ACEC-BC Member Bulletin

Independent Review of High-Risk Professional Activities or Work – Considerations for Design Consultants

 ACEC-BC Member Bulletin: 

Member Bulletins are articles developed by ACEC-BC Committees and Working Groups and published for use by consulting engineering companies as a general resource. The information provided highlights relevant issues and practices for the industry and should not be construed as legal advice.

About this Bulletin – Independent Review of High-Risk Professional Activities or Work (HRPAW):

In April 2021, Engineers and Geoscientists BC (EGBC) published a Quality Management Guide to the Standard for Documented Independent Review of High-Risk Professional Activities or Work[1] (HRPAW). The guide was developed based on outcomes of regulation of professionals to support compliance with relevant Bylaws.

In the fall of 2022, ACEC-BC members formed a working group – the ACEC-BC Regulation Working Group (RWG) – to discuss and address issues related to new regulation of professionals and their firms due to the Professional Governance Act coming into effect, focusing on common issues that may impact the business of consulting engineering in BC. This bulletin was generated by the working group to support understanding and compliance with the EGBC Guide.

Client and Consultant perspective:

The ACEC-BC RWG identified the potential for conflict between Clients and Consultants relating to ambiguity in the HRPAW Guide, particularly when consultant selection is based on price and consultants and clients have different perspectives on the need for independent review.

While each organization must have their own process for assessing project risk and performing independent review where appropriate, a Type 1 Independent Review and Type 2 Independent Review will introduce additional project cost that could impact Consultant selection (if price based) and create conflict with Clients who disagree with the Consultant’s risk assessment.

The ACEC-BC RWG contacted the regulator to seek practice advice on behalf of the industry.

Intentional ambiguity:

The current version of the guide does not include precise guidance on how to conduct risk assessments. This was intentional, allowing for application of the guide to a wide range of professional work. This approach however produces ambiguity as the risk level assessment will differ from one professional to another, depending on their experience, approach, methodology, metrics, and other factors. For this reason, it is inappropriate for a professional to rely on a risk assessment performed by another professional (Consultant or the Client). Instead, the professional responsible for the Work must themselves undertake the assessment, and document their decision. Furthermore, the professional taking responsibility for the Work or activities may not be the same professional who initially conducted the risk assessment and identification for independent review at the proposal stage.

Use of examples:

EGBC initially planned to incorporate examples in the guide, but in the absence of experience due to the recent adoption of the guide were unable to incorporate examples in the first release. For some areas of practice – i.e., Structural Engineering – obligations for independent review are more familiar than for other disciplines, but for most areas of practice a risk assessment is practitioner dependent. EGBC expect to accumulate examples through practice audit and will consider incorporating these examples into future guides or professional development seminars.

Responding to conflict:

Completing a risk assessment may be necessary to provide a proposal response. For transparency, professionals are encouraged to identify that the proposal includes their decision for an independent review. The risk assessment for proposal is preliminary and will be reviewed by the authenticating professional and may change as a result of review by that professional. Consultants who still find their assessment of risk in conflict with their Client are encouraged to seek practice advice from EGBC and to remind the Client of their shared professional obligations, specifically that professional opinions should not be influenced by cost-related pressure from clients. It is reasonable and expected that professionals will differently assess risk and that Consultants may view risk through a different lens than the Client (particularly where the Consultant’s contract includes onerous liability clauses).

Other considerations:

Documentation: Professional registrants are reminded of the importance of documenting decisions including a risk assessment[2]. In a practice audit, the regulator would seek to understand the process followed to support the professional’s decision regarding the need for independent review.

Review Boards: Participation in Review Boards was not contemplated in development of the current version of the guide. HRPAW is not well integrated with the Guideline: Relying on the Work of a Specialist[3].  The ACEC-BC RWG suggested that an update to the Guideline to reflect HRPAW be prioritized.



Edition Editors: Katie Au (BBA), Caroline Andrewes (ACEC-BC)

Edition Reviewer: Bernard Abelson (McElhanney), Nick Bevilacqua (Fast + Epp), Ben Haeusler (Stantec)

[1] Quality Management Guides are published by the regulator to clarify practice obligations required under the Professional Governance Act. See:
[2] Registrants should consult the Engineers and Geoscientists BC Guide, Section 3.3 to determine the scope of Risk Assessment appropriate for the circumstance.
[3] Engineers and Geoscientists BC. Guidelines & Advisories – General. Relying on the Work of a Specialist:

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