In the last few years, a lot of progress has been made towards introducing mandatory registration schemes for engineers. It’s an increasingly fast-moving issue making it difficult to keep abreast of developments in each state and territory. Here is an update on the most active jurisdictions.
Why Registration for Engineers?
Engineers Australia has a long-standing goal for governments to introduce mandatory registration schemes for engineers. Engineering touches on all facets of society, from turning on a light switch to ensuring high rise buildings don’t fall over in high winds. When you consider the importance of engineering to the community it is easy to see why a system that regulates the profession is not only useful but necessary. We unconsciously trust engineers in our activities in daily life; and that trust needs to be protected.
Engineers Australia does not promote registration as a ‘silver bullet’ to all ills of industry. For example, in the building sector, registration for engineers is the first recommendation of the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) Shergold & Weir report (which examined the failures of the building and construction industry) because it is the first step; it creates a system to recognise people likely to perform competently, and a mechanism to exclude those found to be unsuitable to work as an engineer. Compulsory registration for anyone providing professional engineering services will enable significant enhancement of public safety and consumer protection.
We also encourage all jurisdictions to create interoperable schemes that are recognised across borders. As a minimum, the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 ensures that an engineer registered in one state is entitled to be recognised for registration in another.
For more information on the why please read our Registration of Engineers: the case for statutory registration publication.
Victoria passed the Professional Engineers Registration Act in 2019. It requires professional engineers in five areas of practice (civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and fire safety) to be registered and applies across all industries. The laws commence on 1 July 2021.
Engineers Australia continues to engage with the key parties developing the regulations and guidance material for the Act, including Consumer Affairs and the Office of Projects Victoria. The documentation to support the Act will be released for public consultation soon. At that time Engineers Australia will engage with members to seek your views. Importantly, we will provide several opportunities for members to participate.
NSW passed the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 in June. Among other things, the Act created a requirement for professional engineers to be registered to practise independently. Like Victoria, it applies across all industries, starts with the same five areas of practice, and commences on 1 July 2021.
The next step is to develop the accompanying regulations to provide necessary detail for the scheme. The government has commenced consultation with representative organisations like Engineers Australia and public consultation is expected to occur in October/November. At that time, we will be able to formally seek member views on the proposed regulations.
EA members should be assured that, even at this early stage of regulation development, our advice to government is grounded in the feedback you have already provided during our extensive member consultation in 2019 and early 2020. For example, we are encouraging government to ensure that the regulations fulfil the intent of the Act and apply across all industries without delay, that the National Engineering Register (NER) is recognised as a pathway to registration, and that CPD requirements are kept at a sensible level. For more information about the situation in NSW (including an FAQ page), please visit our website.
In the ACT the government has for many years said that it will introduce registration of engineers. The long period of subsequent inaction has led some to question if it will become a reality but discussions with government indicate that its commitment to registration of engineers is firming and it’s reasonable to expect consultation to commence in 2020 and continue into 2021.
The WA government is also exploring registration of engineers, although it is restricting its work to the building sector. A discussion paper is open for public comment for the next five months. Members based in Western Australia will have already received a notification from the Division General Manager seeking feedback on the government’s proposals, and some more in-depth member consultation sessions are being planned.
And finally, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) is developing a framework for the registration of building sector practitioners, including engineers. With the major jurisdictions already well down the path of creating schemes to register engineers, the ABCB’s eventual proposal is likely to be of greatest use to those which have not yet commenced work on registration. Also, it will be valuable for all jurisdictions to use a reference and investigate if improvements to existing legislation can be made over time.
For all inquiries about mandatory registration of engineers, please contact us at [email protected].