Elliot Lake: Did Engineers Cause Mall Collapse?

Algo Centre Mall Collapse

Following the collapse of the roof of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake which killed two people and injured 20 others in June, Constable Marc Depatie of the Ontario Provincial Police states – rightfully – that ‘the community is entitled to answers.

This is especially true given widespread reports about safety issues regarding the mall prior to the incident, including a Facebook photo album from one local showing cracked tiles, rusted support beams and missing ceiling tiles, and statements from another resident that she was so concerned about the structure that there were times when she was afraid to enter the building.

A major question revolves around the issue of whether or not shoddy engineering work was a factor in the collapse.

To answer that question, Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), a statutory body which regulates over 80,000 engineers in the province under section 38 of the Professional Engineers Act, has launched an investigation into the incident.

PEO president Denis Dixon says the organization will look into whether engineering work regarding the structure of the mall was done properly, adding that disciplinary action in the event of misconduct or incompetence could lead to the engineers in question having their license suspended or revoked.

Algo Centre Mall Collapse

“It is imperative that we determine if work by PEO licence holders was performed competently and in compliance with the regulations under the Professional Engineers Act, as well as other applicable statutes, regulations, standards, codes, bylaws and rules,” Dixon said. “This action is necessary to carry out our mandate to govern licence and certificate holders and regulate professional engineering practice to serve and protect the public interest.”

In addition to conducting its own inquiry into engineers specifically, PEO has offered to assist Justice Paul R. Bélanger, who is leading the public inquiry into the mall’s collapse.

PEO has offered help in reviewing rules, policies and processes of provincial and municipal governments with regard to structural integrity and safety of buildings as well as in relation to emergency management.

Dixon says the organization has also recommended that Premier Dalton McGuinty create a ‘provincial engineer’ position to take overall authority for engineering works throughout the province and provide specific direction in the event of similar accidents to that which occurred at Elliot Lake to determine whether such incidents are indicative of any systemic problems.

The community is certainly entitled to answers regarding the recent collapse. From an engineering perspective, at least, it seems these will be forthcoming.

By Andrew Heaton

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