Practice Advisor FAQs
We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about professional practice in British Columbia below. You can also contact our practice advisors at [email protected].
The Role of Engineers and Geoscientists BC
1. Can Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia provide legal advice?
No, the organization does not provide legal advice to its registrants, the public, or any other stakeholders.
Access Pro Bono provides a Lawyer Referral Service that allows the public to access a lawyer and have a 30 minute free consultation. To access this service, call 604.687.3221 or 1.800.663.1919 Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM–5:00 PM. There is also an email contact at [email protected].
2. Does Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia issue Certificates of Authorization to organizations?
The Professional Governance Act and Bylaws of Engineers and Geoscientists BC contain provisions for the Engineers and Geoscientists BC to regulate firms practising engineering and/or geoscience in BC.
Entities that engage in the practice of professional engineering or professional geoscience are required to apply for a permit to practice. A Permit to Practice is mandatory for conducting engineering or geoscience work in BC. See the Firm Practice webpage for more information.
3. I want to start up my own business, what do I need to know from Engineers and Geoscientists BC?
Mandatory firm regulation is now in place under the Professional Governance Act and Engineers and Geoscientists BC Bylaws. The regulatory model includes engineering and geoscience entities in the private and public sector that provide products and/or services in BC requiring the practice of professional engineering and/or professional geoscience, as well as sole practitioners.
More information on the Regulation of Firms program is available on our website.
Engineers and Geoscientists BC protects the public by requiring businesses that wish to use restricted or trademarked words (examples include “engineer”, “engineering”, “geoscience”, and “geoscientist”—a full list is available at the link below) in their business names to obtain consent prior to registration/incorporation. The organization will generally grant consent to a business that has at least 1 person on active staff who is properly qualified and registered in British Columbia to practise professional engineering and/or professional geoscience.
The consent process for using restricted or trademarked words is outlined in Business Name Consent.
Employment and Business
1. Do I or my client own my design?
This is dependent on the contract between yourself and the client who owns the designs/work. When this is not negotiated upfront, it can become much more difficult to deal with later in the project. If a dispute arises, Engineers and Geoscientists BC recommends that you consult a lawyer.
2. Are professional registrants, including trainees, covered under the Employment Standards Act?
The Employment Standards Act (the “Act”) is the legislation in the province that sets out certain minimum terms and conditions of employment for employees of provincially regulated employers in British Columbia. The Act, however, does not apply to everyone.
The Act, for example, does not apply to persons practising as professional engineers (P.Eng.) as defined by the Professional Governance Act and the Bylaws of Engineers and Geoscientists BC. The Act also does not apply to persons who are enrolled as an engineer-in-training (EIT) under the Bylaws of Engineers and Geoscientists BC.
The Act does apply to persons practising as professional geoscientists (P.Geo.) and geoscientists-in-training (GIT), but they may be excluded from certain parts of the Act in certain circumstances, including where:
- The professional geoscientist meets the definition of a “high technology professional” under the Act, in which case the professional geoscientist will be excluded from the following under the Employment Standards Act:
- Part 4 (hours of work and overtime provisions) other than Section 39 (no excessive hours), and
- Part 5 (statutory holiday provisions).
- The professional geoscientist meets the definition of a “manager”, in which case the professional geoscientist will be excluded from the following under the Employment Standards Act:
- Part 4 (hours of work and overtime provisions), and
- Part 5 (statutory holiday provisions).
- The professional geoscientist, other than a percussion drill or diamond drill operator, or a helper of either operator, is a person employed in any of the following activities while exploring for minerals other than oil or gas:
- line cutting
- geological mapping
- geochemical sampling and testing
- geophysical surveying or manual stripping
In these cases, the professional geoscientist will be excluded from Part 4 (hours of work and overtime provisions) of the Employment Standards Act.
- The professional geoscientist works for an employer in the oil and gas well drilling and servicing industry or in the mining industry, in which case certain provisions of the Employment Standards Act, including Section 40 (overtime), may not apply if certain conditions are met.
- The professional geoscientist is governed by a collective agreement, in which case certain exclusions apply.
Where all or part of the Act does not apply, the parties to the employment relationship are largely responsible for negotiating their own terms.
For employment related advice, Engineers and Geoscientists BC recommends contacting an employment lawyer.
- The professional geoscientist meets the definition of a “high technology professional” under the Act, in which case the professional geoscientist will be excluded from the following under the Employment Standards Act:
3. I was recently terminated from my job, can you provide advice on how to proceed?
Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia regulates the practice of the professions. It does not get involved in employment or contractual related matters. For employment- or contract-related advice, Engineers and Geoscientists BC recommends contacting an employment or contract lawyer.
4. Can an EIT or /GIT use the word "Engineer" or “Geoscientist” in a job title given by an employer?
Engineering and geoscience trainees who are registered with Engineers and Geoscientists BC must comply with the use of title requirements under Engineers and Geoscientists BC bylaws 5.5.1 and 5.5.2, respectively. These bylaws require, among other things, that use of a title containing the words ‘Engineer”, “Geologist”, “Geoscientist”, “Geophysicist”, or “Geochemist” (or other forms or abbreviations of them) must include the designation “Engineer-in-Training” (or “EIT”) or “Geoscientist-in-Training” (or “GIT”) in close proximity to the title and given the same or a higher degree of prominence.
5. Can I be a member of a union as a P.Eng., P.Geo., P.L.Eng., or P.L.Geo.?
There are no express restrictions in the Professional Governance Act or Bylaws of Engineers and Geoscientists BC that prevent membership in a labour union. As professionals, it is expected that the provisions of the Code of Ethics are applied at all times. It is expected that registrants entering unionized employment situations are mindful of the potential for conflicts of interest and to avoid a conflict of interest but, where such conflict arises, fully disclose the circumstances without delay to the employer or client. In particular, this may prevent the participation of members in labour action if such action is in conflict with their professional obligations under the Code of Ethics.
6. How long should I retain client files?
As per Bylaw 7.3.2 (and related sub-sections) and Guide to the Standard for Retention of Project Documentation (Quality Management Guides), Section 3.2.5 states:
"Records are retained based on the value of their content rather than the means or format by which they are created, stored, and distributed. Documents that are evidence of professional engineering or professional geoscience-related activities, events, or transactions, or are evidence that Professional Registrants have met their professional and contractual obligations, must be retained as Records for a minimum of 10 years after the end of the project or 10 years after a Document used in continuing work is no longer in use."
However, in many cases project documents should or must be retained for longer periods as dictated by other legal or business considerations; a qualified legal professional can provide further advice.
For more information on document retention requirements please read the Guide to the Standard for Retention of Project Documentation.
1. For shop drawings, is it necessary to seal each individual page or is it sufficient to seal a cover sheet?
No, it is not necessary to seal each individual drawing. It is acceptable, but not recommended, to seal the package cover sheet which lists all the drawings. However, since individual shop drawings are often reproduced and/or separated from their package, it is preferable that each drawing be individually sealed. This prevents the use of a non-sealed version being mistakenly used. For packages with a large number of drawings, using an electronic signature and seal solves the issue. It allows all drawings to be sealed with a click of the mouse and reproduced from original electronic versions. Engineers and Geoscientists BC understands that electronically-sealed versions are not always available and that it is time-consuming to manually seal—stamp, sign, and date—each drawing for very large or multiple drawing packages. However, sealing only the cover sheet should only be considered as a last resort because it is less-than-ideal.
2. Can I scan my seal and signature and place it on an electronic document?
No, a scanned image of your seal, signature, and date, cannot be applied. However, the image of the seal can be scanned and applied to a document, which is then printed, signed, and dated. The legal requirement is that the signature is live.
For more information on sealing requirements please read the Quality Management Guides.
3. My project in BC has a supplier/manufacturer outside of the country. Is sealing of drawings required?
If equipment, products, or components that require engineering design, manufacturing or fabricating from out of province or country but will be used on projects in BC, the Engineers and Geoscientists BC registered professional should begin by preparing and sealing a performance specification for the equipment, products, or components. The specifications should indicate that the manufacturer or fabricator must certify that the equipment meets the performance specification. In such circumstances, the organization does not require the registered professional to seal the fabrication or vendor drawings.
However, when Engineers and Geoscientists BC registered professionals receive such equipment, products, or components, they do have some obligations that require the application of their seal. If Occupational Health and Safety legislation imposes any requirements such as guards and safety switches, registered professionals are responsible for checking and sealing that the equipment meets these requirements. Registered professionals must also confirm that the equipment meets any requirements of Technical Safety BC. Where the equipment requires services such as electrical, gas, or water feeds, registered professionals are responsible for designing and sealing documents showing these services.
Pre-engineered buildings designed and fabricated outside of BC must be sealed, signed, and dated by an Engineers and Geoscientists BC registered professional.
4. The Authority Having Jurisdiction is requiring I provide a wet signature on my digital Notarius seal. Do I have to comply?
The use of digital seal technology provides encryption that indicates the authenticity of a document. Once this encryption has been applied, the document is considered signed, sealed, and dated as per the information on the encryption. This allows documents to be transmitted electronically in a single step.
Where an electronic document has been digitally sealed, the electronic file is the original and any printed reproductions are copies. It is acceptable to provide these printed copies and no further modification is needed to be made to the document (i.e., no wet stamp or wet signature is required). However, clients and authorities having jurisdiction retain the right to request that originals be provided in either electronic or hard copy form. To provide the hard copy, ensure that the electronic image of the seal is applied with digital certification that meets Engineers and Geoscientists BC best practices, then add fine print to the digital signature zone stating, “This document is a printed copy from a digitally signed and sealed original,” and print the document. A sealed set must be retained by the engineering or geoscience professional as a record.
Engineers and Geoscientists BC best practices in the use of electronic seals are outlined in the Guide to the Standard for the Authentication of Documents.
5. How do I validate that documents digitally signed by a registrant are valid?
The use of digital seal technology provides encryption that indicates the authenticity of a document. Once this encryption has been applied, the document is considered signed, sealed, and dated as per the information on the digital certificate. Most modern full featured PDF reader software packages provide the capability for digital signature verification; some basic PDF readers, for example web browsers, do not. For example, Adobe Acrobat Reader digital signature verification is discussed in the following user guide.
In order to validate a digital signature, your PDF reader application must have a trust relationship configured with the issuer of that digital certificate, in this case Notarius. This trust relationship is established though the installation of “root certificates” on your computing system. Up-to-date versions of Adobe products and Windows provides this automatically for the most recent Notarius root certificates, but if not, Notarius provides a how-to that describes how to configure Adobe Acrobat to validate documents that are signed with a Notarius issued certificate.
Other PDF reader software packages (BlueBeam, OpenOffice, etc.) that have similar full featured PDF capabilities may present verifications differently, but the concepts remain the same. Consult the user documentation for your PDF reader to determine the procedure necessary to install certificates and subsequently ensure that digital signatures are valid.
Certificates necessary to be installed in order to establish the required trust relationship are available on the Notarius Certification Policy webpage.
6. Can I use my seal to notarize passports and documents?
No, engineering and geoscience professionals must not Seal Documents that do not contain engineering or geoscience content unless stipulated by other provincial or federal legislation or regulation.
However, Engineers and Geoscientists BC retains ownership of the Seal and is the sole authority to establish rules for its use. One such exemption Engineers and Geoscientists BC has established is to allow an engineering or geoscience professional to certify an EIT or GIT applicant’s citizenship by signing and stamping a photocopy of the document as a “true copy of the original”.
For more information on sealing requirements please read the Guide to the Standard for the Authentication of Documents.
7. Can I digitally seal a document that is not a PDF?
Yes. Many software applications allow for digital certificates (see definition in the Guide to the Standard for the Authentication of Documents) to be applied to files output by the application. For specific instructions, check the software help documentation, manuals, or contact the vendor for support.
Engineering and geoscience professionals should ensure that the software package:
- Applies the registrant’s digital certificate to signed and sealed files; and
- Allows for an image of the registrant’s stamp, signature, and date of seal to be displayed on the digitally sealed file when printed.
Engineering and geoscience professionals can digitally sign and seal a document that is not a PDF, for example a Word, Excel, MathCAD, AutoCAD, or Revit file, by using the attachment feature of PDF/A-3. This feature enables the user to digitally sign and seal the data attached to a PDF/A-3 cover sheet. The steps to do so using the Notarius ConsignO software are as follows:
- Create a Word document that outlines the files that need to be signed and sealed. Leave an area to apply an image of the seal and signature.
- Convert the Word document to PDF/A-3 (not A-2 or A-1) using ConsignO Desktop PDF/A conversion tool.
- When converting, you will be prompted to add attachments. Add any attachment that is a data file such as BIM, DWG, Code, Word, or JPEG.
- Using ConsignO Desktop, apply a signature zone in PDF in the space left in Step 1.
- Using ConsignO Desktop, or any other PDF signing tool, apply the digital certificate with appropriate image of seal, date, and signature, as per the Guide to the Standard for the Authentication of Documents.
8. Do I need to certify my digitally sealed documents?
It is not mandatory, but engineering and geoscience professionals should consider the intended use of the document and requirements of the recipient when deciding whether to certify a document.
It is useful to clarify the meaning “certify” and “digital certificate”. The “digital certificate” represents the electronic equivalent of a handwritten signature and date and must be applied to the document to digitally sign and seal it, and meet the intent of the Guide to the Standard for the Authentication of Documents.
To “certify” the document is to lock the document; this is a ConsignO-specific term. There are two options when certifying a document: the first is to allow no further modifications and the second is to allow signing in existing zones (in the case that multiple professionals are involved). Certifying the document may be appropriate in some instances but is not mandatory.
Digitally signing and sealing the document with a digital certificate but without the “certify” option enabled still assigns professional responsibility and the document can still be authenticated by the recipient. A document that is digitally signed and sealed but uncertified (i.e., unlocked) can still be edited, for example applying approved stamps, additional seals, markups, or comments. The date, time, and contents of the document are captured when the digital certificate is applied, delineating any changes that occur after this point.
9. Do I need to authenticate a NI 43-101?
A National Instrument 43-101 (NI 43-101) refers to the Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects in Canada; NI 43-101 was developed by the Canadian Securities Administrators to govern how companies report scientific and technical information related to mineral properties to the public in Canada. The standards contained within NI43-101 apply to verbal statements, written documents, and website content.
Per the definitions contained within the NI 43-101, a “qualified person” is required to disclose scientific or technical information; this qualified person must be an engineer or geoscientist who meets the requirements outlined in Part 1 of the instrument.
For properties located in BC where the nature of the technical work has the potential to impact the public or environment in BC, the NI 43-101 must be authenticated by a professional engineer or professional geoscientist licensed with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, and in accordance with the Guide to the Standard for Authentication of Documents.
For properties located outside of BC, the local jurisdiction requirements apply. If there are no specific local requirements, and the “qualified person” is a registrant with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, then good professional practice requires the registrant to authenticate the documents in accordance with the Guide to the Standard for Authentication of Documents.
10. What is the requirement for applying a permit to practice number to engineering/geoscience documents? How does this relate to letters of assurance in the building code?
Under the Professional Governance Act, firms are required to register with Engineers and Geoscientists BC and obtain a permit to practice, at which time they receive a permit to practice number that is unique to that firm.
Permit to practice numbers must be applied a minimum of one time to all authenticated (signed, sealed, and dated) documents. Engineers and Geoscientists BC does not have specific requirements for how or where the permit to practice number is applied to a document. Engineers and Geoscientists BC requires only that:
- The firm includes policies and procedures in their Professional Practice Management Plan for applying the permit to practice number to authenticated documents;
- The engineering professionals follow the firm’s policies and procedures; and
- The permit to practice number is applied by the firm’s Responsible Registrant, or by an individual employed by or under contract with the firm who is authorized to apply the permit to practice number in accordance with the firm’s Professional Practice Management Plan.
Letters of Assurance in the building code (Schedules A, B, C-A, and C-B) range in length from one page to four pages and, while authentication is required on every page, the permit to practice number is only required to be applied to one. Some options for the location of the permit to practice number on a Letter of Assurance include:
- Next to the allocated space for “print name of firm”; and
- Next to one of the locations where the engineering professional of record’s authentication is required.
Professional Services and Fees
1. I am a licensee, but I am qualified in more than one discipline. Can I issue Letters of Assurance (LoAs) that are not under my scope?
Licensees can engage in professional engineering or professional geoscience in a manner consistent with the scope of their licence and according to the provisions of their licence. A licensee cannot issue Letters of Assurance that are outside of their defined scope.
2. Am I allowed to work outside of the regular practice area that I usually work in?
Principles 2 and 6 of the Code of Ethics state that members must “practice only in those fields where training and ability make the registrant professionally competent” and must “provide accurate information in respect of qualifications and experience.”
Registrants must carefully consider whether their scope of knowledge, education, training, and experience is adequate when undertaking any work. The safety of the public should always be paramount in a professional’s mind. If a professional wishes to gain some experience in a new area of practice, it would be prudent to find another professional who can transfer knowledge through training and mentoring, and who can take responsibility for the work until such a time that the first professional is ready to undertake the work on their own. The organization’s Professional Practice Guidelines are a resource that set the expected standard of practice in various areas. All registrants should be aware of these guidelines and abide by them, where applicable.
3. I am looking for an engineer for xxxxx services. Can someone please guide me?
A Register is available on our website where you can search for registrants of Engineers and Geoscientists BC by their industry, area of practice and location. There is also the ability to search for firms.
4. When do I need an engineer for my sewerage system?
The Sewerage Systems Regulation prescribes conditions, such as Type 3 systems, where the services of an Engineers and Geoscientists BC professional are required.
5. I am a consultant. Is there any regulation that limits the fee that I charge my client for the services offered?
Engineers and Geoscientists BC regulates the practice of professional engineering and professional geoscience. It does not regulate the fees charged by registrants to their clients. However, Engineers and Geoscientists BC and the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of BC (ACEC-BC) have developed two guideline documents related to budget for engineering services that can provide some guidance on project budgets.
For a copy of the ACEC-BC Budget Guidelines for Engineering Services Document 1 - Infrastructure and Transportation, and ACEC-BC Budget Guidelines for Engineering Services Document 2 - Buildings, please visit Professional Practice Advisories and Guidelines.
6. Can Schedule C-B be withheld for non-payment of fees?
If the final field review has been completed, then the Schedule C-B cannot be withheld due to the reasons of non-payments of fees. However, if the final field review has not been completed, and if the registrant has not been paid in accordance with the contract, then the final field review can be delayed until payment is received.
7. Can I provide services as a geoscientist in BC if I am a professional engineer with Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia?
Only professionals who hold the P.Geo. designation can practice as professional geoscientists. A professional engineer can provide any scope of engineering service for which they feel qualified on the basis of education, experience, training, and knowledge, but they cannot provide services as a professional geoscientists. The reverse is also true: professional geoscientists registered with Engineers and Geoscientists BC can only provide services as geoscientists, not as an engineers.
8. How can I make sure the work I do is not used for unintended purposes?
Engineering and geoscience work is a product of decisions made by the engineering and geoscience professional to suit client and legislative requirements and is often heavily reliant on project-specific inputs. The assumptions, decisions, and documentation made for one project by an engineering or geoscience professional should not be used on another project without the involvement of that engineering or geoscience professional to assess applicability and make revisions, if necessary.
The most common type of engineering and geoscience work that has been used for unintended purposes or has been repurposed without permission in the past are testing and field review reports, particularly final reports.
To limit unintended use of their work, engineering and geoscience professionals should consider implementing the following strategies:
- Include language to restrict the duplication or application of the work product to other projects without the permission and/or involvement of the engineering or geoscience professional.*
- Include language to restrict the distribution of the work product for the intended project beyond the distribution required for effective project implementation. *
- Similar to contracts, include a disclaimer on submitted documentation to restrict the use to the agreed upon, project-specific scope of work.* This recommendation pertains particularly to work that could be perceived as generic or adaptable or will be made publicly available.
- Information to Include in Documentation
- Where applicable and as appropriate, include detailed project information such as project name, project location, date and time of review, date of report, name, and firm of engineering or geoscience professional, name and firm of recipient, scope of work included in review and/or report, etc.
- Where the work may become outdated in time due to variable inputs (e.g., regulatory requirements, environmental conditions), reference the inputs used to make the engineering or geoscience decisions and any limitations on use of the work in the event the inputs become outdated.
- Sealing (always required)
- Ensure the date and signature touch the image of the seal.
- Where appropriate, use digital certification technology that shows if a document has been revised after authentication.
Clients can also play a role in limiting the unintended use of engineering or geoscience work by requiring that all engineering and geoscience documents submitted to them are originally authenticated (digital or manual). See the Guide to the Standard for Authentication of Documents for more information on the difference between original and copies of authenticated documents.
*Engineering/geoscience professionals should consider consulting a legal professional for advice on appropriate contract and disclaimer language; Engineers and Geoscientists BC cannot provide legal advice.
9. What kind of professional activities cannot be delegated?
Many engineering and geoscience tasks can be delegated to appropriately qualified individuals and conducted under the direct supervision of the engineering or geoscience professional, but not all tasks are appropriate for delegation. The engineering or geoscience professional must not delegate tasks where the main purpose is to declare responsibility for professional activities or work, or to confirm adherence to professional obligations. From a regulatory perspective, examples of tasks that must not be delegated include, but are not limited to:
- Digitally authenticating a document. Passwords for digital encryption software must not be shared.
- Manually authenticating a document. It is permissible to delegate the task of applying the image of the seal and date to a hard copy document, but the signature must be applied manually by the engineering or geoscience professional.
- Signing Engineers and Geoscientists BC declaration forms. Among others, the Continuing Education declaration, the Annual Information Reporting declaration, and the Responsible Registrant and Responsible Officer declaration forms required as part of obtaining and maintaining a permit to practice must be completed by the individual to whom the declaration applies.
The engineering or geoscience professional is responsible for their professional activities or work, regardless of whether tasks were delegated to another individual. It is therefore important that the engineering or geoscience professional be involved and in control of the authentication and delivery of work products as well as the integrity of their own professional practice, including adherence to the code of ethics and regulatory requirements. The engineering or geoscience professional, as an individual practitioner, must not allow others to make declarations that are intended to be provided directly by the engineering or geoscience professional about their individual practice.
The engineering or geoscience professional must be mindful of these principles when delegating tasks to others.
10. How does the Architects Regulation affect the Memorandum of Agreement between the AIBC and Engineers and Geoscientists BC?
The Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC) was brought under the Professional Governance Act on February 10, 2023 and the Memorandum of Agreement has been superseded by Schedule 1 - Buildings Within the Reserved Practice of Architecture and the Reserved Practice of Professional Engineering under the Architects Regulation.
Engineers and Geoscientists BC understands that this change will have implications on engineering practice and is working in the short term to provide information and guidance to our registrants on this topic, and is committed in the long term to working with the OSPG and the AIBC to support both architectural and engineering registrants working in areas of practice overlap, intersection, and alignment.
To inform conversations and collaborative efforts moving forward, the Practice Advisors at Engineers and Geoscientists BC will also collect feedback on the impact of the Architects Regulation on practising professional engineers. Feedback will be received and compiled but not necessarily responded to directly. Professional practice questions will be received and responded to as usual.
Review of Work and or Transfer of a Professional
1. What if I am asked to review and evaluate the work of another professional engineer or geoscientist?
Registrants may at times be asked to review and evaluate the work of other registrants. Reviews are a regular part of the engineering and geoscience professions and are an essential part of good professional practice. Organizations should have regular work reviews as part of their quality assurance programs. Reviews are mandated by legislation in some circumstances.
Registrants should be willing to give and receive honest reviews of performance and technical project aspects. Registrants should neither object to having their work reviewed nor to reviewing another’s work.
Principle 13 of the Code of Ethics states that registrants must “conduct themselves with fairness, courtesy and good faith towards clients, colleagues and others, give credit where it is due and accept, as well as give, honest and fair professional comment.” Contacting a registrant whose work is to be reviewed is a professional courtesy and provides the opportunity for the exchange of pertinent information that would assist in the review. Engineers and Geoscientists BC encourages open communication when possible, as well as a professional and collegial approach when reviewing each other’s work.
2. What must be done when changing engineer during the course of construction?
The procedure is described in Section 8 of the Guide to the Letters of Assurance for building projects. The concepts presented here may be applied to situations outside of the building sector.
3. I have been asked to take over a previously started project and rely on the work of another professional. What do I need to consider in this situation?
In addition to seeking legal advice, the following are a few things to consider when making the decision to rely on the work of another professional:
- In many cases it is not acceptable and is a breach of copyright to reproduce someone else’s work, such as design drawings, without their permission. Per Principle 13 in the Code of Ethics, it is common courtesy that the new professional try to communicate with the previous professional to encourage open communication and transfer of information.
- It is important to establish to what extent they are relying on the work of another professional to define their limits of responsibility with respect to the project they are undertaking. The new professional must therefore properly identify their scope of responsibility for the project and establish in writing with their client what exactly they take responsibility for. For instance, if a Letter of Assurance such as a Schedule C-B under the BC Building Code is required, the new professional has to determine if any investigations, in addition to applicable field reviews, are required to provide that assurance, and consideration must be given for work that has already been covered up and may be inaccessible.
- Consideration should be given as to the reason why a new professional has been engaged on a project. Relationships between clients and professionals break down for various reasons and although a contractual or legal issue between those persons is not a barrier to the engagement of a new professional, it is prudent to be wary of being asked to take over and rely on the work of another professional without knowing what went wrong. Some reasons, such as failure to follow the professional’s instructions or failure to call for inspections, are a red ﬂag for a problem client.
- Make sure you have a written contract that clearly sets out all the relevant terms and conditions, including payment. There can be considerable risk involved in taking over projects that are already underway and those risks need to be addressed and appropriate compensation paid. Otherwise, the client is transferring risk to the new professional at little or no cost.
4. What is the process for transferring my projects to another professional?
Engineers and Geoscientists BC has no specific document outlining the protocols for transferring projects. However, for building related projects, the Guide to the Letters of Assurance has useful information on this topic.
In general, when transferring projects to another professional, the receiving professional must agree to take over the projects and must perform necessary due diligence when taking responsibility for work already done. This could include reviewing designs, drawings, reports, or anything else applicable that is not prepared by them but for which they will now be the professional of record.
1. Will my insurance cover work done by me on my personal property or work done for family/relatives or done for free as a service to the community?
Professionals of Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia must be aware that providing engineering services to friends or family, as a volunteer for the community, or freely, does not make one immune to professional liability claim. Since either the client or a third party affected by the work can bring a lawsuit against the professional or the volunteer organization, professionals are urged to investigate their need for professional liability insurance.
Engineers and Geoscientists BC strongly recommends that its registrants obtain suitable primary insurance coverage when they are providing engineering or geoscience services. Some insurance policies contain clauses that void coverage when providing professional services without a fee or to relatives. Engineers and Geoscientists BC also recommends that professionals confirm coverage with the insurer, especially if the services are provided freely or on volunteer basis. Engineers and Geoscientists BC cannot advise regarding specific insurance policy terms, conditions, or limitations. The suitability of an insurance policy must be determined by the engineering or geoscience professional through understanding of their business liability exposure and risk management and should be informed by consultation with insurance industry and/or legal professionals.
2. Do I need Primary Professional Liability Insurance?
Although, the Professional Governance Act and Bylaws of Engineers and Geoscientists BC contain no provision requiring registrants of Engineers and Geoscientists BC to have professional liability insurance, we strongly recommend that its registrants who provide consulting engineering or geoscience services have primary professional liability insurance. This can be obtained individually but is most often provided through the corporate entity which employs the registrant. In accordance with the Section 7.5 of the Bylaws, registrants are required to let their client know in writing whether or not they have professional liability insurance and whether that insurance is applicable to the services in question.
For more information regarding professional liability insurance we recommend that you address your questions to a qualified insurance professional. Our affinity partner, Marsh Canada, can also be contacted for more information on insurance.
3. Can I use the Secondary Professional Liability Insurance as Primary Professional Liability Insurance?
No, the Secondary Professional Liability Insurance Program was not designed by Engineers and Geoscientists BC to act as primary liability coverage.
The secondary coverage is not intended for firms, corporations, public entities or employers as these groups are expected to carry specific liability coverage as part of their business. It is also not for sole proprietors or decision makers in a firm engaged in standalone providing engineering or geoscience services.
Please read more about the limits of the Secondary Professional Liability Insurance Program.