Engineering compliance: navigating contractor registration requirements for WA’s building engineering sector

01 July 2024

A new era dawns on Western Australia’s building engineering sector as, starting 1 July 2024, practitioners and contractors (including individuals, partnerships and companies) can apply to become registered to carry out building engineering work.

We previously explored how these new laws impact practitioners, to access please click here. This article focuses on how these new laws impact contractors performing building engineering work in Western Australia.

Key takeaways

  • Registration of building engineers commences 1 July 2024 and all those practising in the areas of civil, structural, mechanical and fire safety engineering must be registered by 1 July 2027.
  • Building engineering contractors must register and employ at least one nominated supervisor (who is registered as a practitioner) in each area they provide services (ie structural, fire safety, civil and/or mechanical).
  • To ensure compliance, contractors should consider the adequacy of supervision of its building projects, professional indemnity insurance arrangements, and obligations relating to Continuing Professional Development and dealings with the WA Building Services Board.

Do I have to obtain contractor registration?

Registration is mandatory for contractors who engage or subcontract with others in WA to provide building engineering work1 within a prescribed engineering field.

‘Building engineering work’ encompasses design, construction and production activities relating to buildings and incidental structures.2 Where engineering work is not related to a building or incidental structure registration is not required (e.g. a civil engineer working on a road or infrastructure project).3

Moreover, the work must involve identification of engineering principles and how to apply them to a service. This is opposed to only applying or checking work was performed in accordance with a prescriptive standard.4 Thus, contractors specialising in drawing up designs in accordance with an engineer’s instructions or checking joints have been constructed in accordance with approved drawings are exempt.5

Prescribed engineering fields are structural, fire safety, mechanical and civil engineering. The legislation does not apply to electrical, chemical, industrial and petroleum engineering contractors.

Key considerations before applying

Registration level

Contractors should first determine an appropriate level of registration based on the nature of their services.

Except for fire safety contractors, registration is done by levels:

  1. Professional – allows contractors to perform both professional and technical engineering work on buildings of any size or class;
  2. Technologist – allows contractors to perform technical engineering work on medium-rise buildings; and
  3. Associate – allows contractors to perform technical engineering work on low-rise buildings.

For fire safety contractors the regulated scope of work is as follows:

  1. Fire safety (Professional) – allows contractors, known as ‘fire safety contractors’, to perform both professional and technical fire engineering work on any building;
  2. Fire systems (Technologist) – allows contractors to perform technical fire engineering work on any building (as opposed to only medium-rise buildings for other prescribed engineering fields); and
  3. Fire systems (Associate) – allows contractors to perform technical fire engineering work on medium-rise buildings (opposed to only on low-rise buildings for other prescribed engineering fields).

Supervision

Under the new laws, contractors will commit an offence and face disciplinary actions if they fail to ensure all building engineering work is properly managed and supervised.6

There is limited statutory or policy guidance on what constitutes ‘proper management and supervision’. To help ensure compliance, contractors should consider the following:

  1. Determine the appropriate number of nominated supervisors: Contractors should assess the number of supervisors needed to ensure proper supervision of its projects. At least one supervisor is required for each prescribed engineering field in which the contractor provides services. The exact number will depend on factors such as the volume, geographical distribution, and complexity of the contractor’s projects.
  2. Select the appropriate type of nominated supervisors: Supervisors must be registered at the same or a higher level than the contractor to properly supervise work. For example, a supervisor registered as a technologist cannot oversee work for a contractor who is registered as a professional.
  3. Tailor internal reporting lines: Contractors should structure their internal reporting lines to ensure that supervisors are responsible for directing, overseeing, evaluating and taking responsibility for the work carried out by unregistered engineers. This is particularly important if the contractor manages numerous employees and/or projects over a wide geographical area.

Review operational procedures and policies: Contractors should ensure their operational procedures, processes and policies facilitate proper supervision. This

  1. includes establishing procedures to ensure that supervisors have direct contact with unregistered engineers and are fully aware of the work being performed. Written and electronic communication (such as phone and video conferencing) is acceptable, but communication via a third party is not.7

Professional indemnity insurance requirements

Contractors are required to hold adequate professional indemnity insurance covering their commercial risk.

In addition to insurance, contractors must show they have financial capacity to contract for building engineering work and are able to pay their debts.8

Registration dates

Registration of structural and fire safety contractors commences 1 July 2024 and becomes mandatory on 1 July 2026. Mechanical and civil contractor registration commences 1 July 2025 and becomes mandatory on 1 July 2027.

CPD and notification obligations

Finally, contractors should familiarise themselves with their registration obligations, including CPD requirements,9 the WA Building Engineers’ Code of Conduct, and their duties to notify the WA Building Services Board of any changes in circumstances.10

Conclusion

The upcoming registration requirements create a shift toward increased accountability and reliability in Western Australia’s building engineering sector. The new laws require thorough supervision, compliance standards and ongoing obligations, aligning WA’s building engineers’ sector with other Australian jurisdictions.

While the long-term impact on the industry’s reputation remains to be seen, these measures are expected to enhance the quality and trustworthiness of building engineering work, weed out non-compliant engineering practitioners and foster industry-wide reliability for years to come.

This article is written by Kate Morrow, Partner, Ra’d Qandour, Associate, and Oliver Basura, Law Graduate.


1Building Services (Complaint Resolution and Administration) Regulations 2011 (WA), new regulation 4B(1).

2Building Act 2011 (WA), s3.

3Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, ‘Guide to Building Engineers Registration in Western Australia’ (2023), 5.

4See also definitions of ‘professional engineering work’ and ‘technical engineering work’ in the Building Services (Complaint Resolution and Administration) Regulations 2011 (WA), new regulation 4B(1).

5Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, ‘Guide to Building Engineers Registration in Western Australia’ (2023), 5.

6Building Services (Registration) Act 2011, ss18(1)(e) and 53(1)(f).

7WA Building Engineers’ Code of Conduct (linked here), s1.6.

8Commerce Regulations Amendment (Building Services) Regulations 2023 (WA), s28N.

9See here for more information on CPD requirements.

10Building Services Registration Act 2011 (WA), ss32-37.

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