NSPE and PSPE Urge Repeal of Pennsylvania Industrial Exemption
Both NSPE and the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers have urged the Pennsylvania House Committee on Professional Licensure to repeal the state’s industrial exemption as part of a bill that was scheduled for a public hearing in October.
Pennsylvania House Bill 1447, introduced by Rep. Marc Gergely in May 2013, provides an opportunity to amend the state’s Engineer, Land Surveyor, and Geologist Registration Law to remove exemptions from licensure and regulation for individuals practicing engineering in industry.
The work of engineers in industry can impact the safety of the public and employees, “yet there are no established minimum standards for the competency of the engineers performing the design, maintenance, and operation of industrial properties,” PSPE President Eric Tappert, P.E., testified before the Committee on Professional Licensure in October. “It is left to the corporation owning such properties to decide whether or not their employees are competent and adhering to the code of ethics contained in [the law].”
Tappert used a local tragedy as an example of how placing public trust in corporations can endanger the public. The 1999 Concept Sciences Inc. plant explosion in Allentown, Pennsylvania, killed five people, including the supervisor of an adjacent business, and it’s likely even more lives would have been lost had the explosion not occurred after 8 p.m.
“There were no professional engineers working for Concept Sciences in this facility; the operation was supervised by a person with a chemistry degree,” Tappert said. “Established standards, which are part of every professional engineer’s tool box, were ignored and the public was put at serious risk. This entire incident could have been avoided if a competent professional engineer had been in responsible charge.”
In a letter to the Committee on Professional Licensure, NSPE President Harve Hnatiuk, P.E., F.NSPE, explained that NSPE believes all state laws should require PEs to be in responsible charge of the practice of engineering that potentially impacts the public health, safety, and welfare. “All licensed professional engineers must meet rigorous education, examination, and experience standards,” Hnatiuk wrote. “In addition, all licensed professional engineers in Pennsylvania are subject to disciplinary action by the state engineering licensure board and must complete mandatory continuing education requirements in order to maintain their professional engineering license.”