Professional Engineering Services and Prescriptive Standards

Practice Notes > Professional Engineering Services and Prescriptive Standards

Professional Engineering Services and Prescriptive Standards

Practice note ID: 4.3 (2A)

Status: Approved

Issued: 8 August 2018

Rationale

A number of engineers have made enquiries of the Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland (Board) regarding the meaning of the terms ‘professional engineering service’ and ‘prescriptive standards’, which appear in the Professional Engineers Act 2002 (Act).

The purpose of this document is to provide an explanation of the meaning of these terms.

Introduction

It is an offence under the Act for persons other than Registered Professional Engineers of Queensland (RPEQ) to provide professional engineering services (see section 115 of the Act). This means that if you are providing any professional engineering services, you must be registered as a RPEQ.

Requirements of the PE Act

The dictionary in Schedule 2 to the PE Act provides that:

  1. Professional engineering service means an engineering service that requires, or is based on, the application of engineering principles and data to a design, or to a construction, production, operation or maintenance activity, relating to engineering, and does not include an engineering service that is provided only in accordance with a prescriptive standard.

The dictionary in Schedule 2 to the PE Act provides that:

A prescriptive standard means a document that states procedures or criteria –

  1. for carrying out a design, or a construction, production, operation or maintenance activity, relating to engineering; and
  2. 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.

The PE Act provides a single example of a prescriptive standard, namely:

  1. AS1684 – Timber framing code, published by Standards Australia

The PE Act’s definitions make clear that a service will not be a ‘professional engineering service’ if it ‘is provided only in accordance with a prescriptive standard.’

Practice

BPEQ takes the view that a person who merely undertakes tasks set out in, or required by, a document which meets the definition of ‘prescriptive standard’, is providing services ‘only in accordance with’ a prescriptive standard. That person is therefore not providing ‘professional engineering services’ and does not need to be registered. A document may meet the definition of ‘prescriptive standard’ irrespective of whether it is published by a body such as Standards Australia, or is produced by an individual RPEQ engineer for application in particular circumstances. However, many Australian Standards will not meet the definition of ‘prescriptive standard’ because for example; they may require the exercise of judgement and/or require advanced scientifically based calculations.

On the other hand, where a person provides services which include, for example, a professional decision to use a particular document which states procedures or criteria, that service is unlikely to be ‘provided only in accordance with ‘a prescriptive standard’. That is because the decision to use the document is unlikely to be a decision taken in accordance with the document itself. A service which includes a professional judgment about which standards or criteria should be applied to a particular situation is therefore likely to be a ‘professional engineering service.’

For further guidance in relation to ‘prescriptive standards’ see Practice Note 4.6 – Prescriptive Standards.

References

Related legislation:

  1. The Professional Engineers Act 2002
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