A new regulation that will directly impact the way manufacturers are able to personalize and make modifications to existing equipment is ruffling feathers within Ontario’s industrial community.
The provincial government has approved a change to the Professional Engineers Act that will remove an industrial exception as of Sept. 1, 2013. Any customization of design changes to production equipment or machinery will have to be licensed by Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), and representatives from the province’s leading manufacturing association are none too happy about it.
“The act of ‘stamping’ does not indicate that any real calculations or engineering was done, only that the company has an engineer on staff,” says Rob Hattin, CEO of ProVantage Automation, an automation integrator in Ancaster, Ont. and chairman of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME). “In any industrial design or manufacturing company, the most constrained resource is the engineering department (and the most expensive to operate). PEO just made Ontario manufacturers even less competitive.”
The Ontario chapter of CME is also wondering where the legislation came from.
“This came out of nowhere,” says Ian Howcroft, vice-president of CME Ontario. “And we haven’t got any clear answers as to why they’re doing this. Their reasoning and evidence has been completely anecdotal thus far.”
Marisa Sterling, an engineer and enforcement officer at PEO who is leading the project, says the regulation is to put Ontario’s manufacturers on the same page as others across Canada, who are already required to have a licensed engineer approve custom machine designs and changes for specific production runs.
“This project is about workplace injury prevention, and as it stands the health and safety act and professional engineers act are not in in harmony. They’ve been like that since 1984,” she says. “Manufacturing’s got the highest on-the-job injury rate of any industry in Canada, and now the Ontario government is taking action to harmonize those two pieces of legislation to boost public safety in manufacturing.”
However, the PEO says it has implemented provisions to ensure the transition is smooth.
When the exception was enacted in 1984, requirements existed for Ontario’s Ministry of Labour engineers to approve predevelopment reviews of proposed industrial processes and associated equipment. This requirement was replaced by Regulation 851 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which introduced the current requirement for industry to have professional engineers approve Pre-Start Health and Safety Reviews (PSRs) prior to the start-up of newly installed or altered production equipment or machinery.
If a PSR finds deficiencies, the equipment or machinery can’t be used until the necessary changes are made and are PSR approved.
Unique to Ontario
Sterling says no other province is exempt from licensed engineering practices.
“This is an Ontario-unique situation. The benefit is that Ontario repealing this section in the act now puts regulation on par with the rest of the country, which we hope will make it easier for manufacturers to move across the country,” she says.
Howcroft disagrees, suggesting that the province’s manufacturing sector has much more in common with – and more competition from – industry in Michigan and Ohio, specifically in the automotive sector.
“These new regulations are going to seriously hamper our ability to compete with our major competition, which is not relative the rest of Canadian industry.”
Sterling says the PEO has identified three ways to license modifications to existing equipment and machinery.
“If a facility is buying equipment and installing as per instruction, then there’s no impact. If it’s replacing parts and maintenance that’s ‘same as,’ there’s no engineering involved, so there’s no impact. Its only those making custom designs or modifications to equipment.”
The level of impact (and costs) will be determined by the path a company chooses to take.
The company can have the person doing the work licensed. PEO has extended its financial credit program to waive 50% of the application fee for employees identified in a manufacturer’s compliance plan.
Another choice is hiring professional engineers as full-time employees to oversee the work, so there’s no license required.
Or hire licensed professional engineers on a contract basis to supervise or perform modifications.
The PEO has also established Engineering Intern Program seminars, and will administer professional practice exams at job sites for groups of at least 20 people.
Under the regulations that enables industry to transition to the new requirement, companies that file a compliance plan with PEO before Sept 1., 2013 will be provided with a one-year buffer to meet the new requirements.
Hattin is not convinced a one-year phase-in is an all-in solution.
“Having companies voluntarily sign up for the one-year phase-in is like having innocent people register with the jailer for something they didn’t do,” he says. “Is the PEO really trying to kill what’s left of machinery manufacturing in Canada? Additional fees that manufacturers now incur when they install equipment are going to be significant. And we can forget about innovation.”
Hattin is convinced the exemption from the Engineers Act is appropriate, as it was when it was enacted, even before the high level of design automation that’s now common in today’s manufacturing sector.
“The term ‘industrial engineering’ is very vague…what does it apply to?” he says. “What’s changed, except design capability has gotten better. These new regulations are poorly crafted and it allows inexperienced PEng’s in one discipline to ‘stamp’ drawings in a discipline that the engineer has no competency in, or even any experience.”
Howcroft says the CME has taken action against the repeal of the exemption and hopes to come to a resolution before the Sept. 1 deadline, but was unable to provide details on the direction the association is taking.
In the meantime, PEO is encouraging manufacturers to become familiar with new regulations through a set of online audit tools available at www.peo.on.ca.
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This article appears in the April 2013 edition of PLANT.