The Age of Council, The Value
of our Work
A few topics and comments in the last PEGG impressed
me as symptomatic of our plight as members of APEGGA, here
First, while I am sure that the new Council is well experienced
and will be a dedicated crew, a letter in Readers' Forum really
chord. Mel Wilde, P.Eng., questions what basis or point of
view these people projected, prior to being elected (A Non-Voter's
Reasons). What are their aims? Do they have any individual
ideas on how to best promote the welfare of members?
Or is it the same old status quo that has kept our Association
from progressing over the past 20 years? From the pictures
I see in The PEGG, either we have a lot of premature aging
in this group or we are starting to look like an old folks
Where is the young blood? Where are the new ideas? Who speaks
for the younger half? I am not in that younger half, demographically.
But I sympathize with those who are not in the more senior
ranks, who are not owners or partners, who are not in tenured
My next comments concern the letter by Kevin Hewitt, P.Eng.,
on the fees U.S. and Calgary lawyers charge, versus those
charged by engineers (Are APEGGA Members Short-changed?).It
is no wonder we do not attract the best and brightest. I believe
the last time that happened was as a hold-over of the 1960s
and '70s technological cycle. That is a long time to be wandering
in the desert.
During the latter 1980s and through the 1990s, our profession
was under tremendous stress to cut costs and was subject to
severe pricing pressures. That was the market.
As a result, and this is my punch line, well qualified people
begin to lead the way in the new millenium are few and far
between. No wonder so many recent mega-billion-dollar projects
are being mismanaged. Would it not have been more cost effective
to have encouraged a better standard of P.Eng./P.Geol./P.Geoph.
to participate in the business by better financial reward,
thereby reducing these excessive wastes of money?
If $2 billion of overrun could have been saved -- and this
is not implausible nor is this the last of the major overspends
to come --- what does that translate into per member in remuneration?
By my calculation it is $80,000 for each member over one year.
Only a fraction of this amount would have been a worthwhile
investment for the owners and investors; a return on their
investment likely better than the projects' forecast returns
APEGGA should better promote the idea of "value for money."
clear that the purpose of our profession is not only to protect
public interest, in terms of safety or effectiveness, but
also to make
a very good investment in society and the economy - one that
even an unsophisticated investor can understand. We are a
cost-effective group; but we have not been able to convey
the fact that cost effectiveness does not mean "lowest
Adam Mateyko, P.Eng.
Sound Reasoning Influences Disclaimers
Re: Why The Disclaimers? Readers'
Forum, June PEGG
The mentioned letter raises concerns about disclaimers used
by engineers working in construction, noting that these professionals
"are attempting to withdraw from liability associated
with the work that they have been hired to do."
In the first case referenced, the writer notes that a final
record drawing contained a disclaimer stating that an engineer
could not certify its accuracy, as the drawing was prepared
based upon information received from the contractor. The letter's
author argues: "As a municipality and future owner of
these facilities, we want to make sure that the facilities
are constructed in accordance with the drawings we approved
and that the drawings are accurate."
This argument assumes that somehow the engineer is responsible
to ensure that the contractor constructs the facility in accordance
with the drawings. While the engineer may perform field services,
she or he does not control the construction process and cannot
be everywhere on site at once. Asking the engineer to assume
responsibility for construction is unreasonable, and it demands
a goal that is impossible to achieve.
A golden rule of appropriate risk management is, Do not certify
that which you have not seen. The municipality has an agreement
with the contractor that the contractor will perform the work
in accordance with the drawings. It is the contractor's responsibility
to meet the contractual requirements for workmanship and materials.
The engineer attends the site to determine general conformance
of the contractor's work with the contract documents.
Any record drawings that are prepared are based in part upon
information submitted by other parties. While the engineer
can and does assume responsibility for changes that she or
he has instigated, the responsibility for the accuracy of
the information prepared by others belongs with the party
The letter seems to suggest that the engineer should certify
things done by others. This is patently unfair and in some
cases could result in allegations of fraudulent misrepresentation.
It is also one of the leading reasons why engineers are drawn
into far too many claims arising out of the errors of other
parties. Responsibility and liability belong with those who
commit the errors.
The second example in the letter refers to a drainage study
that contained this disclaimer: "This document is for
the sole use of the addressee and [the engineering firm].
The document contains proprietary and confidential information
that shall not be reproduced in any manner or disclosed to
or discussed with any other party without the express permission
of the engineering firm." The author notes that the document
is intended to "provide basic preliminary information
to developers, the public and other engineers who must be
doing detailed design."
While this may be true, it is also important to note that
the inappropriate or misdirected use of such "preliminary"
documents has led to countless claims against engineers. If
the author of the report does not have the ability to control
how it is to be used, then the engineer should not be expected
to assume responsibility or liability for its misuse. Unfortunately,
without the use of appropriate disclaimers, the engineer will
often become embroiled in a claim situation that results from
a lack of understanding of the basis for the report or the
limited mandate that had been assigned.
This fact was clearly demonstrated in an Ontario court decision
involving an environmental consultant's basic report on a
mining property, following a very limited study. The consultant
included a disclaimer similar to the one referred to above.
The report found its way into the hands of a purchaser of
the property, who initiated legal action against the consultant
after determining that the property was more severely contaminated
The plaintiff argued that the disclaimer was not legally binding
and should not be enforced. The court disagreed and in its
findings noted that it was entirely appropriate for a professional
to control the use of its reports and documents.
I agree that such disclaimers can and should be modified when
the engineer knows how and why the report will be relied upon
by others, but in many cases it is necessary to protect oneself
against the possible misuse of documents by unknown parties.
The author stresses the importance of engineers balancing
responsibility with the natural tendency to pass all liability
on to someone else. In our experience in providing insurance
coverage to engineers for the past 33 years, it is usually
the opposite that is true -- others want to pass all liability
onto engineers. We see indemnification clauses prepared by
owners that seek to impose responsibility and liability on
the engineer for deficiencies in work by contractors and others
involved in construction. In fact, many if not most of these
clauses impose liability that greatly exceeds the legal responsibility
and liability established in Canadian law. We see owners that
believe the engineer is a guarantor of the project's success.
Engineers have for too many years been on the losing end when
it comes to assuming responsibility and liability. We applaud
the efforts of those engineers who seek equitable agreements
and reasonable limitations on liability.
Derek J. Holloway
ENCON Group Inc
Professional Value -- And Educational
I have been following the debates regarding wage settlements
for teachers, doctors and nurses in Alberta for some time.
While these professions are connected to the public sector,
there are similar issues in the private sector of the province
involving other professions - ours among them.
I have not seen any wage and salary discussions that take
an objective look at the true value of professional services,
or at the value of the educational preparation of such people
in a manner that a commercial enterprise might adopt. For
example, nowhere is there any discussion of the "capital
costs" of an education required by such professionals,
let alone all those trappings in the tax codes for "depreciation"
and recovery of investments in education by individual professional
practitioners. Nowhere have economists talked
about the "lost opportunity costs" for students
studying at university. No corporation, and certainly no multinational
company, would make such a flagrant mistake in recovering
wasting assets, or ignore depletion allowances.
If professionals were to use precisely the same methodology
that is available to corporations, particularly multinational
companies in the exploration areas of the economy, or in industry,
then it would lead to a rather different set of answers to
the question of professional compensation. If, in this way,
employers and clients had to actually compensate professionals
for what they were actually using, namely, not only professional
practitioners' time, but also their expertise acquired in
post secondary institutions, then two things immediately become
apparent. First, all professional services in Alberta are
being sold in the market at bargain basement rates, and
second, there has been a profound and unjustified transfer
of wealth away from these middle-class groups of professionals
to the CEOs and presidents of companies and their multi-million-dollar
There are none so blind as those that will not see.
Joseph M. Green, P.Eng., M.Eng.
Go to page two of Readers' Forum (Global Warming)