COVID-19 Practice Advice and Guidance April 21, 2020
Engineers Nova Scotia recognizes the significant impact that COVID-19 is having on our members and their ability to practice. To help support members in understanding their professional obligations at this time, Engineers Nova Scotia has developed this document to outline practice advice and guidance in these exceptional times. This guidance is adapted from that issued by the Engineers & Geoscientists British Columbia.
Engineers Nova Scotia is mandated by the Government of Nova Scotia to administer the Engineering Profession Act. The Association has no authority to enforce, circumvent, or alter any other legislation, directives or guidelines issued by Municipal, Provincial or Federal authorities. It is the members’ responsibility to ensure they understand and comply with such orders.
Engineers Nova Scotia recognizes that its members may have questions or concerns about carrying out work in any workplace, even one considered essential. We offer the following general information to assist members in making their decisions about how they should proceed. Obviously, each individual situation is different and expert advice should be obtained from their employer, health provider, governmental, and legal authorities as needed.
Will Engineers Nova Scotia be mandating remote work for its members?
Where possible, we recommend that all members follow the Chief Public Health Officer’s Orders and Notices as well as the guidelines set forth by the province (link here) in relation to COVID-19. Many engineering employers have already implemented and facilitated “work from home” protocols, however, we understand that this may not always be possible in those cases where registrants are providing essential services, vital to protecting the health and safety of the public and the environment during this time.
In such cases, our members, like all employees, are entitled to a safe and healthy workplace and have the right to refuse work that is unsafe as legislated by the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act. Members with concerns about their safety should consult with management, with a Joint Health and Safety Committee (if there is one), or refer questions to Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education, who administer the Occupational Health and Safety Act
What is Engineers Nova Scotia’s expectations for remote workers?
We expect that members will adhere to the Chief Public Health Officer’s Orders and Notices as well as the guidelines set forth by the province (link here) in relation to COVID-19. When remote work protocols are implemented, it is expected that those protocols fully comply with the established standard of practice for the engineering services being provided, including adherence to the intent of the Professional Practice Guidelines, published by Engineers Nova Scotia.
Is Engineering an Essential Service?
The Nova Scotia Government has released requirements for working during the pandemic, and the Health Protection Act Order further defines the requirements for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. While engineering is not mentioned specifically, this Order covers many services that are supported by specific services that engineers provide. A summary of employer obligations during COVID-19 is available. (link here.)
There may be services carried out by engineers that are not explicitly defined as essential; however, they may still be paramount to protecting the health and safety of the public and the environment. In these situations, engineers must adapt their services and workplace to adhere to the orders and recommendations set out by Provincial and Federal Chief Public Health Officers.
It is important to note that professional engineers and engineers-in-training are employed in many areas within and outside of the practice of engineering, and therefore not all services provided by engineers are necessarily essential.
What if my job and professional obligations require me to leave home?
Members must continue to meet the requirements of the Code of Ethics, including “Hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public, the protection of the environment and promote health and safety in the workplace”. With that said, all members must comply with the COVID-19 guidance and directives of the Provincial and Federal Government, including adhering to the provisions for “social distancing” both in personal and professional practices.
The Provincial and Federal COVID-19 guidance is subject to change, and it is the members’ responsibility to be aware of the latest guidance from public health authorities. Where completion of professional work with proper social distancing is not possible, members should work with clients, employers, and other stakeholders to assess and address the project, personal, and public risks and impacts of delaying or continuing with the work, while holding paramount the requirement to protect public health. This may include modification of work plans and procedures to facilitate a safer working environment with respect to COVID-19, including the use of personal protective equipment.
Can I still conduct field reviews?
Engineers Nova Scotia recommends that members work with their clients, employers, and other project stakeholders to determine the most appropriate course of action for their project, while adhering to the required social distancing and provincial health and safety guidelines.
Guidelines such as the Guideline Regarding Field Review of Construction Certificates and the Professional Practice Guidelines provide guidance on a professional’s responsibility when it comes to documenting and providing field reviews, and what may be appropriate to delegate in case this route is chosen to minimize extensive travel to site and thus exposure to unnecessary additional personal contact.
How can I sign and seal documents remotely?
Members who currently have signing and sealing permission under the Engineering Profession Act can also choose to use an electronic version of their seal in conjunction with digital certificate technology, so that the documents can be transmitted electronically in a secure fashion. The use of digital seal technology provides encryption that indicates the authenticity of a document. Once this encryption has been applied, the document is considered signed, sealed, and dated as per the information on the encryption. This allows documents to be sent electronically in a single step.
Notarius, an Engineers Nova Scotia endorsed provider of digital seals, is offering a discounted rate on their digital signature technology; members can contact Notarius directly for more details. For more information on how to obtain the digital signature and electronic seal technology, visit our website.
How should I submit documents to Authorities having Jurisdiction?
Engineers should confirm with the authorities having jurisdiction if they have altered their submission protocols, given the current COVID-19 situation. Please contact the relevant authority having jurisdiction directly to find out more information.
Where can I get more information on COVID-19?
Engineers Nova Scotia expects members to make safe and educated decisions when it comes to the continuation of work during these unprecedented times. As the situation continues to develop, we encourage all registrants to regularly check the following COVID-19 resources:
- Engineers Nova Scotia Website – Response to COVID-19
- Nova Scotia Government Response to COVID-19
- Canadian Government Response to COVID-19
- Engineers Canada COVID-19 Resources