[WATCH] Public safety at risk, engineers warn about new law

Chamber of Engineers says changes to the law regulating its profession will allow anyone to undertake engineering services, placing public safety at risk in the process

Chamber of Engineers president Daniel Micallef
Chamber of Engineers president Daniel Micallef

Engineers are up in arms over proposed changes to the law regulating their profession, warning that the amendments could end up putting the safety of the public in jeopardy.

Recently proposed changes to the Engineering Profession Act will mean that any unqualified and untrained legal persons – meaning practically any company or individual – will be allowed to carry out engineering services.

Previously, such services could only be carried out by engineers, who would ensure that any engineering work done – such as that involving the power station or water service provisions – is carried out in such a way as to guarantee the general public was safeguarded.

The Chamber’s president, Daniel Micallef, said the public would be negatively impacted by the proposed changes, such industries, companies or contractors could choose unqualified persons to carry out certain work – instead of trained engineers – so as to cut capital costs.

“With the amendments, the door has been opened for anyone to offer such services,” Micallef said.

“The biggest concern is about the health and safety of the public. Engineers are involved in work to ensure the safety of the general public – they work in the power station, water service corporation, and other areas related to the public.”

“If the changes go ahead, there can be services which affect the safety of the public in which no engineering professionals are involved at any stage to ensure the people are safeguarded,” he emphasised.

Another issue, the engineers highlighted is that legal persons carrying out such engineering services would not require to have professional indemnity insurance.

“We can come to a situation where a contractor, to avoid using a professional and avoiding the fee, can choose to use someone, who might be a charlatan, to carry out the services, and the public will have nothing to ensure that they are receiving the service they deserve through the safeguard offered by professional indemnity insurance,” Micallef said.

Micallef said that after having been presented with an early draft of the proposed changes in June and having given their feedback, they were last week sent the proposals again, with very little of their input taken on board.

He said that the changes to the law were being instigated by the European Commission, which had a set a deadline of mid-December for member states to reflect the necessary amendments in their legislation.

The Chamber has informed the government of its viewpoints, and in light of its position, has requested an extension to the deadline in order to allow time for a wider discussion on the issues and for an agreement to be reached.

“Our message is clear – we want our profession to be respected, and we want the general public to be respected because these amendments will directly involve the people,” Micallef said.

Asked whether the changes could have proposed to appease the construction industry, he said that while the Chamber had heard such rumours, the information it had was that the amendments were being demanded by the EU.

“Without a doubt, as they are, they could lead to abuse by certain contractors and certain entities,” Micallef acknowledged. 

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