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Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) is a licensing and
regulating body with a mandate to serve and protect the public interest by
setting and upholding high academic, experience and professional practice
standards for the engineering profession 1.  An organization such as PEO plays a key role
in maintaining the esteemed stature of the Engineering profession by governing
over the members of the institution and ensuring that each individual abides by
the code of conduct. The Professional Engineers Act, R.S.O 1990 is responsible for
regulating the practice of professional engineering in Ontario by authorizing
power to license qualified individuals and disciplining incompetent license
holders under any witness of professional misconduct 1. It is the legal
obligation of professional engineers to confine by The Act defining the
practice of professional engineering and comply with its mandate to protect the
welfare of the public and the credibility of the profession.  This essay will establish the relevance of
public safety and public welfare with respect to the profession of engineering
and discuss the duties and obligations of an engineer in performing in the
interest of the public.  

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Professionalism
in engineering requires the tenure of specialized knowledge and skillset in
respective fields and striving to promote public welfare. This includes and is
not limited to abiding by the highest of standards for professional practice,
moral obligation towards public service and studious representation of the Engineering
community in the eyes of the public. The Guideline for Professing Engineering
Practice states that, engineering is the only profession where the primary
responsibility is to the third party, the “public” and this subordinates an
engineer’s obligations to a client or employer 2. Practitioners must also
possess the ability to act as autonomous decision-making authority recollecting
the ethical commitment to act in the best interests of the society. Practitioners
are also expected to demonstrate behavior that will encourage clients,
employers and the public to trust the practitioners’ discretion and judgment
2.  As
outlined in Section 1 in the Professional
Engineers Act, R.S.O 1990:

“practice
of professional engineering” means any act of planning, designing, composing,
evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising that requires the
application of engineering principles and concerns the safeguarding of life,
health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment, or
the managing of any such act;” 3

 

The
PEO’s Code of Ethics is a guideline for professional conduct detailing that professional
engineers have a primary objective to regard the duty to public welfare as
paramount, above their duties to clients or employers 4. The Code of Ethics
imposes the duties of a professional engineer and acts as a moral compass for
evaluating professional ethics and distinguishing between the duty towards the
employer, client and the profession. The duty to employers involves acting as
faithful agents or trustees, regarding client information as confidential and
avoiding or disclosing conflicts of interest 4. On the other hand, the duty
to clients means that professional engineers must immediately disclose any
direct or indirect interest that might prejudice (or appear to prejudice) their
professional judgment 4.  The Code of
Ethics also acts as a guide to ensure that the professional is equipped to
handle any ethical dilemma and execute the proper course of action when
encountered. The Code of Ethics ascertains the expected traits of ethical
behavior stated in Section 77 in the Professional Engineers Act, R.S.O 1990:

         “1.It is the duty of a practitioner to the
public, to the practitioner’s employer, to the practitioner’s clients, to other
members of the practitioner’s profession, and to the practitioner to act at all
times with,

i. fairness and loyalty to the practitioner’s
associates, employer, clients, subordinates and employees,

ii. fidelity to
public needs,

iii. devotion to
high ideals of personal honour and professional integrity,

iv. knowledge of
developments in the area of professional engineering relevant to any services
that are undertaken, and

v. competence in the performance of any
professional engineering services that are undertaken.” 5

            Many engineering failures that resulted due to unqualified
or incompetent practitioners paved the way for conferring a legal status on the
profession of engineering. One such instance is the Quebec Bridge that claimed
75 lives due to a collapse during construction in 1907. 6  A second
incident that cost 13 human lives because of the recklessness and incompetence
of the parties involved 6.  Much of the culpability for the failure of
the 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 extend
the length part way through the construction and recognized that the revisions
deviated the weight of the center span from the original estimate by some 3.7
million kilograms 6. Cooper’s lapse in judgement of continuing with the
original design in order to avoid the time-consuming and costly process of revaluation
and heedlessly assuming that the structure should be capable of holding the
dead load. The federal government’s Royal Commission on the disaster noted in
February 1908 that the significant loss of life could have been prevented, if
the professionals involved had better judgement and diverged from negligent
behaviour 6. The lasting significance of this incident acts as a reminder of
the devastating consequences of erroneous engineering workmanship. Although the
event predated the formation of any regulatory body, it solidified the notion
of public protection ideals and reciprocation to the community. It is the rudimentary
obligation of each engineer to report any potential situations that may
endanger public safety or welfare and collectively work to resolve the issue at
hand. Thus, the establishment of a regulating body such as PEO is essential to
regulate the practice of engineering and ensure that engineers are aware of the
impact of their work in society and the possible repercussions when failed to
fulfill their obligation to the public.

As the regulating body within Ontario, PEO ensures that
only qualified engineering practitioners are eligible for licensure by
undergoing a rigorous screening process that considers various aspects, such as
engineering knowledge, experience and professionalism. PEO provides assurance
for licensed professionals regarding their competence in their respective
discipline and vouches for the outcome of their work 7.  As a part of
enforcing the high standards of professional practice and ethics, the
complaints and disciplinary process is targeted to reprimand individuals who fail
to comply with the code of conduct or exhibit professional incompetence. PEO’s
Complaints Committee investigates complaints on a case basis and once the
authenticity of the complaint has been verified, it is referred to the
Discipline Committee that holds a formal hearing to arrive at a verdict 8.

 Once the Discipline Committee has verified all the evidences, the
practitioner may face repercussions that include and is not limited to
revoking/suspending practitioner’s license, imposing conditions / limiting professional
work, enforcing fines 7.  An individual that engages in the practice of
professional engineering; or provides engineering services to the public or
other entities; or misrepresents using the title “Professional Engineer” as an
occupational designation without appropriate licensing faces legal
ramifications and fines of up to $25,000 for a first offence and $50,000 for
each subsequent offence 9. Therefore, engineers must act with full knowledge
of representing themselves as professional engineers and obtain proper authorization
to practice the profession.

The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer dates back to
1922, when Professor Haultain of University of Toronto urged the formation of
an organization to bind all members of the engineering profession in Canada. He
shortly formed a ceremony and developed an obligation or statement of ethics for
the newcomers to subscribe.  The Ritual
of the Calling of an Engineer has been constituted to instill consciousness of
the profession and its social significance in newly graduating engineer 10.

 

 

 

Disasters

Talk about Iron ring

Implications: punishment

 

 

the
ability of the profession of engineering to effectively achieve its primary
objective of protecting public welfar

 

 

 

 

 

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