Dr. Michael Wrinch, Association President at APEG-BC.
In the March/April edition of innovation, APEG-BC’s official magazine, association president and Hedgehog principal Dr. Michael Wrinch shared his thoughts regarding an engineering oversight outlined in a report.
“Offshoring and outsourcing of professional engineering and geoscience services are common in BC and Canada. Complex collaborations between companies with limited legal or financial liability for each other’s misconduct or negligence also occur. As a member who may be working within this framework, have you considered your role in ensuring the public is protected? How are you supervising your team? Or, if you work under a professional member, is your direct supervisor meeting the requirements that enable you to perform your work and meet your obligations under the Engineers and Geoscientists Act?”
Read the full ‘Viewpoint’ article in APEGBC’s Innovation Magazine
A 2007 Alberta incident involving two fatalities and a collapsed fuel-tank roof structure resurfaced in February, when the Alberta government publicly released its incident report. In Workers Crushed by Collapse of Tank Roof Support Structure, the investigators indicate a lack of qualified engineers on the project—which may have included inadequate supervision by qualified engineers—may have contributed to the fatal collapse.
The story is complex. A number of international and Canadian companies had created a jointly owned Canadian company to design and construct 14 large fuel tanks in Northeastern Alberta. Many professional services and much of the construction were completed by temporary foreign workers. The structure was inappropriately designed to sustain wind loading. Workers were working in, on and around the structure when its roof started to fall in, the support cables failed, and it collapsed. In 2009, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety laid 53 charges against several of the companies—all but three charges were later withdrawn. In 2013, one of the companies, SSEC Canada, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of its workers and paid fines totaling $1.5 million. Based on the new information within the recently released report, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) has restarted a review of the case.
While APEGA’s review unfolds, APEGBC members may want to reflect on the incident. Offshoring and outsourcing of professional engineering and geoscience services are common in BC and Canada. Complex collaborations between companies with limited legal or financial liability for each other’s misconduct or negligence also occur.
As a member who may be working within this framework, have you considered:
- Your role in ensuring the public is protected?
- How are you supervising your team?
- If you work under a professional member, is your direct supervisor meeting the requirements that enable you to perform your work and meet your obligations under the Engineers and Geoscientists Act?
If you are unsure, read APEGBC’s quality management guideline for direct supervision, which can be found at apeg.bc.ca/QMG/DirectSupervision.
When major incidents occur in BC, the question of whether APEGBC should regulate firms that provide engineering and geoscience services in the province is often raised. Council has appointed a taskforce to explore this issue in depth and consult with the membership on the matter over the next year. In my experience, when multiple-company deals are signed, careful assessment of responsibilities and risks by all collaborating companies and members must occur before a project begins and as changes occur. Changes must be logged and assessed to determine where each professional’s responsibilities start and end.
This can protect you, your client, and the public interest from an engineering oversight. Your Council is working to provide members with resources to assist in preventing incidents—fatal or otherwise—before they happen, by providing programs such as the Organizational Quality Management Program, having professional practice advisors available to answer questions and advise members, and developing practice and quality management guidelines. We encourage you to make full use of these resources.