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radekw (Structural) (OP)
8 Dec 06 13:35
I am a recent graduate engineer working for a structural engineering company in Canada. I work directly under the supervision of professioal engineers licenced in Ontario and they take responsibility for my work by directly reviewing and stamping/signing my work.
My company also does work in the U.S. and recently I have been involved with a project in the state of New York.
No one at the office here has a P.E seal from New York so we hired a P.E with a New York seal to stamp the drawings for us. The issue is that he doesn't actually review the drawings but instead he has provided us with a scanned copy of his signed stamp with a direct reference to the project written across the stamp.
Are there any legal issues regarding this type of use of the P.E seal? I use his stamp on letters that address specific issues the contractors may have, but I also sign the letters myself; could this be considered forgery even though I technically have his permission to use the stamp?
sms (Mechanical)
8 Dec 06 13:38
You need to look at the law in New York, but that would not fly in Texas at all.

-The future's so bright I gotta wear shades!

Helpful Member!  MiketheEngineer (Structural)
8 Dec 06 15:26
That is basically illegal and in violation of the Code of Ethics in any state that I know of.  I am licensed in almost 40 states.  THAT engineer could easily lose his license for this type of conduct.

Actaully - you too could be reprimanded and/or fined.

Figure out a better way!!!

Even better - any engineer having knowledge of this type of conduct is compelled to report it to the State.
JAE (Structural)
8 Dec 06 15:28
MiketheEngineer is absolutely correct.

rday (Structural)
8 Dec 06 15:52
Ditto MiketheEngineer and JAE.

This engineer certainly does not have "Responsible Charge" of the documents he is sealing. This is called "plan stamping", and is a license law violation everywhere I know.

IRstuff (Aerospace)
8 Dec 06 15:53
He has completely abrogated his responsibility as a professional engineer and should be dealt with.

TTFN



zdas04 (Mechanical)
8 Dec 06 16:51
As you can see from the uninamity of the above responses, this is not a "gray area".  To keep from getting splattered when the wrongness comes to light, I would point my supervisors toward this thread and ask if there might be a better way.  That might get you fired, but it might also keep you out of jail if something really comes apart.

David
TheTick (Mechanical)
8 Dec 06 17:02
I think if he's taking your money then it is reasonable to expect him to look at drawings and stamp them.  otherwise, he is basically just selling his stamp.  Probably not legal in most (all?) states.
whyun (Structural)
8 Dec 06 17:10
What is the usual penalty for licensed engineers "plan stamping"?

Unlicensed Practice citations typically results in an administrative fine around $1000 to $3000, rarely exceeding $5000, without a jail term.

zdas04 (Mechanical)
8 Dec 06 17:17
Reading through the lists of board-actions in the states where I'm licensed, the thing that happens in every case is loss of license.  Many companies are then directed to change their company name (can't have "Engineer" in the title without a PE in responsible charge).  Then the fines are in the range you mention, rarely as much as $5,000.

The "jail" comment was in regard to the cases where something meets the standards for "gross negligence" and the engineer is found liable for criminal charges instead of just administrative discipline.  This happened on a car park in Florida, and I think on the Hyatt sky-bridge collapse in Chicago (but I'm not sure) in the '80's.

David

David
whyun (Structural)
8 Dec 06 17:46
So it is in the best interests of the public that "in responsible charge" be clearly defined by the government, preferably a consistent definition across the board.

I am 100% against "plan stamping" or "lending" of licenses.  But in many larger national and international firms with many branch offices, "borderline plan stamping" occurs quite frequently.

In the case of the original poster, I believe the work is performed by well qualified engineers in Canada.  As long as the New York engineer reviews the plans with due diligence and has authority over the direction of the design, it may not qualify as a case of "gross negligence".

Also, correspondence, faxes and other material that are not a part of the contract document need not always be stamped and signed (it depends on the AHJ policies).  As long as the EOR is forwarded all information and is given the opportunity to review and approve, Canadian engineer may act as a representative on the EOR's behalf.
rday (Structural)
8 Dec 06 18:34
whyun,

You mean like this one from Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 12, Article 25, Part 1.

(14) "Responsible charge" means personal responsibility for the control and direction of engineering work within a professional engineer's scope of competence.

and expanded in the By-Laws & Rules of the State Board:
http://www.dora.state.co.us/aes/Rules-PEPLS.pdf

The issue noted in the original post was:

"he doesn't actually review the drawings but instead he has provided us with a scanned copy of his signed stamp with a direct reference to the project written across the stamp"

I can't think of a more clear act of plan stamping (Here's my seal, put it on your drawings) No control, no direction.
whyun (Structural)
8 Dec 06 18:58
"He does not actually review" is a clear violation.  What is a usual penalty for such offense? (assuming nothing falls down)  $1000?  In any case, it is really irresponsible and stupid.

I've seen previous postings related to plan stamping but can you be in responsible charge of engineers working in a different state?  Say, a staff in your branch office.
JAE (Structural)
8 Dec 06 19:04
Hey radekw - why don't you post his name and all of us here will take care of it for you.  (just kidding ... sort of)

EddyC (Mechanical)
9 Dec 06 10:37
radekw,

Someone cannot give you "permission" to use their stamp in any way that you feel like. If the authorities found out that you were doing this, they would probably fine you as well as the NY guy and maybe even ban you from getting your own license.
JStephen (Mechanical)
9 Dec 06 14:22
What he is doing is clearly wrong, as pointed out above.

Some states specifically allow an engineer to thoroughly review work done by someone else and stamp it if they are in agreement with it.  Other states require the engineer to be in responsible charge of the work done in the first place, which prohibits the review-and-seal practice.  Check the board rules.  They are available online in most states.
sms (Mechanical)
9 Dec 06 14:26
I really think you need to make the New York PE board aware of what this guy is doing. Going forward will likely save you from being implicated yourself.

-The future's so bright I gotta wear shades!

Helpful Member!  zcp (Mechanical)
11 Dec 06 13:08
radekw,
How do you know he does not review the drawings? Did he tell you specifically (personally) to use his stamp for all drawings and letters and he did not want to see any of them?

Find out the whole story before you proceed. If it ends up that your company is using his stamp in a way he does not authorize, your company could be in equal trouble.

While your initial description of the situation is dire, sometimes the recent grad does not have the full picture.

I think each and every one of us here would want to get the full story before throwing people under the bus. If it turns out he is plan stamping, then he should be disciplined. But let's not forget the trial process and innocent until proven guilty before that.

ZCP
www.phoenix-engineer.com

geodan (Geotechnical)
11 Dec 06 13:42
ditto zcp.  From the initial description, the engineer is clearly in the wrong.  However, it would be prudent to ascertain all the facts and evidence before going forward or making any absolute dununciations.
SylvestreW (Mechanical)
11 Dec 06 13:44
Plain and simple, it's wrong.
Personally, I would contact the P.E. and explain the situation, and ask that he review all the work as necessary and stamp himself.  
I would also let your boss know of the situation and explain that the NY engineer needs to do the review.

IF the NY engineer chooses to not review but still stamp, at that time I would take it a step further.

But definitely protect yourself and DO NOT stamp anything on his behalf.
VAD (Geotechnical)
11 Dec 06 14:33

The company who has solicited this type of deal is also subject to review and in my opinion would be culpable as well as the NY Engineer. Having said that, this practice goes on much more often in Canada than we think. It is often seen as an easy way to make money, notwithstanding the embarrasment and fines that can result. I would seriously question the ethics of the company as well. You may wish to discuss this with your boss. I am really surprised at your company allowing this type of non professional conduct.

As an aside, some Associations in Canada have sanctioned the use of worked being farmed out to overseas companies but the stipulation is that such work must be reviewed and stamped by the responsible persons in the company that has shipped the work overseas. The bottom line is dollars although it is said and accepted that lack of staff and busy schedules warrant such action.  
Ashereng (Petroleum)
11 Dec 06 14:59
radekw,

I am not a lawyer.

Interesting. All else aside, in reply to your query of "forgery": When you sign on his stamp, do you sign his name or yours?
If you sign your name, then I don't think it is forgery.
If you sign HIS name, then I think that is forgery.


In general, I am also with zcp -  before taking any action, be certain of the facts. To accuse someone wrongly is also unethical, and illegal (defamation and/or libel in this case).

Having said that, using another engineer's stamp is probably illegal in most jurisdictions. Using another engineer's stamp, and signing his signature, is probably illegal, and also falls under forgery. In addition, fraud may come into play. And, in this case, conspiracy may be involved since there are many people involved. Lastly, since this crosses both state and international borders, someone may be contravening international agreements, national laws of both countries and such.

Interesting.

"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater."   
Albert Einstein
Have you read FAQ731-376 to make the best use of Eng-Tips Forums?

JAE (Structural)
11 Dec 06 19:42
One more point (of the many many well stated points above) is that IF   ANYTHING   EVER    FELL    DOWN ....

the PE's attorney could very well say something along the lines of "Hey, they stamped my seal and signed my name - I had no control over what they did.  They forged my name.  I had NO IDEA they were doing this.  Yes, I had them apply my seal to some projects, but only those that I personally had supervision over.  This one they just used my stamp in an unethical way as they NEVER told me they were doing this."

...it could happen.



DRC1 (Civil/Environmental)
11 Dec 06 23:20
Seeing how you are a recent grad you are probably low man on the totem pole, which is how you got stuck with this. Obviously this is not a good situation. You should confirm what you said to be sure it is correct. Document everthing in detail and keep a copy at home. If something bad happens, they are not interested in sactioning you, but they wll talk to you about the practice and suddenly everyone is going to be surprised at what you were doing. Tchnically, fixing someonelse signature to a document to look like they wrote or reviewed it when they did not maybe forgery or fraud. If the work is federal work, it may be subject to false claims action.
In any case you probably can't change the firm, so carefully document who told you to do what. I would also seriously consider if this is a firm you want to work for
Ron (Structural)
16 Dec 06 20:33
Unethical and illegal in the US.  I believe it also violates the ethics considerations for which you Canadians have a separate and important part of your own licensing requirements.

Don't condone it.  Don't participate in it. Report it.
dik (Structural)
17 Dec 06 11:48
A couple of issues... as a recent graduate, he should approach his mentor (superior?) and be careful of how he approaches this. He has a career to 'sh*tcan'.  It can be approached from an ignorance point of view and that he's just wondering... It is possible that the work is being reviewed by the EOR behind the scenes.

At various times, I've been involved with projects where the owner (for insurance reasons) has sealed work that I've done.    I've not asked the owner for details about his review... and, I assume he has done this... Even for small projects, when I've prepared the invoices to the client, I've always included an estimated time for the owner to review the work and tagged it as No Cost, for PR reasons as well as covering parts of my anatomy... Invoices were generally signed by the owner, or at very least copied to him...

The practice described by radekw is illegal and unethical in any of the provinces I'm registered in excepting 'behind the scenes' review by the EOR.
RossABQ (Mechanical)
22 Dec 06 20:44
I think there is potentially more "gray area" here than is being stated.  First of all, an electronic seal image is commonly allowed (WITHOUT SIGNATURE) to be affixed by the CAD jocks;  it is WORTHLESS until it is wet-signed and dated.  I'm not hearing anything here that says he has given them an electronic scan of his SIGNATURE, just his seal. It sounds like the use of the electronic seal is being limited by the "project reference", which indicates a concern for liability; anyone concerned about liability wouldn't be passing out his signature.

This would be such an egregious violation if things were as described that I can't believe it is the whole story.   

I agree with zcp, I suspect the junior engineer is simply not aware of the whole picture.
davidbeach (Electrical)
22 Dec 06 21:11
From the OP

Quote:

scanned copy of his signed stamp with a direct reference to the project written across the stamp.
Sounds to me like it already signed.
RossABQ (Mechanical)
23 Dec 06 11:14
Guess I missed that word "signed".  Stick a fork in him, he's done!
gibson64 (Civil/Environmental)
1 Jan 07 12:28
I have not read through this entire thread, but per my recent posts, NY has very specific rules about stamping documents in NYS (which may be the same as other states).  Check the New York State Department of Education website FAQ:

http://www.op.nysed.gov/pefaq.htm.

It discusses who and who may not perform services in NY as well as stamping/sealing issues.

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