the public to trust the practitioners’ discretion and judgment2. Asoutlined in Section 1 in the ProfessionalEngineers Act, R.S.O 1990:”practiceof professional engineering” means any act of planning, designing, composing,evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising that requires theapplication of engineering principles and concerns the safeguarding of life,health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment, orthe managing of any such act;” 3 ThePEO’s Code of Ethics is a guideline for professional conduct detailing that professionalengineers have a primary objective to regard the duty to public welfare asparamount, above their duties to clients or employers 4. The Code of Ethicsimposes the duties of a professional engineer and acts as a moral compass forevaluating professional ethics and distinguishing between the duty towards theemployer, client and the profession. The duty to employers involves acting asfaithful agents or trustees, regarding client information as confidential andavoiding or disclosing conflicts of interest 4.
On the other hand, the dutyto clients means that professional engineers must immediately disclose anydirect or indirect interest that might prejudice (or appear to prejudice) theirprofessional judgment 4. The Code ofEthics also acts as a guide to ensure that the professional is equipped tohandle any ethical dilemma and execute the proper course of action whenencountered. The Code of Ethics ascertains the expected traits of ethicalbehavior stated in Section 77 in the Professional Engineers Act, R.
S.O 1990: “1.It is the duty of a practitioner to thepublic, to the practitioner’s employer, to the practitioner’s clients, to othermembers of the practitioner’s profession, and to the practitioner to act at alltimes with, i.
fairness and loyalty to the practitioner’sassociates, employer, clients, subordinates and employees, ii. fidelity topublic needs, iii. devotion tohigh ideals of personal honour and professional integrity, iv. knowledge ofdevelopments in the area of professional engineering relevant to any servicesthat are undertaken, and v. competence in the performance of anyprofessional engineering services that are undertaken.” 5 Many engineering failures that resulted due to unqualifiedor incompetent practitioners paved the way for conferring a legal status on theprofession of engineering. One such instance is the Quebec Bridge that claimed75 lives due to a collapse during construction in 1907.
6 A secondincident that cost 13 human lives because of the recklessness and incompetenceof the parties involved 6. Much of the culpability for the failure ofthe guide wires that held the center span was on the parts of Theodore Cooper,a consulting engineer in charge of the project 6. Cooper decided to extendthe length part way through the construction and recognized that the revisionsdeviated the weight of the center span from the original estimate by some 3.7million kilograms 6. Cooper’s lapse in judgement of continuing with theoriginal design in order to avoid the time-consuming and costly process of revaluationand heedlessly assuming that the structure should be capable of holding thedead load. The federal government’s Royal Commission on the disaster noted inFebruary 1908 that the significant loss of life could have been prevented, ifthe professionals involved had better judgement and diverged from negligentbehaviour 6. The lasting significance of this incident acts as a reminder ofthe devastating consequences of erroneous engineering workmanship.
Although theevent predated the formation of any regulatory body, it solidified the notionof public protection ideals and reciprocation to the community. It is the rudimentaryobligation of each engineer to report any potential situations that mayendanger public safety or welfare and collectively work to resolve the issue athand. Thus, the establishment of a regulating body such as PEO is essential toregulate the practice of engineering and ensure that engineers are aware of theimpact of their work in society and the possible repercussions when failed tofulfill their obligation to the public.As the regulating body within Ontario, PEO ensures thatonly qualified engineering practitioners are eligible for licensure byundergoing a rigorous screening process that considers various aspects, such asengineering knowledge, experience and professionalism. PEO provides assurancefor licensed professionals regarding their competence in their respectivediscipline and vouches for the outcome of their work 7.
As a part ofenforcing the high standards of professional practice and ethics, thecomplaints and disciplinary process is targeted to reprimand individuals who failto comply with the code of conduct or exhibit professional incompetence. PEO’sComplaints Committee investigates complaints on a case basis and once theauthenticity of the complaint has been verified, it is referred to theDiscipline Committee that holds a formal hearing to arrive at a verdict 8. Once the Discipline Committee has verified all the evidences, thepractitioner may face repercussions that include and is not limited torevoking/suspending practitioner’s license, imposing conditions / limiting professionalwork, enforcing fines 7.
An individual that engages in the practice ofprofessional engineering; or provides engineering services to the public orother entities; or misrepresents using the title “Professional Engineer” as anoccupational designation without appropriate licensing faces legalramifications and fines of up to $25,000 for a first offence and $50,000 foreach subsequent offence 9. Therefore, engineers must act with full knowledgeof representing themselves as professional engineers and obtain proper authorizationto practice the profession. The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer dates back to1922, when Professor Haultain of University of Toronto urged the formation ofan organization to bind all members of the engineering profession in Canada. Heshortly formed a ceremony and developed an obligation or statement of ethics forthe newcomers to subscribe.
The Ritualof the Calling of an Engineer has been constituted to instill consciousness ofthe profession and its social significance in newly graduating engineer 10. DisastersTalk about Iron ringImplications: punishment theability of the profession of engineering to effectively achieve its primaryobjective of protecting public welfar