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Ontario scraps repeal of ‘Industrial Exception’

Regulation would have directly impacted the way manufacturers customize their machinery.


June 14, 2013
by Matt Powell, Assistant Editor

TORONTO — The repeal of Ontario’s Industrial Exception has been scrapped by the provincial government, much to the chagrin of the Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) but a move applauded by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME).

Eliminating the “exception”  would have directly impacted the way manufacturers personalize and make modifications to machinery and industrial equipment.

“…The repeal would have had a detrimental impact [on] both the sector and the provincial economy, as manufacturers would be faced with increased costs, production delays, and further skills shortages associated with new rules requiring the formal certification of engineers in the workplace,” CME wrote in a release.

The “exception” allowed some professional engineering work to be done on machinery or equipment by employees who don’t have an engineering licence.

Had the regulation come into effect as planned Sept. 1, any customization or design changes to production equipment or machinery would have to be performed by an engineer or employee licensed by PEO.

“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,” Marisa Sterling, an enforcement officer at PEO, told PLANT in an interview in April.

See Altering Machinery? You’ll need an engineer’s OK after Sept. 1.

PEO says it’s disappointed in the government’s decision, citing grave concerns about the Ontario government’s decision to reverse a three-year legislative commitment that would have helped to ensure a healthier and safer workplace in Ontario’s manufacturing sector.

“Manufacturing accident and fatality rates in Ontario remain significantly higher than other provinces and the government had the opportunity to enhance workplace health and safety,” says Michael Price, acting CEO and registrar of PEO. “The repeal would have been implemented without any expense to taxpayers and little cost to employers, since PEO had committed to offsetting almost half of the licensing fee of anyone required to be newly licensed as a result of the repeal, and would have taken many manufacturing workers out of harm’s way.”

Ian Howcroft, vice-president of CME Ontario, says the PEO was never able to prove how the legislation would boost health and safety.

“They could never say how that would work to the best of my knowledge to boost health and safety,” he says. “In our meetings, the PEO made nothing but bald statements about fatalities, citing wrong information and unsupported arguments.”

Price says the PEO pulled its statistics from the Workers Compensation Board, which claims that more than 50% (2011) of Canada’s manufacturing fatalities occur in Ontario.

CME has always claimed PEO’s number are highly inaccurate, instead citing the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB), which suggests there was only 78 on-the-job fatalities in 2011 out of the 3.9 million workers it represents in Ontario.

Howcroft says the regulation would have added unnecessary regulatory barriers and impairments, including impediments to attracting investment in Ontario while having companies spend huge amounts of money on process and regulatory requirements that weren’t going to reap any improvements in operational health and safety.

“Much of the success that Ontario manufacturers have had over the years can be attributed to nurturing a culture where safety is everyone’s business,” says Howcroft. “The repeal of the Industrial Exception would have shifted accountability to a single profession, and regressively affected the significance of that culture. This was – above all else – a thoughtful and sound decision.”