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Professional Engineers – Important New Laws

If you or your business provides or receives engineering services, you need to know about the new professional engineering registration laws which now require engineers to be officially registered. These laws are being rolled out across the country, and are modelled on laws already in place in Queensland for 20 years.

In this legal compliance update, we will focus on the eastern-board states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

When do the new professional engineers laws come into effect?

In Queensland, the laws are already in full operation. Victoria and New South Wales are in the process of a gradual implementation which began on 1 July 2021.

Which areas of engineering require registration?

Queensland covers 19 engineering specialisations – everything from basics such as mechanical and electrical engineering, to aeronautics and naval architecture.

NSW and Victoria have implemented 5 initial areas – structural engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, fire-safety engineering and electrical engineering.

In addition, NSW has also added geotechnical engineering to its registration scheme.

What types of engineering services are covered?

Just because services are being provided in one of the above specified areas of engineering does not automatically mean that the engineer providing the services must be registered. The services must fall within the legal definition of “professional engineering services” (or “professional engineering work” in NSW).

In basic terms:

  • There needs to be a service that is based on engineering principles and data
  • Next, those engineering principles and data need to be applied to:
    • a design relating to engineering
    • a construction, production, operation or maintenance activity relating to engineering

Additional requirement in NSW – Class 2 buildings

In NSW, not only must the engineering work fall within the above definition –the services must be in relation to a residential apartment building, or a building that includes residential apartment component (known as building that is “class 2” or has “a class 2 element” as defined under the National Construction Code). So if the engineering work is not in relation to class 2 buildings, registration is not currently required in NSW.

Exception to registration – “Prescriptive Standards”

A professional engineering registration is also not required if the engineering work is provided in accordance with a “prescriptive standard” – essentially, a checklist-type document that sets out exactly what must be done. A prescriptive standard is (slightly paraphrasing the technical legal wording):

  • A document that states procedures or criteria for carrying out an engineering design, or a construction or production activity relating to engineering
  • When applying this document, advanced scientifically-based calculations are not required

Regulators in both NSW and Victoria have given the example of the Australian Standard AS/NZS 3000:2007 Electrical Installations otherwise known as the “Wiring Rules”. However, it is possible that less-formal documents than Australian Standards could satisfy the definition of a “Prescriptive Standard” – for example, aspects of detailed technical specifications provided by government departments and large corporations as part of tender documentation.

Another exception to registration – “direct supervision”

Another situation where registration is not required is if the person providing professional engineering services is under the “direct supervision” of a registered engineer. General oversight will not be enough – the supervisor must direct, oversee and evaluate the person they are supervising. In addition, the supervisor must be registered in the area of engineering for which supervision is being provided. For example, an engineer registered in fire safety engineering cannot supervise an unregistered engineer providing mechanical engineering services.

Lastly – penalties

In every state, there are significant penalties for non-compliance with the new laws. For example, the maximum fine in Queensland for providing professional engineering services when not registered is $138,850, and in Victoria the maximum fine is $90,870. There are various other fines, such as if a person uses the title “professional engineer” when they do not hold the required registration.

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Need more information or advice?

Contact a lawyer with expertise in the new professional engineering laws. Use our online enquiry form, call us on 03 8683 5645, or send us an email at [email protected].

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