Legislation Updates

Professional registration expanding to Western Australia

Western Australia has taken the next step towards implementing professional registration requirements for engineers, with the release of a Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (DRIS) on registration of building engineers. As it is laid out in the DRIS, the proposed scheme is similar to schemes in other jurisdictions, but also has some important differences.

To begin with, the scheme would cover professional and technical building engineering designers in the categories of mechanical, fire, civil and structural. Electrical engineering is not a recommended category for registration at this point in time, but may be considered later.

Consideration was given to establishing a category specifically for building services engineering. According to the DRIS, it was rejected for several reasons, including that it is not consistent with a qualifications-based framework, it was tried and rejected in Queensland, and it is not consistent with other Australian jurisdictions or the ABCB’s national registration framework (NRF).

Another feature of the recommended scheme is a tiered registration framework. Under this framework, professional engineers will be registered at level 1, and will be able to do professional engineering work. Engineering technicians and associates will be registered at levels 2 and 3 respectively, and will be able to do technical engineering work in accordance with prescriptive standards.

One issue highlighted during consultations by stakeholders in the HVAC&R industry is the need for an alternative pathway to registration for engineers who do not hold a Washington Accord degree. The DRIS notes the feedback and recommends a scheme that takes this into account.

“It is recognised that there will be people with different combinations of qualifications and experience than those proposed to be prescribed for registration,” reads the DRIS. “The prescribed qualifications and experience for registration provides a benchmark against which alternatives may be assessed. People who have different combinations of qualifications and experience than those prescribed will still be able to have their competence assessed by an industry organisation.

“If their particular combination of qualifications and experience has resulted in a degree of competence that is equal or superior to the prescribed benchmark, they will be able to be registered.”

Implementation of professional registration will occur in two stages, with structural and fire engineers first, followed 12 months later by civil and mechanical. Each stage will have a two-year transition period, to allow everyone time to be registered before registration becomes mandatory.

The government has also approved the preparation of amending regulations to implement the recommended scheme. The regulations are the first part of what is expected to be a suite of reforms intended to modernise and improve WA’s building regulatory framework in response to recommendations from the national Building Confidence Report.

A consultation draft of the amending regulations is anticipated to be released for comment by Building and Energy later in 2022. Announcements on when the amending regulations will then commence operation will be made at a later date.

A copy of the DRIS and accompanying analysis report by Deloitte Access Economics are available on the government website.

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