Engineers throughout Victoria will need to be registered in in order to perform certain types of work under new legislation passed by the state’s parliament.

The Professional Engineers Registration Bill 2019 passed the upper house on Tuesday night.

Under the bill, those performing work in structural engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or fire safety engineering will be required to be registered unless they are either working under supervision of a registered engineer or are performing work which accords to a prescriptive standard.

Registration will be awarded by the Building Licensing Authority.

An assessment scheme will be established to determine the qualifications and experience necessary for registration.

Those engineers who work in the building industry and wish to perform certain functions under the Building Act 1993 will need endorsement from the Victorian Building Authority that they are a fit and proper person to warrant endorsement.

The push toward mandatory registration has long been supported by bodies such as Engineering Australia, who talk of a safety imperative for certain types of engineering work to be performed only by those who demonstrate the qualifications and expertise necessary to perform the work in question.

Jonathan Russell, National Manager – Public Affairs at Engineers Australia, welcomed the legislation’s passing.

“This is a big step forward for the profession and for public safety,” he said.

Russell says the next step will involve development of regulations to complement the legislation – a process he says will likely take several months.

After that, there will be time for engineers to apply for registration.

For now, he said it was ‘business as usual’ for engineers, who did not need to worry immediately about new paperwork or audits.

Whilst the Bill has passed both houses of Parliament, it was opposed by the opposition Liberal Party.

Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley told Sourceable that the Bill imposed additional costs on the engineering profession for benefits which were not clearly articulated.

The burden would be especially felt in rural and regional areas, she said.

As for safety, Staley points out that Victoria already has a licensing scheme for registration of building practitioners including building engineers with the Victorian Building Authority.

This meant Victoria was not comparable to New South Wales, which has no engineering registration and has seen problems with structural deficiencies in high-rise buildings.

Staley points out that Queensland has a registration scheme similar to Victoria’s yet has had similar problems to other states in respect of cladding.

Asked about the registration of building professionals including engineers being the number one recommendation in the Shergold Weir report, Staley points out Shergold and Weir argued for a nationally consistent approach which involved registration of a range of professionals.

Victoria’s scheme, by contrast, was a state based regime targeting only engineers.

“Engineers are already professionals and undertake continuing professional development,” Staley told Sourceable.

“This Bill imposes additional costs for a poorly defined benefit. The Bill will result in particular problems for regional and rural areas.

“Victorians should expect proper and effective regulation of all building professionals including architects, engineers, surveyors and builders, not the recasting of a Bill from the last Parliament reintroduced as the solution to a problem of the Labor Government’s creation.”