This week, OSPE is launching a campaign to advocate for a critically important update to the Professional Engineers Act.
The practice of professional engineering carries significant risk – and the Act creates a regulatory framework to manage and mitigate that risk. A key component of this framework is the requirement for engineering service providers to carry professional liability insurance, which protects clients against the consequences of engineering negligence. Even though professional engineers work to high standards, they are still human, and mistakes happen.
Unfortunately, an exception in the Act allows engineering entities to operate without insurance – undermining public safety by allowing entities to operate without proper protection. The exception permits entities to disclose to clients that they are not insured according to the Act, and to obtain written authorization from the client to proceed with the work anyway. However, the exception does not require the entity to quantify the associated risks or consequences. As a result, clients are not able to provide informed consent.
This exception was introduced with major Act revisions in 1984, at a time when professional liability insurance was prohibitively expensive for very small engineering firms. Today, however, affordable insurance is available to firms of any size and should be viewed as a necessary cost of doing business.
The public interest risk created by this exception is not small. In 2018, Professional Engineers Ontario reported that out of the 5,673 entities authorized to provide engineering services to the public, 1,290 – more than 20% – were operating without professional liability insurance. The risks of negligent professional engineering work can have long-lasting impacts on the welfare of countless people across the province, far beyond just the project owner or client.
When a claim is filed against an uninsured entity, there are still court fees and insurance-related costs absorbed by the insurance companies. This is causing rates to increase for engineering entities that do carry insurance. Moreover, this practice has led some underwriters to label Ontario a high-risk jurisdiction, further increasing rates. All of this is of considerable concern to OSPE.
No other regulated profession in Ontario allows its practitioners to offer and provide services without insurance. An exemption like this in the fields of medicine or law would be untenable.
Right now, we are urging the Ontario government to repeal subsections 74(2)(d) and 74(3) from Regulation 941 under the Act. This straightforward regulatory change is necessary to protect public safety and ensure Ontarians can continue to have confidence in the work of all professional engineering firms.
We need your to help support this effort, and invite you to join the fight with the OSPE Advocacy tool.