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sundale (Structural) (OP)
8 Jun 07 11:23
I am a structural engineer in a consulting engineering firm that specializes in oil and gas pipeline and facility design for large production companies.  The brunt of our work is mechanical engineering and controls system engineering (piping and processes), but we also do structural, electrical and civil grading plans.  My background is commercial buildings and am new to the oil and gas industry.

My ethical issue stems from the fact that I am the only P.E. who stamps the drawings when issued for construction to the client.  All other disciplines do not stamp their work and it is usually checked by senior designers (draftsmen) who are quite good, but not licensed P.E.'s.  

I have formally raised an issue with management up to the president of the firm (and is also a P.E.) and everybody opines that "Well, we have been doing this for years and we nor any other consulting firm stamps their engineering drawings is this industry".    

My opinion is that it is f%cking crazy (and unethical and illegal) to issue final engineering drawings for a HIGHLY PRESSURIZED FLAMMABLE GAS that are not prepared under the responsible charge of a P.E.  If there is an error in the design, the consequences would be expensive and perhaps lethal.

The law is quite clear.  Preparing engineering drawings for a client constitutes the practice of engineering and all final engineering drawings prepared by a corporation shall bear the stamp and signature of the P.E. in responsible charge.  We have NOBODY in official reponsible charge stamping the drawings we issue in these mechanical, electrical, process and civil disciplines.

I am required to report such issues to The Board if public safety is at risk, which I believe it perhaps is.  My future at this firm is obviously limited if I do this and it is likely already been truncated by simply formally raising the issue.  Namely, informal discussions and the formal letter was received poorly by management and the discussions so far have been "philosophical" as if laws, public safety and engineering ethics are open to interpretation.  From my ethical perspective, I am debating whether I want to associate with firm with this sort of attitude, so my leaving would be mutually acceptable.  The problem is that it's a small town and structural jobs are not plentiful and I have a family to support.

I would appreciate any sage advise anyone has to offer me in my quandary.        
whyun (Structural)
8 Jun 07 11:49
I've been in situations where I was pressured to stamp drawings prepared by others in my former company's branch offices not under my direct responsible charge.  In addition, there was another pressure of stamping without my personal review because the project is "overbudget".  Though the contents of the drawings were not major "public" structures, I saw it as unethical (to the client) and unfair (to me as a professional).  I'm no longer with the firm.

I really hope that you are stamping the sheets relevant only to your area of expertise and not all the other sheets blessed by the senior designers.  I have no idea about the AHJ for the types of projects you do but what is their stamping requirement?  Is your stamp even required?  I would avoid stamping whenever not required by law.

Finally, verify whether your compensation is appropriate for your level of professional liability.
sundale (Structural) (OP)
8 Jun 07 12:16
Thanks whyun.  I only stamp the structural drawings and they are prepared under my direct responsible charge.  Nobody stamps any other engineering discipline drawings...

The local jurisdictions typically do not require stamped drawings.  My argument is that it is a state law (in the four states I'm licensed anyway) pertaining to the practice of engineering that all final engineering drawings issued to an arm's length client shall be stamped by a P.E. in responsible charge. What the county building department says is not the issue.
BJC (Electrical)
8 Jun 07 12:33
Check the laws in your state.  In most states only things like public buildings, schools, hopitals and the like have to be stamped.
Sometimes lenders and insurance companies want things stamped but it's not a legal requirement.
My experienc with oil companies is that know more than you and they don need no stinking stampl.
JAE (Structural)
8 Jun 07 13:13


In most states only things like public buildings, schools, hopitals and the like have to be stamped.

That isn't true, BJC.  In most states, ANY building that is designed for private clients must be by a licensed professional.  The only exceptions would be in industrial settings where an in-house engineer is designing something for an in-house purpose, on private land, and not open to the public.  Also - federal projects generally are exempt from state licensing laws and don't need building permits, but the federal agencies generally require a PE anyway.

Helpful Member!(2)  zdas04 (Mechanical)
8 Jun 07 15:45
You need to be very careful about throwing around words like "unethical" or "illegal" when you do not have a single clue what the hell you are talking about.  

In the vast majority of Oil & Gas operations there is no legal or historical requirement to even have an engineer involved in piping design.  I've been in fields with thousands of miles of pressurized piping that has been "designed" by folks with a high school education that have never even read the ASME piping codes.  The job title of "piping designer" is usually a tech job filled by people who have built pipe but never been to college.  The law that you are saying is clear (i.e., that preparing engineering drawings for clients constitutes the practice of engineering and all final engineering drawings prepared by a corporation shall bear the stamp and signature of the P.E. in responsible charge) just isn't so.  That quote may apply to buildings and bridges, but if an engineer prepares a furniture layout for an office he doesn't have to stamp it.  If he prepares a pipeline design there is not requirement that he be a P.E.

Before you throw this nonsense up in your bosses faces, check your facts because according to the law they are right and you are wrong.  We may be talking about a public-policy issue that you can bring up with legislators and regulators, but the way the regulations stand today there are not many situations that require a P.E. stamp on any part of the piping for a pipeline.

Just an aside--when the EPA first proposed that their Spill Prevention Countermeasure Control (SPCC) plans be stamped by a P.E. they were astonished at the fire storm that was created.  They quickly were informed that the concept of involving P.E.'s in Oil & Gas was foreign to the industry and in one of the intermediate drafts of the rule revision that requirement was removed (it was later reinstated because of pressure from outside the industry, but it was a close thing).

EddyC (Mechanical)
8 Jun 07 16:33

The industry that you are working in falls under one of the PE exemptions. These exemptions are spelled out in most states rules & regulations. I suggest you read the regulations a little bit further. While you may not agree with the PE exemptions (and I don't either), its the way it is.
sundale (Structural) (OP)
8 Jun 07 16:42
Thanks for your rather harsh reply zdas04.  I am asking for advice here and will be more careful with my terminology in the future.  Please do the same.  

I most carefully read and reread the engineering statutes and it would appear to me that piping design for an arm's length client constitutes the practice of engineering.

"Practice of engineering" means the performance for others of any professional service or creative work requiring engineering education, training, and experience and the application of special knowledge of the mathematical and engineering sciences to such professional services or creative work, including consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design, and the observation of construction to evaluate compliance with plans and specifications in connection with the utilization of the forces, energies, and materials of nature in the development, production, and functioning of engineering processes, apparatus, machines, equipment, facilities, structures, buildings, works, or utilities, or any combination or aggregations thereof, employed in or devoted to public or private enterprise or uses.

You are saying that a pipeline design for a client involving hoop and radial stresses, accoustical pulsations, thermal stresses, support stresses, etc. and specifications for operating temperature, corrosion allowance, and maximum working pressure for a complex system of pipes carrying a highly flammable substance constitutes the same amount of engineering expertise as an office furniture layout?  

I freely admit being a novice to the oil and gas industry, but it seems to me that this is fairly complex and dangerous stuff one is "designing": exactly what the engineering licensure laws were meant to address.

sundale (Structural) (OP)
8 Jun 07 16:59
Thanks EddyC.  I have Read and reread the exemptions to the practice of engineering.  This is not internal engineering for a company's own use, it is not federal work, it is not a generic manufactured product, and it is not strictly acgricultural in nature.  

In short, engineering practice exemptions do not apply for oil and gas work in the state in question but perhaps they do for other states.
steve1 (Structural)
8 Jun 07 20:19

I am a PE Civil/Structural who worked in the pipeline industry for a few years. Here’s my storey and commentary.

I was employed by a company that provided pre-engineered products for the natural gas industry that were factory built. These were not small objects, typically 60’ to 100’ long, 12’ wide and high, on skids or inside of precast concrete buildings. My job was to design the foundations for these structures along with miscellaneous other supports for such things as dish antennas and small towers. We almost always received a geotechnical report for the planned site. The projects always involved pressurized gas piping, including tapping into existing gas lines.

The only drawings that were stamped were my foundation plans. The mechanical, electrical, scada, etc parts were quite complex. The lead engineers for each discipline were PE’s, but only in their home states. Now here’s the rub; none of the owners were PE’s. I raised the question of corporate engineering licenses. I was instructed by one of the owners to investigate the requirements for these. It turned out that not all states required the owners to be licensed. Some did, some didn’t (at least in the states where we had projects). You can bet that I felt exposed as the only engineer to stamp any drawings coming out of my firm.

On the other hand this firm did employ a few PE’s and, for the most part, the technicians all seemed qualified on the basis of experience. The mechanical engineer assured me that all pipeline work was done under federal rules and regulations.

I often raised questions about PE requirements and the impression that I got was that it wasn’t a requirement. It seemed to be the way it is.

The firm did pay for the considerable time and effort that I put in to become NCEES certified and I ended up with a dozen PE licenses. These became a good asset when I was laid off as I was able to land a better paid, more interesting job.

 I would say that you’re just going to have to accept the situation or seek other employment. In the meantime protect yourself with lots of documents such as written design criteria, memos, emails, etc that show that you are doing the right things to protect the pubic.

Good luck to you.
BobbyNewmark (Electrical)
8 Jun 07 20:58
sundale is quite right:  the PE regulations are extremely broad and vague, while also sounding scary.  In many fields there are almost no PEs left because licensing is ambiguous and difficult.

My suggestions for not getting chopped up by the bureaucracy:

1.  Do decent work.  If your machine was designed with reasonable care and you don't act like a fool, a jury is less likely to smash you.

2.  Document defensively:  hazard warnings everywhere, performance promises nowhere.

3.  Don't get caught.  Don't complain, don't attract attention, don't stamp unless somebody asks for it, and so forth.

4.  The Boards tend to only come after people who are malicious, incompetent, or ROCKING THE BOAT.  They know that if they actually enforced all the licensing regs, the economy would grind to a halt.  The Texas Board got handed its ass by their legislature when somebody went after Jack Kilby (inventor of the integrated circuit) for calling himself an engineer.
Helpful Member!  JStephen (Mechanical)
8 Jun 07 23:21
My two cents worth on the above:

First off, much of the oil and gas work is exempt under industrial exemptions.  But, if you read those exemptions, it means that a company designing it's own facilities is exempt.  That exemption does not extent to consultants doing work for them.  So the electric utilities may be able to design their own facilities without a PE, but if you are acting as an electrical engineering consultant, that exemption does not extend to you.

A second exemption is for "manufactured items".  Example:  Design of a car doesn't necessarily require a PE.  In the case of the skid-mounted equipment above, it is quite likely exempt by virtue of being a manufactured item, but, as noted, that doesn't extend to the foundations.  If that skid item is assembled on site, that exemption is much more in doubt, although the rules aren't always clear on that issue.

There are multiple laws that require certain work to be stamped.  You may have a building code that requires certain building designs to be stamped.  But suppose a consultant designs an outhouse.  The building code may not require that to be stamped.  BUT, the laws that govern the practice of engineering will quite likely require that consultant to stamp his work, even though the building code doesn't.  Some areas don't enforce building codes, but that doesn't mean the practice of engineering is unregulated in those areas- they are two different things.  You might compare it to use of a driver's license- you may need it to buy liquor, but just because the liquor store doesn't require it doesn't mean you can drive without it.

The engineering laws tend to be poorly enforced, partly out of ignorance.  If you're not licensed, you probably don't spend a lot of time perusing state licensing laws and enforcement actions and it's very very easy to get into situations that you simply ought not to be in.  The engineering boards basically depend on complaints as their enforcement mechansism, and as long as nothing blows up, falls down, or people don't get ticked off at each other, you can have a lot of improper work done without any enforcement actions taking place.

There is oftentimes a perception that as long as a customer doesn't require a work to be stamped, that a stamp is not required.  In fact, the engineering laws require certain items to be stamped, regardless of whether anyone else cares or not.

One way of looking at this issue is to recognize that doing the same work with more qualified people adds value to that work.  Engineering registration is a part of that qualification.  The company in question really needs an attitude shift, to recognize that they can do the types of work they are doing now, but do it better and charge accordingly.
BobbyNewmark (Electrical)
9 Jun 07 1:27
"First off, much of the oil and gas work is exempt under industrial exemptions."

Do you have a citation to back this up for any U.S. state?  I find no exemptions in my state's laws.

"A second exemption is for 'manufactured items'."

Citation, please.  The laws of my state explicitly extend to even "consumer products ... insofar as they [safeguard] life, health or property".  So it takes a PE license to throw together a cheesy rain alarm for your friend who keeps leaving the top down on his convertible.  It takes a PE license to design a clock radio, because some granny might use it to tell when to take her blood pressure pills.

"The engineering laws tend to be poorly enforced, partly out of ignorance."

But mostly because they were impossible to adhere to.  When I graduated, my state required four CONTINUOUS years of engineering practice as a direct report to a PE.  Take a vacation?  Get laid off?  Get sucked off on business development for a few weeks?  The clock started over.  You either had to lie, devote your whole life to getting that PE, or write the whole thing off as a bureaucratic fossil.  Several generations of young engineers did the latter.

I just looked at my state's laws for the first time in years and they finally seem reasonable.  Now there might be a point to trying for a PE.
GTstartup (Electrical)
9 Jun 07 10:07
I think it's stretching it a bit to say that a clock radio safeguards "life, health or property"

Are you saying that every component on a car was or should have been designed by a PE?
BobbyNewmark (Electrical)
9 Jun 07 16:48
GTstartup, I'm just going by what the PE laws say.  In many jurisdictions, they cover everything under the sun that requires an engineering education to do properly.

"Are you saying that every component on a car was or should have been designed by a PE?"

Many of the components, yes.  Several subsystems like steering linkage, brakes, and high-voltage prime mover power are life critical during normal operation, and system integration must avoid numerous smaller risks.  Certainly the public deserves better than the new tradition of recalling every 10th model on account of it catches fire while parked.
wannabeSE (Civil/Environmental)
9 Jun 07 17:31
Here is the section on exemption for industies from California's Professional Engineer's Act

6747. Exemption for industries
(a) This chapter, except for those provisions that apply to civil engineers and civil engineering, shall not apply to the performance of engineering work by a manufacturing, mining, public utility, research and development, or other industrial corporation, or by employees of that corporation, provided that work is in connection with, or incidental to, the products, systems, or services of that corporation or its affiliates.
JAE (Structural)
9 Jun 07 19:55
wannabeEIT - that exemption verbiage is pretty common thoughout the US states.  I don't know about non-US areas, though.

JStephen (Mechanical)
9 Jun 07 23:29

For Texas, the pertinent sections are these:
"§ 1001.057. Employee of Private Corporation or Business Entity
(a) This chapter shall not be construed to apply to the activities of a private corporation or other business entity, or the activities of the fulltime
employees or other personnel under the direct supervision and control of the business entity, on or in connection with:
(1) reasonable modifications to existing buildings, facilities, or other fixtures to real property not accessible to the general public
and which are owned, leased, or otherwise occupied by the entity; or
(2) activities related only to the research, development, design, fabrication, production, assembly, integration, or service of
products manufactured by the entity."

"§ 1001.058. Employee of Certain Utilities or Affiliates
(a) A regular full-time employee of a privately owned public utility or cooperative utility or of the utility’s affiliate is exempt from the
licensing requirements of this chapter if the employee:
(1) performs services exclusively for the utility or affiliate; and
(2) does not have the final authority to approve, or the ultimate responsibility for, engineering designs, plans, or specifications
that are to be:
(A) incorporated into fixed works, systems, or facilities on the property of others; or
(B) made available to the public."

I'm not familiar with the rules of every state, but I think most or all of the states I am familiar with have some similar provisions.  And I'm not aware of engineering laws getting any looser in the last 20 years- rather the opposite, it seems like.

I'd be curious what state you were referring to that required the 4 continuous years (meaning, no vacations).  Most states require 4 years, but I've not heard of anything worded like that.  And I'd be curious if the board in question actually interpreted it like that, or if that was someone else's spin on it.
GTstartup (Electrical)
10 Jun 07 0:21

My briefcase is a consumer product that will  

"[safeguard] life, health or property".

I doubt it was designed by a PE.

I think your interpretation of the PE "laws" is slightly too literal
sundale (Structural) (OP)
11 Jun 07 10:59
The manufacturing exemption that most states have prescribes that if the same firm performs both the engineering ("in house") and manufacturering of a generic object, then it does not need to be designed by a P.E.  This includes many things that are potentially lethal if they were perhaps designed incorrectly, such as an artificial heart, an airplane, or the brake system in your car.

If you provide consulting engineering drawings for a shovel to separate manufacturering company who is your client, then you have performed the practice of engineering and need to stamp your shovel plans.

StressGuy (Mechanical)
11 Jun 07 11:37
Certainly in Texas, I can guarantee that most of the piping, equipment, foundations, and structures that you see in any refinery or chemical plant does not have a PE stamp on any drawing.  Most engineers operating in this area do not have PE's.

I've been a PE for several years and have only used my stamp on one occasion where our project was being done for a public utility.

In pretty much every other case, where the client is a refinery, chemical plant, etc. virtually nothing is PE stamped.

There's a difference between designing an office tower for some bank and designing an operating unit for a refinery.  In our business, the ASME codes make it clear that the owner is the entity responsible for the design.  Also, most reasonably sized companies have their own engineering divisions and they control the corporate standards that we typically adhere to.  This effectively puts the operating companies in responsible charge.  

The bank is probably going to be able to say what colors they want on the walls, but they are not going to put any technical controls or exert design control over a project like that the way we typically see it in our world.

Sundale, I question you claim that how we operate is unethical.  Quite frankly, passing the exam and getting a rubber stamp for you desk does not make one more competent.  Most of the best engineers I know and have worked with have never been licensed.  

Edward L. Klein
Pipe Stress Engineer
Houston, Texas

"All the world is a Spring"

All opinions expressed here are my own and not my company's.

stevenal (Electrical)
11 Jun 07 12:40
Wannabee left out part b.

(b) For purposes of this section, “employees” also includes consultants, temporary employees, contract employees, and those persons hired pursuant to third-party contracts.

California has taken the industrial exemption to the extreme, so that even those in the business of engineering don't need to be licensed so long as their clientèle are listed in part a. California is not the best example of the industrial exemption.

Bobby, You have yet to answer the question. Which jurisdiction are you in?

sundale (Structural) (OP)
11 Jun 07 12:45
First, I wish to apologize for angering anybody about this subject; that was not the intent at all.   

However, purposely ignoring state licensure laws written to protect public safety seems a pretty questionable practice to me.  

If an engineering firm intentionally does not follow the basic standard of care to issue final engineering drawings that are not in accordance with the reasonable statutory requirement to have the P.E. in responsible charge stamp the drawings, is this ethical or legal?      

Is issuing complex engineering drawings entailing a pressurized flammable substance that are "designed by folks with a high school education that have never even read the ASME piping codes" legal or ethical?

Public safety is the number one requirement of a P.E. and the issue of simply following reasonable safety oriented engineering licensure laws is treated as unnecessary or at best optional in the oil and gas industry.  Why is this?  

Moreover, the production companies are rightfully very safety concious; this is potentially very dangerous stuff.  Why would they accept engineering drawings prepared and checked by a non-degreed non-licensed designer in lieu of drawings checked and sealed by a P.E.?

These are very strange concepts to me and I would appreciate any answers with specific statutory references in lieu of the "Grandma always did it that way" retort.  Retorts are good too however!

Passing the P.E. is the minimum bar to practice engineering.  It does not mean you are a great engineer, it only means that you are likely not a horrible engineer.  I am in agreement there are many unlicensed engineers who are quite good and that holding P.E. license only demonstrates you passed the minimum requirements.  Holding a P.E. license does, however, require that one follows all engineering licensure laws, which was the genesis of my starting this thread.

civilperson (Structural)
11 Jun 07 13:33
No PE stamp is required or wanted in refinery work.  The firm that employs you has a contract with the refinery and provides error and omission insurance if required.
SylvestreW (Mechanical)
11 Jun 07 13:56
"No PE stamp is required or wanted in refinery work.  The firm that employs you has a contract with the refinery and provides error and omission insurance if required."

On a personal note, that seems to me a rather poor level of practice.  I'm quite surprised to see some of the responses in this thread.
Sure, regulations make things exempt but to simply say "it's exempt so there's no worry" doesn't, to me, appear to be the best way to protect the public - especially given the other comments about "high school graduates designing..."

And no matter what regulations exist, what distinguishes an engineer (again, to me), is that he/she will consider the "human" impact of their design since his/her neck is on the line.

my $0.02
StressGuy (Mechanical)
11 Jun 07 16:27
For better or worse, a refinery is not "the public" the way an office building is.  A refinery is a restricted access area.  And, again, the codes make it clear that the refinery owner is the entity who is responsible for the facility.

Sundale actually hit the point without realizing it - a refinery is a dangerous place, make no mistake.  That is why the owner companies and the engineering firms that serve them have developed decades of institutional knowledge in the form of internal standards that have grown as the various dangers have been uncovered.

That knowledge and experience passed on are far more important to the safety of those affected than whether or not you can put a rubber stamp on it.  Passing the PE didn't unlock some special powers that made me more qualified to do my job.  But, working with experienced people who know this business and the dangers involved most certainly has.

To suggest that only someone with a stamp in their desk drawer cares about the safety and human impact of their work is simply arrogance.

In any case, the engineer is required only to practice in areas that they have the education and experience to be competent in.  I think a case could be made for Sundale that, with a background in commercial buildings, practicing structural design in a oil production environment could be considered practicing outside of your area.  Even as I, though a mechanical engineer, would be way outside my area trying to do an HVAC system for a building.

Quite frankly, Sundale, being new to this business, I can't see how you can be in a position to stamp anything yet.  Your work should be checked by someone with more experience in this field.

Edward L. Klein
Pipe Stress Engineer
Houston, Texas

"All the world is a Spring"

All opinions expressed here are my own and not my company's.

BJC (Electrical)
11 Jun 07 16:53
If you check the rules and regs for electricans in most states  a "signing supervisor"  can sign off on the design of many buidlings used by the public.  Schools and Hospitals take an engineer, but not so a church, a grocery store or a strip mall.  The criteria is usually something like a buidlign with an 800 amp or less service.
The regs are not in the engineering rules but in building regs and plan checking.  
JAE (Structural)
11 Jun 07 19:45
....BJC .... ok - I think you are talking electrical here and I come from a structural view....where a church, grocery store, etc. needs the structural PE seal.  I've never heard of a grocery store getting an electrical system without a PE seal, though.
BJC (Electrical)
11 Jun 07 20:21
Your right but I think in many cases its the owner or their insurance company.  The criteria is service size.  A 400 amp service for a 7-11 may not require a PE.  A 2000 amp service for a mega-store yes, most state require it.
kchayfie (Chemical)
12 Jun 07 4:51
From my viewpoint outside the US and only familiar with PE regulations as discussed on this website, if an industry is exempt the PE licensing laws don't apply so asking if its legal is like citing the laws on murder and then asking if its legal for a farmer to kill his cattle. If its is ethical is a different question: PE licensing codes were developed to protect the public; the oil industry has developed its own codes over time to protect its own workers. Why should it be more ethical to use one system of protection over another? It like saying you need to join the union of painters and decorators instead of the union of decorators and painters.
stevenal (Electrical)
12 Jun 07 11:56
Sundale does not directly work in industry, he works for a consulting firm that has industrial clients. The industrial exemption goes not generally extend to consultants. (CA is an exception)

Lots of arm waving here, and outside noise (like insurance; liability; codes; inspectors; whether non-PEs care about safety; whether a PE is qualified to do his job based on a few lines in a forum; etc.) Can anyone cite the law(s) that exempts sundale's colleagues from the stamping requirements? Please educate me. I'm an EE a long way from the industry in question.

StressGuy (Mechanical)
12 Jun 07 15:27
Here's the full text of section from the Texas code:

§ 1001.057. Employee of Private Corporation or Business Entity
(a) This chapter shall not be construed to apply to the activities of a private corporation or other business entity, or the activities of the fulltime
employees or other personnel under the direct supervision and control of the business entity, on or in connection with:
(1) reasonable modifications to existing buildings, facilities, or other fixtures to real property not accessible to the general public
and which are owned, leased, or otherwise occupied by the entity; or
(2) activities related only to the research, development, design, fabrication, production, assembly, integration, or service of
products manufactured by the entity.
(b) A person who claims an exemption under this section and who is determined to have directly or indirectly represented the person as
legally qualified to engage in the practice of engineering or who is determined to have violated Section 1001.301 may not claim an
exemption until the 10th anniversary of the date the person made that representation.
(c) This exemption does not prohibit:
(1) a licensed professional engineer who intends to incorporate manufactured products into a fixed work, system, or facility that
is being designed by the licensee on public property or the property of others from requiring the manufacturer to have plans or
specifications signed and sealed by a licensed professional engineer; or
(2) the Board from requiring, by rule, that certain manufactured products delivered to or used by the public must be designed and
sealed by a licensed professional engineer, if necessary to protect the public health, safety, and welfare.
(d) For purposes of this section, “products manufactured by the entity” also includes computer software, firmware, hardware,
semiconductor devices, and the production, exploration, and transportation of oil and gas and related products.

Now, I suppose you can argue that engineering firms are independent of the operating companies and therefore not covered by this provision.  However, again, the ASME codes make it clear that the owner/operator is the one ultimately responsible for the design of the facility.  Further, since we design facilities to the client design standards, that effectively puts them in control as well.

At any time, a client is free to ignore the advice we give and take their own course of action.  That is the nature of the relationship between engineering firms and operating companies.  It would be helpful if the Texas code were as explicitly clear as the California code.

Edward L. Klein
Pipe Stress Engineer
Houston, Texas

"All the world is a Spring"

All opinions expressed here are my own and not my company's.

joebk (Mechanical)
12 Jun 07 15:35
Sorry for the long post, here goes.

I am a PE in Ohio and I can only relate what I have found through some past research concerning Ohio law. For reference the applicable code is ORC 4733 and is available online. Please note that I am not in the oil/refinery or construction/HVAC business.

According to the OH regulations there does not appear to be ANY industry that is specifically exempt from the law. So (in Ohio) the law applies regardless of industry or public/private work. The law does explicitly require licensure for public work for projects in excess of $5K.

To me however the law is really ambiguous about when it is required to have a PE (unless it is a public work). the letter of the law states...

"(D) "The practice of engineering" includes any professional service, such as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, design, or inspection of construction or operation for the purpose of assuring compliance with drawings or specifications in connection with any public or privately owned public utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, works, or projects in the proper rendering of which the qualifications of section 4733.11 of the Revised Code are required to protect the public welfare or to safeguard life, health, or property."

Section 4733.11 spells out what is required to obtain a PE license in Ohio (exams, degree, testing, etc). The trick IMO is to determine when the qualifications required to obtain a PE are required to protect public safety/health/etc when it is not otherwise well defined. I would guess that lawyers could argue this until the earth crashes into the sun.

Exemptions listed in the Ohio code (according to ORC 4733.18);

1) An employee or a subordinate of a person registered under this chapter or an employee of a person holding temporary registration under division (A) of this section, provided the employee's or subordinate's duties do not include responsible charge of engineering or surveying work

2) Officers and employees of the government of the United States while engaged within this state in the practice of engineering or surveying, for that government

3) An engineer engaged solely as an officer of a privately owned public utility

4) This chapter does not require registration for the purpose of practicing professional engineering, or professional surveying by an individual, firm, or corporation on property owned or leased by that individual, firm, or corporation unless the same involves the public welfare or the safeguarding of life, health, or property, or for the performance of engineering or surveying which relates solely to the design or fabrication of manufactured products.

5) Nothing in this chapter prevents persons other than engineers from preparing plans, drawings, specifications, or data, from filing applications for building permits, or from
obtaining those permits for buildings or structures that are exempted from the requirements of sections 3781.06 to 3781.18 and 3791.04 of the Revised Code, that are subject to the requirements of section 3781.181 [3781.18.1] of the Revised Code, that are erected as one-, two-, or three-family units or structures within the meaning of the term "industrialized unit" as provided in section 3781.06 of the Revised Code.

6) Nothing in this chapter prevents persons other than engineers from preparing drawings or data, from filing applications for building permits, or from obtaining those
permits for the installation of replacement equipment or systems that are similar in type or capacity to the equipment or systems being replaced, and for any improvement, alteration, repair, painting, decorating, or other modification of any buildings or structures subject to sections 3781.06 to 3781.18 and 3791.04 of the Revised Code where the building official determines that no plans or specifications are required for approval.

So in OH section 4 covers what is commonly referred to as the "industrial exemption".

So is the PE or licensure for the corporation required in this case? Hell if I know for sure, I am not a lawyer. If you want my opinion (I doubt many do from past experience - ask my wife) if this was in Ohio I would tend to think this would require the firm and/or the engineers in responsible charge to be licensed.

IMO the furniture/rain alarm/clock radio comments are nonsense, get real people. Product liability, negligence, and the real possibility of costly litigation (and all the legal mumbo jumbo involved) covers a majority of issues like this (except the crazy referent to furniture).
EddyC (Mechanical)
12 Jun 07 15:59
One of my past employers had one of his "engineers" design steam powerplant piping for a local utility. The drawings were not stamped since it was to be built without a permit. Many months later, the utility requested that the drawings be PE stamped. The boss gave the drawings to me for review & stamping. I asked the original "engineer" to turn his calculations over to me for review. He told me that his "calculations" were done on the back of a napkin that he threw out immediately afterwards. Ask yourself if you really want "engineers" like this in the USA?
BobbyNewmark (Electrical)
12 Jun 07 20:04
"Bobby, You have yet to answer the question. Which jurisdiction are you in?"

Oklahoma, USA, which tends to have overbearing laws in general.  (E.g., you have to have a license to sell a coffin.)

"IMO the furniture/rain alarm/clock radio comments are nonsense, get real people."

No, the engineering laws clearly apply to all sorts of ridiculous things.  They are commonly ignored because the tort laws don't give PE violatees a cash jackpot, but that will not stop someone with an ax to grind from destroying you and your business.  For example, some environmental crusaders who decide that a plant needs to be shut down and its designers hounded out of the business.
JStephen (Mechanical)
14 Jun 07 17:40
I sent an informal inquiry in to the Texas board on a couple of items.  Their take is that a contract employee can fall under an industrial exemption just as an employee would.  But a consulting engineer or consulting company working for that client can't claim that exemption.  That has been run by the attorney general, so I assume it has come up before.

Second item was whether a PE needs to seal work done when the work itself is exempt from PE requirements.  Their position is "no", and there is currently a proposed bill that clarifies that.
StressGuy (Mechanical)
15 Jun 07 10:07
JStepehen - Do you know if that opinion of the Texas Attorney General has been posted somewhere?

Edward L. Klein
Pipe Stress Engineer
Houston, Texas

"All the world is a Spring"

All opinions expressed here are my own and not my company's.

GSTeng (Mechanical)
15 Jun 07 13:00

To return to your original questions. I have been in the O&G industry my whole career an I have seen some customers request stamped drawings but almost all O&G companies have no need for the PE stamp. I asked about it and the explanation I got was that if the equipment or building that is being designed is not intended for public use it does not need a PE stamp. All O&G facilities (excluding offices) are not intended for public use so therefore don't need a PE stamp, via this explanation.

All the O&G construction I have seen has been done under federal standards like ASME and DOT which state very clearly the requirements for wall thicknesses and welding and many, many very detail procedures and work practices. It is the responsibility of the operating company to insure these codes are followed and they do so with inspectors that are fluent in the codes. These codes were written by engineers and huge societies that specialize in each specific area of the process (i.e. welding, pressure vessels...) and with the input of many years of experience and knowledge into the documents. To suggest that the knowledge of one individual (with possibly no industry experience) with a PE stamp would provide any added protection to public safety (in a place that is inacessible to the public) over an above these codes and regulations is ridiculous.

If you are not satisfied with this try taking up the ladder and to the proper authorities or the board but I bet you will end up making a lot of enemies and getting no where with your endeavor. If you still feel it is unethical leave your current job, but I would not try to go to any other O&G related firms since you will have the same ethics problems there too.

I am not trying to be rude, but you might want to go back to commercial buildings, since your issue is not with your current employer but with the industry in general and that is not something that is easily changed.
JStephen (Mechanical)
15 Jun 07 14:08
My question was stated thus:
"Under Section 1001.057, "Employee of Private Corporation or Business Entity", one of the categories exempted is “other personnel under the direct supervision and control of the business entity”.  Can this be extended to consultants doing work for the business entity?  Example:  Refinery A hires Acme Engineering Inc. for engineering services.  Can the entirety of the work (or any of the work) done by Acme Engineering for the refinery be considered exempt?"

The answer in part:
"The Board has interpreted, with Attorney General legal counsel assistance, that this statute applies to contract personnel who are hired by the company (Refinery A in your example), not consultants under contract. So, the work done by Acme Engineering Inc. is not exempt and therefore would require the firm to be registered with this Board and have at least one full time licensed professional engineer."

Evidently, this is not a formal Attorney General opinion (in researching them, ALL AG opionions since 1939 are online in TX).

EddyC (Mechanical)
15 Jun 07 14:32
I'm glad I don't work in a refinery. For all I know, the high pressure piping could have been designed by someone's cousin Vinny. I'm not sure that I could count on the refinery to check & verify "Vinny's" work.
GTstartup (Electrical)
15 Jun 07 14:50
Pretty much the same thing for equipment and piping in the power industry.  I don't think I've ever seen a drawing, of a turbine, for example,  or it's auxiliary equipment with a PE stamp on it.

Civil Structural and maybe electrical, yes, but not mechanical
IRstuff (Aerospace)
15 Jun 07 15:13
As a general rule, such structures fall under the industrial exemption in California, which also covers consultants under such conditions when they are hired by industrial exempt companies.  

However, they'd need to be PEs to offer such services to the general public to begin with.


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

sundale (Structural) (OP)
15 Jun 07 15:52
Thanks for the replies and commentaries folks.  This has been a very spirited and interesting discussion.

The consulting engineers practicing in the oil and gas industry standard procedure is to NOT require a PE to be in responsible charge of a final set of drawings delivered to a separate industrial client. A non-licensed designer and or engineer doing this engineering work without a PE in responsibe charge (i.e. who stamps their work) is simply "how it is done".

The following reasons for this practice have been offered by the various "pro-no stamp" folks:

1.  It is "Standard practice".  No argument there.   
2.  Years and years of experience are entailed with the engineers, code writers, operators, etc. in this industry  I agree with this statement but this is also true for most any engineering discipline or industry, not just oil and gas.
3.  The operators/owners are really in control because they can ignore your designs, thus they are effectively in responsible charge. I would point out that the client can and often does ignore the consulting engineer's design in any engineering discipline, not just oil and gas.
4.  A refinery is not a "public" facility and has limited access.  This is quite true, but the same could be said for most any manufacturing facility, police station, private residence, etc.
5.  A PE stamp is no guarantee of a safe design.  100% Agreed.  A PE formally looking over the designers work certainly does not detract from design's safety though.  
6.  ASME codes put the operator, not the consulting engineer, in charge of safety so the engineer is essentially relieved of his responsible charge.
7.  Oil and gas facilities are dangerous.      

These are all valid points (some more than others...) and I would like to thank all the "pro-no stamp" folks in the oil and gas consulting engineering world for their input here despite some of the vindictive wording and inferences (GSTeng excepted)  

On the other hand, most states licensure laws prescribe the following:
1.  A consulting engineer providing consulting engineering services to an arm's length client does not meet the practice of engineering exemptions.  
2.  Anybody performing the practice of engineering to public or private clients has to follow state laws regulating the profession.
3.  Final engineering drawings issued to a client entailed with the practice of engineering shall be stamped by the PE in responsible charge.
4.  A PE is expected to both know and follow all engineering licensing laws

These licensure laws are pretty clear and sensible to me.     

What I have heard in this forum and seen first hand is that the vast majority of consulting engineers in various engineering disciplines (mechanical, electrical, structural, etc.) working in the oil and gas industry are essentially practicing engineering in violation of these licensure laws by not stamping their work.  "Licensure laws?  We don't need no stinkin' licensure laws"

Is this legal?  I personally don't think so but if everybody is going 80mph in a 55mph highway, then there is the "letter of the law" and there is the "de facto law".  

Is this ethical?  Dipped in sh*t if I know anymore.  Intentionally letting unlicensed draftsmen or engineers practice engineering is not good I think, but it is what is done and the oil and gas industry does have a tremendously good safety record when considering what it entails.    

What I do not understand is the absolute resistance to simply stamping the drawings like the law says to do.  What's the major problem with this concept?  If you follow the licensure laws, you stand a much better chance of avoiding the following nasty issues like:
1.  Getting discipinary action from your board if it should learn of one's licensure violation, via omission.  The licensure boards of most states are comprised of engineers not practicing in the oil and gas industry and would probably simply interpret the law as it is written.  
2.  Violation of licensure statutory requirements constitutes negligence per se.  This exposes one to more professional liability  as you are already 'partially guilty" right from the start in the event of a civil tort for a design error.  In reality, however, the production companies have so much money that they likely would not even bother to sue you if you muffed a design.
3.  Performing engineering outside the law will likley invalidate your professional liability insurance in the event of a tort ("uninsurable act").  Again, probably unlikely given the deep pockets of the client.
4.  Most contracts with a client state the engineer (contractor) will abide by all laws pertaining the service.  Not following the law sets you up for breech of contract issues.

I am in total agreement with GSTeng that taking this to my licensing board will create much ire.  Moreover, as "everybody is not stamping their work", it is quite likely a fool's errand.  The state licensing board has a great deal of power but so does the oil and gas industry and I am not sure I want to get in the middle of that!

stevenal (Electrical)
15 Jun 07 16:02
Seems were down to the definition of the "public." I consider refinery workers to be members of the public that just happen to also be members of the subset group known as refinery workers. I believe my obligation to protect the health and safety of the public extends to them as well. If we start whittling away all the sub groups, this obligation will be meaningless. Before you all jump on me for this, I realize different codes and standards apply to facilities that are more open to the public than refineries are. No dispute. The engineering laws I've seen do not mention the codes, though.

IRstuff (Aerospace)
16 Jun 07 2:00


Is this legal?


6747. Exemption for industries
(a) This chapter, except for those provisions that apply to civil engineers and civil engineering, shall not apply to the performance of engineering work by a manufacturing, mining, public utility, research and development, or other industrial corporation, or by employees of that corporation, provided that work is in connection with, or incidental to, the products, systems, or services of that corporation or its affiliates.
(b) For purposes of this section, “employees” also includes consultants, temporary employees, contract employees, and those persons hired pursuant to third-party contracts.
from California's 2007 PE Act:


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies

sundale (Structural) (OP)
18 Jun 07 1:18
California does clearly and expressly have the industrial exemption extend to the industry entity AND its consulting engineer.  California is different than most states on a number of levels...

The vast majority of other states do NOT have this exemption applying to a consulting engineer performing the practice of engineering for professional services rendered to a separate client.
civilperson (Structural)
19 Jun 07 12:14
Sundale's vast majority is less than sixteen states.
JStephen (Mechanical)
19 Jun 07 13:38
IE, only 16 states require consulting engineers to be licensed to do consulting work for industrial clients?
sundale (Structural) (OP)
19 Jun 07 14:07
Is civilperson stating that the industrial exemption applies to consulting engineers performing the practice of engineering for their industrial clients for 50-15=35 states?  

We know CA is clearly one of these states but that TX, OH, and OK do NOT extend this practice exemption to the consulting engineer with an industrial client.  

What are the other 34 states that allow one to perform engineering for an industrial client without preparing drawings under the responsible charge of a licensed PE (i.e. wet stamped)?
StressGuy (Mechanical)
19 Jun 07 15:35
I would be curious to know more about the history of why things are the way they are in this industry.  Really, Texas has been licensing engineers since long before I was even born and people have been designing refining as chemical facilities for as long as well.

This is clearly not a new issue as neither this type of engineering work nor engineering licensing are new things.  I would expect that the matter of why we don't stamp anything was debated and resolved back in the days of yore as well.  It would be useful to have access to that history.

Edward L. Klein
Pipe Stress Engineer
Houston, Texas

"All the world is a Spring"

All opinions expressed here are my own and not my company's.

stevenal (Electrical)
21 Jun 07 19:45
I was surprised to read in PE Magazine today that Texas formed its engineering board following a natural gas leak and explosion that killed hundreds. The leak was attributed to faulty engineering. According to the bold text in stressguy's post above this is now part of the industrial exemption making the board powerless to influence the very industry that caused them to form. How quickly we forget.  
GregLocock (Automotive)
21 Jun 07 20:22
You are making the assumption that once the nanny state takes over regulating something it will never hand over the regulation to another body, whether real or informal.

To my mind there are three levels of regulation of a design. I'll use vehicle safety as an example.

1) Thou shalt... include seat belts (for example). Or you must use a safety cell with a static crush strength of 20 kN with an intrusion of no more than 55mm (etc etc)

2) You must meet certain standards of outcomes, but the methods by which you achieve those results are up to you. eg crash testing. No more than X points of head injury criterion in a defined event

3) Adam Smith. If you want extra safety you pay for it. If a manufactiurer offers safety for 'free' then that is a competitive advantage.

For safety, by and large, Adam Smith didn't work... and still doesn't. People fit different tires to their cars rather than the ones that were tested. People won't, by and large, pay much extra for VDC.


Greg Locock

Please see FAQ731-376: Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

stevenal (Electrical)
22 Jun 07 15:13
Is the opposite assumption any more valid? The special interests looking for the exemption to cover their industry are not looking for re-regulation, they want less.
StressGuy (Mechanical)
25 Jun 07 14:56
I think stevenal is probably talking about this:

Edward L. Klein
Pipe Stress Engineer
Houston, Texas

"All the world is a Spring"

All opinions expressed here are my own and not my company's.

bilosellhi (Civil/Environmental)
8 Jul 07 2:38
I understand your situation.  Several, the majority of Civil Engineering consulting firms, are so tied to making their bottom line, that placing you as the engineer in charge by you sealing the construction drawings has become the norm.

I am a civil engineer and ex-county engineer that recently took a job in a small town in AZ.  I have 18 years experience and was hired, un-beknownced to me, to seal construction plans that were done by engineers-in-training from Iowa, where their main office was.  They were using Iowa standards and criteria that did not apply in AZ.  I was expected to seal the plans and coordinate with contractors that were bidding the work that involved commercial and industrial developments. I notified the company principals that I would not place my seal on this work until my comments and concerns were addressed.  I was fired for this.

I am currently searching for employment and will be notifying the AZ State Board of Technical Registration of what occurred once I become employed and change my registration status.

I urge all of you to turn these people in.


MikeHalloran (Mechanical)
8 Jul 07 14:14
Uh, bilosellhi, if you have a duty to report said alleged miscreants, why do you choose to delay doing so?

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

EddyC (Mechanical)
9 Jul 07 16:39

The board will want some kind of tangible proof that rubber stamping is going on. An allegation by a former employee may come across as "sour grapes". If the allegation is accepted and the violators disciplined, you may find your name out there for all prospective employers to see. I really wonder if all these prospective employers will view you in a good light after that.
DarthSoilsGuy (Geotechnical)
9 Jul 07 17:22
I 2nd the motion that you get the job first.

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