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    Nine strong recommendations to the Johnson Commission: The Ordre asks for management plans and the creation of a powerful centralized agency for safe public infrastructures

    samedi 30 juin 2007
    • In a brief presented today to the Commission of inquiry into the collapse of the Concorde overpass, the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ) recommends strong measures to prevent events like September 30, 2006 at their source.
    • According to the OIQ, which was granted status by the Commission, the government should establish a public agency whose principal mission is to ensure consistency in the application of various recommendations on the long-term management of public infrastructures by both municipalities and government departments.
      Through its recommendations, the OIQ wants to ensure that the state of infrastructures does not jeopardize the health or safety of users in the long term. In fact, the OIQ recommends that all owners and managers of infrastructures be obliged to adopt a long-term management plan. Such a plan lists the various actions (preventive maintenance in all its forms, refurbishing or renovation, reconstruction, etc.) that must be planned in the long term to offer citizens satisfactory service quality.

      OIQ president, Zaki Ghavitian, Eng., points out: "Naturally, to intervene, you have to know the state of a structure, you need technical resources and investments, as well as rigorous follow-up of the application of such management plans, especially under the supervision of an engineer. To ensure that such a program is sustainable, the government must institute a strong, centralized public agency, a kind of watchdog charged with making sure that citizens have access to infrastructures that are open, safe and functional, and offer the public the possibility of verifying the condition of a particular engineering structure. Public infrastructure must be sheltered from political and economic cycles."

      In its brief, the OIQ does not express any opinion on the individual behavior of the engineers involved in this particular structure. That is the responsibility of the investigative and supervisory services of the OIQ, which work independently of the Commission. The OIQ has followed the work of the Commission very attentively and taken note of the evidence introduced. "Any complaints filed with the Committee on Discipline will be made public at the appropriate time and place. The OIQ is working in parallel with the hearings and will draw its own conclusions," the OIQ president added.
      In terms of professional practice, the OIQ is extremely concerned by one important aspect of the supervision of engineering works and traceability of actions, starting with design and continuing through every stage in the lifecycle of a structure.

      Mr. Ghavitian explains: "Currently, our legal framework contains no provision requiring an engineer to supervise the construction of a structure designed by an engineer. That is a serious shortcoming, especially when it involves works that are complex or critical in terms of safety. In addition, we would like to see the compulsory introduction of systems making it possible to trace back to the source, nature and persons responsible for any changes occurring during construction and the lifetime of a structure, as well as any evaluation or inspection. We hope that the Commission will adopt our recommendation to require supervision of this type of construction work by an engineer." The OIQ did not wait until the Concorde overpass collapsed to engage in a more general review of the condition and management of public infrastructures.

      Furthermore, Mr. Ghavitian points out: "Choosing the most economic solution does not necessarily favor innovation. Such a formula is incompatible with the use of the performance obligation specification we recommend and thus needs to be amended. The technology chosen must be economical throughout the lifetime of a structure, not just in the short term."

      The whole world has followed the work and deliberations of the Commission live over the Internet. Québec society has managed and maintained its infrastructures too long with clearly inadequate budgets and a short-term vision. It has been forced to deal with the most urgent matters first, without regard to the lifetime and long-term performance of infrastructures. It is time to take steps to reassure the public. "Québec is in the spotlight, and the expectations are high," adds Mr. Ghavitian.
      Mr. Ghavitian noted that the conclusions of the Commission's report will also enable the OIQ to clearly define the areas for
      intervention to protect the public and the public interest, for which action plans involving professional practices can be expected.

      About the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec
      Founded in 1920, the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec has a membership of more than 60,000 engineering professionals in all fields, except forest engineering.
      The mission of the OIQ is to ensure the protection of the public by supervising the practice of the profession within the framework of its constituent laws and ensure that the profession serves the public interest.

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