WA Premier Mark McGowan is getting ready to introduce a registration scheme for his state’s 900 building engineers, as part of a bigger overhaul of the state’s building regulations.
Under the scheme, engineers in WA will need to be registered in order to carry out civil, structural, mechanical, and fire safety work.
The plan includes a code of conduct for registered engineers, which will require all building service providers to work within their area of competence. There will also be a formal process for engineers who deliver work that’s not up to scratch.
The proposal will implement three of the recommendations from the national Building Confidence report by Professor Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir, which looked into compliance issues in the construction sector.
The Shergold-Weir report, which was handed down in 2018, advised that all states and territories should:
- require the registration of building practitioners involved in the design, construction and maintenance of buildings, including engineers
- prescribe consistent requirements for the registration of building practitioners
- require all practitioners to undertake compulsory continuing professional development on the National Construction Code
The McGowan government plans to base its registration system for engineers on the national model developed by the Australian Building Codes Board.
It will line up its regulations with other states (including Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria) to allow registrations from WA to be recognised in other parts of the country.
The state government claims the reforms will lead to more accountable and consistent engineering services. It will also improve public safety, protect consumers, as well as increase the professional recognition of building engineers.
The full regulatory statement, along with an analysis of the policy’s economic impact by Deloitte, are both currently available on the WA Department of Building and Energy website.
Beyond the new registration scheme for engineers, the WA government has flagged that it’s actively looking at a number of other reforms to modernise the state’s building laws.
These include changes to the approval processes for residential and commercial buildings, as well as the registration schemes for other workers in the construction industry.
The proposal has generally been welcomed by a number of peak professional groups, including Engineers Australia and Professionals Australia.
The big exception is Consult Australia, which has raised some concerns in its submission about the administrative burden it could create, and questioned whether requiring engineers to be registered is the best approach for delivering compliance with building codes.
In a statement, Commerce Minister Roger Cook said registering engineers for the first time in WA will provide another layer of confidence that buildings are constructed to the expected standard.
“Overwhelmingly, the local building industry plays by the rules. Once in place, these new regulations will provide the construction industry and community with a formal process to make complaints against building engineers and for action to be taken to stop any misconduct,” Mr Cook said.
Engineers Australia chief engineer Jane MacMaster said the new regulations will be a significant step forward for the industry.
“Governments around Australia are attempting to reduce the risks of buildings being evacuated or left uninhabitable and infrastructure like bridges and roads being unsafe. Registering engineers is a critical part of tackling this problem,” Ms MacMaster said.
“Most engineers provide their services competently and ethically, however, use of the title ‘engineer’ is unrestricted and therefore it has become a generic term.
“Without registration, anyone can claim to be an engineer and provide engineering services without the appropriate qualifications and competencies.”
Professionals Australia’s chief executive Jill McCabe said her organisation is keen to see the detail in the draft regulations underpinning engineering registration in WA and how the scheme will work when it’s implemented.
“While we welcome the introduction of a registration scheme for engineers in the building and construction sector in WA as an important first step, we believe that the extension of registration into other areas of engineering requires urgent attention,” Ms McCabe said.
“Given that engineers in Australia work across different state and territory jurisdictions, it is vital that WA’s engineer registration scheme aligns with engineering registration schemes in Queensland and Victoria.”