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Strange PE sealing request

Strange PE sealing request

Strange PE sealing request

I am a Civil PE in New Jersey and I have been requested by our client who is a quasi State entity to seal my plans in a very strange way. The client wants me to seal the mylars (yes the mylars not the paper) with a New Jersey embossing seal (stamps are not allowed in NJ) and then dust it with pencil dust to allow copying. I feel that this is contrary to the the State Board rules and I would ask anybody's opinion on this. The entity has made it clear that if I do not do this I will not get any further work.

RE: Strange PE sealing request

I've done this when I needed a copy of a document that had an embossed seal and I needed to have the seal show up on the copy.  I never thought twice about there being anything wrong with doing this.  What is there in New Jersey's regulations that make you think this is a problem?

RE: Strange PE sealing request

I can see embossing linen drawings, paper, or sepia prints, but not mylar for the simple fact that I don't think the mylar would allow the embossing to properly occur to enable it to be legible.

But if the client insists, I don't see anything wrong with it other than:

1. Over time the embossing might be unreadable
2. The sealing of reproducible mylars might allow someone to change the design without you knowing it - creating a set of plans with others work on it and your seal on it.

We used to seal mylars all the time with ink, but we always kept these originals in our control to avoid unathorized changes without our knowledge.

RE: Strange PE sealing request

The New Jersey State Board of P.E. guidelines on seals cautions against the use of your impression seal in a manner where it might be reproduced photographically and it also states that it is inadvisable to seal over your original signature (especially if this is going to the client and not remaining in your control as is the case here). Also within the Statutory requirements facimiles of seals are not permitted. In addition to the possible legal questions there is a very practical issue that mylar does not take a seal very well.

RE: Strange PE sealing request

How obvious is the difference between a paper copy made from a mylar and a paper copy made from a paper copy?  I.e., just how irreproducible is a stamped paper copy anyway?

Most TX designs that I've seen have the stamp applied electronically and then they sign the mylar with a pen.  The trend is to get away from paper copies altogether and go straight to electronic transmittals.


Eng-Tips policies:  FAQ731-376

RE: Strange PE sealing request

This is another good reason why an official copy of the construction documents should be retained in-house.

RE: Strange PE sealing request

In my home state, that is not allowed by the state board.  A mylar is reproducible.  You should not seal a reproducible document (except for the obvious copyable documents)....at that point you have no control over changes to the document and it already has your seal on it.

In New Jersey, their published guidelines for sealing documents states:

(2) It is not advisable to seal originals of master documents, since these documents could conceivably be altered without your knowledge. It is recommended that you seal prints or copies of the originals only, subject to the requirements of laws such as the Map Filing Act, P.L.
1960, C.141.
(3) The Board cautions against the use of your impression seal in a manner where it might be reproduced photographically.

RE: Strange PE sealing request

In NJ, do you have to seal each and every copy of a document? That just seems silly.

Using mylar seems a little silly to me as well.

The whole thing is just weird to me.



RE: Strange PE sealing request

Ron, I understand the concept of not sealing a reproducable - but really, in the 1980's EVERYTHING we produced was on mylars, all hand sealed and signed by us, and these were used to make multiple bluelines.  But eventually the mylars were returned to us so there was no way they would be misused.

Today, I seem to sense, there are a lot of clients who want to retain possession of the mylars (if they are made).  Most of what we do now is paper only where we hand seal and sign individual sets - usually about 3 to 5 - for use in getting permits and to have a signed set on the site.

RE: Strange PE sealing request

JAE...I agree that it has been a fairly common practice; however, because of a few instances of misused or re-used plans, it has been a liability issue for engineers.

Florida is pretty simple in its approach...Mylars, sepias, and originals are not to be sealed.

I also agree that many times owners and architects will put in a contract provision for ownership of documents.  I disagree with this provision and it is one of my 8-10 contract flags that I try to get resolved.  I usually tell them that the State requires that engineers maintain control of produced engineering documents (which is true).  That works for almost everyone except public agencies that insist on document ownership.  In those cases I make it clear that they must indemnify me from use without my written permission.

There's nothing wrong with providing mylars to clients...just not sealed ones.  When electronic signing/sealing gets more accepted, this will offer us more protection for document changes.  We can seal, they can reproduce at will, but we'll know if they changed anything.

RE: Strange PE sealing request

The rule seems odd to me all the way around.  I'm licensed in a number of states (not NJ or FL), and I don't recall any other state having this requirement.  And practically every seal I see can be reproduced photographically- even the state seals on the PE certificates that the boards themselves send out.

RE: Strange PE sealing request

I always preferred to seal this way, and have refused to use an ink stamp.

If they make a copy of your embossed and smudged sealed drawing, it is obviously a copy, which seems easier to deny responsibility for in court.

If they make a copy of an ink stamped drawing, there seems to be no good way to tell if it is an original or a copy.

I just see a huge advantage in being able to determine originals from copies.

Also, mylar can be made more pliable with a heat gun, zippo; or to a lesser degree, with a  hair dryer.

RE: Strange PE sealing request

   I take it the danger of sealing a reproducible is that someone could modify it, keeping your seal in place?

   I have most of the tools needed to modify mylar drawings.  I would need a Leroy template to do the job properly.  I have not looked into lettering templates lately.
   Can you methodically use fonts I cannot produce easily?  Any lettering template works with Rapidograph pens which leave rounded ends to lines.  These look a lot like AutoCAD's ROMANS font.  If you use a True Type font, lettering templates will not do an invisible modification to the drawing.

   If I were really determined to unethically modify your drawings, I could use Letraset, if it is still available.  I would have to do a very good job of this.  At some point, it would be easier just to go back and reason with you.  You might want to stick with fonts designed for computers, like Verdana and Tahoma.  

   Is there a way to print a mylar without the emulsion?


RE: Strange PE sealing request

For what it's worth...I've seen test reports with drawings have the seal taken from a legitimate report and taped onto the modified report, then copied and passed off as the real thing....they did a good job with it, but the engineer that did the original work happened to see it while reviewing documents for another client and that's when the fecal matter contacted the rotating blades.

It's not other engineers you have to worry about...it's the unscrupulous developers and contractors who'll try stunts like that.

RE: Strange PE sealing request


   It is also hard-driving, obstacle crushing managers you have to worry about.  Your only protection now is that most people who know how to edit mylar drawings and about and how to use Leroy templates, know what an engineer's stamp means.

   But dammit, that looks like another &#^%&*# obstacle.


RE: Strange PE sealing request

You've got to think that the intent of the Board's prohibition on ink seals is to limit the possibility of reproduced documents bearing a seal.

Your client's request is contrary to this apparent intent, and  his threat to withhold future work is extortion.

Perhaps you could embross your seal over your signature in an obnoxious color, and the text:

"Prints issued under my control bear my signature in green ink and an embrossed seal.  Copies lacking these features were not authorized by me."

RE: Strange PE sealing request

I think the photocopied pencil scribbles should be ample indication that it's a copy and not the original.


Eng-Tips policies:  FAQ731-376

RE: Strange PE sealing request

A quote from the SD rules for comparison:
"The seal, signature, and date shall be placed in such a manner that can be legibly reproduced on the following:
(1) All originals, copies, tracings, or other reproducibles of all final drawings, specifications, reports, plats, plans, land surveys, design information, and calculations prepared by the licensee or under the licensee's responsible charge when presented to a client or any public or governmental agency."

RE: Strange PE sealing request

I have run into this issue in NJ as well.  The agencies people sometimes seem to ignore the NJ Lic. Board Rules at their convience, from time to time. It depends who is involved with the project.

In an effort to keep good client relations, I would try to speak with a PE in the agency about the issue, and even review the NJ Lic. Laws governing the use of seals with that person.  They should understand that you do not want to put your license at risk or break the law.  

Keep in mind it is your license to protect.  You will be levied the fines and disciplinary actions, not the client.  If you need additional help, contact the New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers or the National Society of Professional Engineers.  They have legal council that can help and even resolve the issue if you are a member.  Even if you are not a member, you should call for guidance.  This is what NSPE and the State Professional Societies do; they protect the PE license.

Good Luck

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