Engineers could face periodic mid-career peer reviews under new proposals put forward to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
Chaired by former ICE president Peter Hansford, the In Plain Sight review calls for engineers belonging to all institutions to be subject to competency reviews every “10 or 15 years”.
The report also highlights the need for greater scrutiny of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities, as well as a broader system to learn lessons from mistakes made.
Hansford told New Civil Engineer that the “main point” of the report was to “generate greater trust” in engineering competencies.
“The whole point of this review is to demonstrate a proper level of competency to society and the general public,” Hansford said. “The point about periodic peer reviews is completely centred around demonstrating competency.
“To take my own career as an example, I qualified as a chartered engineer when I was 28 years old, when I was 38 I was a project manager but nobody checked that I had the right competency for my new role. When I was 48 I was a company director and again nobody checked I was competent for the role. By the time I was 58 I was chief construction advisor to the government and so on.
“My career changed but my formal qualification in engineering was something I did 30 years before.”
Hansford added that this is “not something the ICE would, or should, take up on it’s own”. Instead he said that for a review process to work “it needs to come from the Engineering Council down so that all institutions subscribe to this model of review”.
He added: “If the ICE were to adopt it and other institutions were not to then members could simply switch to another institution.”
The review also highlights “inadequacies” in the current method of collecting and assessing CPD records, calling for an electronic filing system to be introduced to increase the number of CPD records collected by the ICE.
“Put simply, the current CPD model is no longer an adequate means of assurance. Developing a more robust approach to CPD is an essential measure in strengthening the lines of defence against infrastructure failure,” the report reads.
“At present, ICE calls for CPD records to be submitted annually from 10% of the membership and audits 10% of those records called in. Consequently, CPD records from some 1% of ICE’s members are checked. Whilst this complies with Engineering Council guidelines, an automated system of recording would readily enable a larger sample of members’ CPD records to be audited.
“If ICE were to audit CPD records of 10% of its membership annually, a ten-fold increase, this would provide even greater assurance.”
Meanwhile, the review calls for “work with professional bodies to scope, sponsor and find funding for a sector-wide organisation to review, comment on and disseminate lessons from concerns, near misses and catastrophic incidents.”
Hansford said that ensuring anonymity and creating a safe-place to report such incidents was integral to this being successfully implemented. He added that extending the scope of CROSS (confidential reporting on structural safety) beyond its current remit could be a way of implementing this recommendation.
Full list of In Plain Sight recommendations:
1. Strongly promote the Swiss Cheese Model concept of risk management, emphasising that all engineers have roles to play in mitigating and managing infrastructure risk.
2. Work with professional bodies to scope, sponsor and find funding for a sector-wide organisation to review, comment on and disseminate lessons from concerns, near misses and catastrophic incidents, building on the work of Structural-Safety.
3. Run an annual event with the Health and Safety Executive on infrastructure near misses, incidents or forensic reports, to promote understanding and identify sector-wide responses.
4. Encourage engineers to highlight unaddressed infrastructure concerns, risks and near misses to their management and provide guidance via the ICE website on suitable confidential reporting channels should these become necessary.
5. Establish an electronic system that captures ICE members’ Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities, increasing tenfold the CPD returns audited annually; and work with the Engineering Council to explore introducing periodic mid-career peer reviews.
6. Identify and communicate mandatory risk-related topics, themes and reading lists for members to include in their annual CPD learning.
7. Strengthen awareness of ICE’s Code of Professional Conduct through guidance, education, disciplinary processes, sanctions and publicity.
8. Work with Government to identify any new safety-critical asset classes requiring lifecycle statutory certification.
9. Set out the responsibilities of a competent infrastructure owner and work with Government to promote a voluntary charter.
10. Work with other professional institutions to promote a whole-systems multi-disciplinary approach for the lifetime safety of infrastructure assets.
11. The chief officers of ICE and relevant professional institutions to maintain a co-ordinated disaster response capability and triage decision-taking process, to help Government and the authorities respond to an infrastructure incident.
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