The Case for Chemistry as a Regulated Profession in BC

The Case for Professional Chemist as a Regulated Occupation in BC

All of us are familiar with professionals whom we engage daily to provide us with services: physicians, lawyers, engineers and architects.  All of these are regulated occupations whose members are licensed and registered in professional associations. Through that registration the public has confidence that their credentials, including education and experience, will ensure the highest competency, expertise and ethical standards.  Each of these professions has had a statute or enactment of the British Columbia legislature passed to set the anticipated standards and instill that public confidence.  Some of these enactments are recent while others date back many years.

There is one outstanding exception in British Columbia. Chemists who are registered members of the Association of the Chemical Profession of British Columbia have an exclusive right to the title Professional Chemist, which is granted by government, but as yet do not have a statute that establishes the standards of this vital profession in legislation.

In this section we lay out the case for fully regulated occupation status for Professional Chemists in the province by first exploring the importance of the work of chemists in our economy and in our everyday lives.

Chemistry touches all aspects of the economy, human health and environmental protection.

In assessing the case for the vital role of the chemist, it is chemists’ work out of the public view which is of key importance to our economy and well-being. For example every aspect of the LNG process, from the hydraulic fracturing, the water management and reclamation in the production cycle, to the physical processes of liquefaction involves chemistry.  Our pulp and paper and metals extraction and refining industries are built upon chemical processes. Our emerging high-value materials and biomedical innovations are based in chemistry. In many respects chemistry is the assumed and silent science that drives our economy.  Just as vital are the chemical processes that determine the movement and the degradation of contaminants in soil, in groundwater, and in the atmosphere. Chemistry provides our understanding of those dynamics and ultimately guides the science-based decision making that affords us our environmental protection.

Regulated professions are an essential component of public confidence.

While the role of chemistry and of the Professional Chemist described above may be understood, public trust requires documentation of credentials and assurance that competencies are maintained. Validation of the professional credentials of those offering services to the public is best achieved through a properly constituted and recognized professional association. For chemical professionals in British Columbia, the ACPBC is currently providing all aspects of that mandate, and is ready for that role to be recognized in statute.

A professional chemistry association:

  • Ensures that chemical services are being offered by competent individuals with appropriate skills and knowledge in the chemical sciences. When all professions have parity of recognition and scope of practice the chance of incompetent performance is reduced. In regulating the Professional Chemist, the ACPBC establishes and monitors standards for its members and publishes a roster of members in good standing.
  • Ensures that accountability and discipline procedures provide protection of the public. These are framed within a mandatory code of ethics that every professional member must sign before registration by the ACPBC. Concerns of the public are addressed through a complaints process and a disciplinary process that is already as thorough as those in the legislation of other professions. These essential elements of a regulatory authority, currently in place for the ACPBC, are described in more detail “Capacity of ACPBC to Act as a Regulatory Authority”.
  • Coordinates the process for labour mobility of chemists in Canada with other provincial chemistry associations. Transferability of professional credentials under the New West Partnership Trade Agreement and Chapter 7 of the Agreement on Internal Trade is undertaken by and administered by professional associations identified by provinces as Regulatory Authorities or as recognized members of the national organization the Federation of Canada’s Professional Chemists/ Federation des chimistes professionels du Canada (FCPC). The FCPC is a member of the Canadian Network of National Associations of Regulators (CNNAR).On a national level, professional chemistry associations are organized to regulate and maintain the occupation of Professional Chemist and Chimiste in Quebec. Such a national network, more fully described in “Chemistry as a Regulated Profession in Canada”, provides additional confidence that the profession will protect the public interest when established in an enactment in BC.

Post-secondary education in BC produces highly qualified chemistry professionals.

To maintain the public trust in services provided by professionals, regulated occupations are charged to maintain membership criteria and ongoing standards of professional competency of members.  In British Columbia we have the finest university chemistry programs in Canada and graduates of these programs are highly qualified for their careers as Professional Chemists.  Further, the Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry from British Columbia’s universities are accredited under the Canadian Society for Chemistry to a standard highly respected internationally. The system of standards for initial qualification in chemistry is the equal of, if not more rigorous than, the other scientific disciplines that are currently recognized in provincial legislation.

Are there consequences in the Professional Chemist not being recognized?

Preceding comments have emphasized the positive contributions of fully regulated Professional Chemist in all aspects of our lives and the economy. In any full analysis it is useful to identify the gaps, inefficiencies, and risks that can be encountered currently through not fully and directly using the competencies and accountability of the Professional Chemist.
Risk management
Many areas of chemical practice involve managing risks posed by spills, hazardous waste and previously contaminated sites. Ensuring that water, air, and foodstuffs meet standards reduces risk to human health and the environment. When the Professional Chemist is not regulated it leaves open the possibility that employees with inadequate competencies in chemistry may assume work in all these areas with greater risk to the public and the economy.
Efficiency and Responsiveness Reduced
Currently chemistry professionals do not have sign off authority in some government regulations even in their areas of expertise, and are not eligible to reach management levels in some areas of the government simply because of the lack of a statute and the ensuing regulated status. As a result their expert findings must be filtered through another professional who may not have appropriate chemical training to appreciate the nature of the findings they relay. Not only is this current situation inefficient, it can result in delays in decision-making when urgent action may be required.Illustrations of actual economic loss and enhanced risk in dealing with remediation and cleanup that were not based on adequate professional chemical advice and direction have been well documented and understood by industry. Not surprisingly the information is often privileged or restricted. In fact, some ACPBC members have a business practice solving problems that arise in industrial processes where chemical expertise is all that is needed for a rapid solution.

Summing up the case for the Professional Chemist.

The efficiency and quality of results required in the management of decisions involving chemical expertise can be optimized by recognizing the Professional Chemist in legislation and establishing full professional recognition in parity with other professions in British Columbia.