30 Apr Your questions about direct supervision answered
Under the Professional Engineers Act 2002, registration is required for anyone carrying out a professional engineering service in Queensland or for Queensland. It is an offence for unregistered persons to undertake professional engineering services. However, there is an exception that allows unregistered persons to carry out professional engineering services only if they are directly supervised by someone who is a RPEQ.
Obligations are placed both on the unregistered person who is being directly supervised and the RPEQ who is providing the direct supervision. Direct supervision requirements are intentionally onerous.
To establish direct supervision, the following elements must be shown to exist and supported by evidence that meets each requirement:
Element 1: The supervision must be direct; and the supervising RPEQ must have actual knowledge of the services/project.
The supervising RPEQ must have direct contact and not through a third person.
Element 2: The supervising RPEQ must direct the person in the carrying out of the service.
The supervising RPEQ must actively direct the unregistered person in carrying out the professional engineering services. A passive or observational role is not sufficient.
Element 3: The supervising RPEQ must oversee the carrying out of the service by the person.
The supervising RPEQ must be involved from the beginning and throughout all the professional engineering services provided in each project/contract.
Element 4: The supervising RPEQ must evaluate the carrying out of the service by the person.
The supervising RPEQ must evaluate the professional engineering services and ensure they are being carried out to the standard expected of a RPEQ as if the RPEQ was undertaking the professional engineering services personally.
Element 5: The supervising RPEQ must take full professional responsibility for the service.
The requirement is that all professional engineering services are carried out to the standard expected of a RPEQ and that the supervising RPEQ takes overt professional responsibility for them.
Direct supervision was the topic presented by BPEQ for a recent Engineers Australia hosted webinar. Here’s a few of the questions asked during the webinar about direct supervision:
Q1. Is keeping a diary of conversations an adequate record of supervision?
Not by itself, a collective of evidence is required by the RPEQ and supervised person to support the elements discussed in this article (and outlined in the webinar), not just one item.
Q2. Is it necessary to have a RPEQ to sign off the drawing/ document, since evidence of direct supervision is what matters?
Yes. All work done by the RPEQ is part of the whole supervision process.
Q3. If the engineer being supervised is also an experienced RPEQ, would that make any difference to direct supervision requirements?
Yes. Direct supervision requirements contained in the Act do not apply to RPEQs. Direct supervision is only applicable to unregistered persons.
Q4. Given the onus is on the non-RPEQ, who needs to maintain the records of supervision? The non-RPEQ, the RPEQ or both?
Q5. I hear and understand the point that non-RPEQs must be directly supervised by a RPEQ, but what onus is there on a supervising RPEQ to ensure the non-RPEQ is actually being supervised in the correct way?
As RPEQs are bound by the Code of Practice and are obligated to provide services competently and professionally within their area of registration. This is no different to providing the same service through the unregistered person.
Q6. Software development seems to be a grey area. I have Bachelor qualified unregistered engineers who report to me writing programs for electrically operated industrial machines. As a RPEQ in Electrical field what level of ‘supervision’ am I required to provide?
No different to a RPEQ in any other field of engineering if
the service being supervised is a professional engineering
Q7. Would evidence of direct supervision, be meeting minutes and emails or do they need to be more formal?
As discussed this is but one aspect but wouldn’t be enough itself. A collective of evidence is required by the RPEQ and supervised person, not just one item.
Q8. If the supervisor sits in the same room as the unregistered person, and so most guidance is verbal and in-person, how much additional evidence of supervision is required? Does there need to be hard evidence of all outcomes of conversations?
It is advisable to show direct supervision for evidence of these conversations and instructions. For example, minutes of meetings emailed contemporaneous to each meeting or follow up emails confirming the discussions had and instructions given.
Q10. Who has to keep the evidence if I am working as contractor and not direct employee?
Both parties need to keep similar corroborating evidence.
Q11. Given a junior engineer (unregistered) forms a solid trust connection to a senior RPEQ over the time, would it appropriate for the RPEQ to pass the authority to the junior engineer to lead the projects with minimum supervision from the senior engineer?
No. Seniority and relationships are not elements of direct supervision and as long as the junior engineer remains unregistered they will need to be directly supervised.
Q11. Is a project manager who is managing design consultants and construction contractors required to be a RPEQ or supervised?
This would depend on the project and the extent to which professional engineering services are being provided. If the project manager is carrying out professional engineering services, applying engineering knowledge and judgement, then they would need to be a RPEQ themselves or directly supervised.