06 Dec Understanding Prescriptive Standards
An engineering service is not a professional engineering service, and therefore does not need to be carried out by or under the direct supervision of a RPEQ, if it is carried out only in accordance with a prescriptive standard. This is one of only two exceptions to the requirement for RPEQ registration, the other being direct supervision, which was discussed in BPEQ’s July 2019 e-news.
All RPEQs must understand what is and is not a prescriptive standard to ensure they can leave work done only in accordance with a prescriptive standard to unregistered persons and concentrate on carrying out or providing direct supervision for all work that is not carried out only in accordance with a prescriptive standard.
It is therefore timely to reiterate the key elements of work done only in accordance with a prescriptive standard.
A prescriptive standard is defined in the Professional Engineers Act 2002 (PE Act) as follows:
a prescriptive standard means a document that states procedures or criteria:
- for carrying out a design, or a construction, production, operation or maintenance activity, relating to engineering; and
- the application of which, to the carrying out of the design, or the construction, production, operation or maintenance activity, does not require advanced scientifically based calculations.
There are five elements to engineering services carried out only in accordance with a prescriptive standard:
- the standard is a document;
- the document states procedures or criteria for the carrying out of the design, or construction, production, operation or maintenance activity, to which the document relates;
- the application of the procedures or criteria must require little to no choice or judgement;
- the application of the procedures or criteria must not require advanced scientifically based calculations;
- the services must be carried out only in accordance with a prescriptive standard.
The prescriptive standard must be a document. It cannot be something that is done in accordance with verbal instructions. The procedures or criteria that comprise the prescriptive standard must be physically recorded. This includes recording by electronic means.
The prescriptive standard must state procedures or criteria for carrying out the work to which the standard relates. Procedures are the way the work is to be done, and criteria are the standard the work must comply with.
A key element of a prescriptive standard is that it must require little to no personal choice or judgement in applying the procedures or criteria stated in the standard. Choice or judgement being required implies that the exercise of engineering principles and data is required to make the choice of judgement, and as we know, the application of engineering principles and data is the hallmark of a professional engineering service. The intent of a prescriptive standard is to remove the need for the application of engineering principles and data by prescribing exactly how work is to be carried out.
Similarly, a prescriptive standard must not require advanced scientifically based calculations which, again, would usually require the application of sometimes complex engineering principles and data to carry out. The hallmark of a prescriptive standard is simple, well-prescribed calculations that the standard clearly explains how to carry out.
Finally, to fall within the exception for RPEQ registration, the work must be carried out only in accordance with a prescriptive standard. The exception for RPEQ registration will not apply to a service that deviates even slightly from the prescribed process contained in the prescriptive standard being used.
The provisions of the PE Act are clear in that they require that type of service to be provided by a RPEQ.
A benefit of registration as a RPEQ is that RPEQs may carry out any engineering service within their area of registration and competence, regardless of whether it is in accordance with a prescriptive standard. The importance of registration, however, goes beyond just being allowed to provide professional engineering services. Registration denotes high level professional competence and is a significant career milestone. BPEQ encourages RPEQs to encourage all engineers with whom they work to register if eligible or to work on gaining the necessary qualifications and competencies to register in the near future.
Further information is contained in BPEQ Practice Notes 4.3 Professional engineering services and prescriptive standards and 4.6 Prescriptive standards, available on the Practice Notes page.
Further information about BPEQ policies and processes, including prescriptive standards, is available on BPEQ’s website or by contacting BPEQ directly at email@example.com. While BPEQ staff will endeavour to offer help about processes and procedures, staff will not give legal advice.