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Company's Engineer of Record

Company's Engineer of Record

Company's Engineer of Record

(OP)
Hi all,
The engineering firm I work for has asked me to become one of their engineers of record, allowing the firm to become a "professional engineering" firm.
I understand the responsibilities that come with stamping design documents, but what should I be aware of if my name is being put up there as one of the firm's PEs? I'm offered a bonus if I accept, but I have a "what's the catch" feeling. Thoughts?

I design aqueducts in a parallel universe.

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

In some states an officer of the company and often the president of the company must be a PE for the company to be an engineering company. These same states do not allow a company to use the word "engineering" unless this is so.
I recall a state holding Bell South liable because some of their non PE employees had the word engineer on their business cards.
You must also make sure the company has E&O insurance to cover you.

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

I would suggest that if you accept, the company must agree to indemnify you for your decisions on behalf of the company. This is understood in many jurisdictions but should be stated if not a common occurrence in your jurisdiction. Check your state laws.

Depending on the state, you may or may not need to be an officer of the company. I have been both....engineering qualifier and engineer as officer.

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

(OP)
New York is the state. And the firm is, indeed, looking for PEs so it can keep calling itself an engineering firm. PEs are hard to come by in our branch!
Our firm has E&O insurance, and that's the kind of information I was looking for. I'll make sure to understand what it all means when/if I sign up.

Have their been firms (or bosses) who would retaliate against a PE if he/she refuses to stamp design documents? It'd be illegal, obviously, but there are always ways...

How does anyone feel, regardless of what the state laws say, about stamping documents from a different discipline? For example, an ME signing off on chemical scope, or electrical...?

I design aqueducts in a parallel universe.

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

First question, certainly this happens, and a quick perusal of these forums will find situations where engineers are being asked to do things that they shouldn't. You don't want to work someplace that does that, anyhow. (Inadvertent situations in which someone asks to do this, and then you say you're not going to do it and explain why, and that's the end of it, isn't what we are talking about here.)

Second question ... I'm certainly not doing that.

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

Most states laws require one to practice only in your area of expertise. So an ME stamping Chemical or electrical plans is wrong, illegal and stupid.

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RE: Company's Engineer of Record

(OP)
@ JAE: I disagree. An ME can have expertise in electrical systems related to his mech systems. Some disciplines have an overlap Mech/Chem, process engineers comes in mind, and I've seen a lot of ME stamping "process" drawings.

Reading the rules, a PE can seal work done by others provided a thorough review and written report are completed.

It doesn't mean that I'm inclined to do that.

I design aqueducts in a parallel universe.

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

OK - so let me clarify - an ME (mechanical engineer) with ONLY mechanical experience stamping electrical drawings where they have zero or little experience is stupid.

My point is that many engineering laws are semi-self-regulated whereby the engineer is expected to only practice where they have competence, experience, and/or education.

The engineer is the first arbiter of where or if they should practice.
If they deviate outside their expertise, and problems arise, projects fall down, blow up, etc., then the local engineering board will review and determine if they did indeed practice outside their expertise.

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RE: Company's Engineer of Record

If they deviate outside their expertise, and problems arise, projects fall down, blow up, etc., then the local engineering board will review and determine if they did indeed practice outside their expertise.

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

The key phrase that I've always seen pertaining to signing off work is "within your competence," competence being defined as a combination of education and experience. That doesn't necessarily limit you to your NCEES defined degree-field, it limits you to what you've done under the tutelage of experienced senior engineers. Even within your own degree field, if you haven't done it professionally then you cannot ethically sign off on it.

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

Being competent is required, however the Engineer must also be responsible for the work
  • in control of the work,
  • make or approves the decisions
below is from the California rules which spell this out very well. Most states have similar rules.

Quote (2010 Board Rules (16 CCR §400-476))


404.1. Responsible Charge– Professional Engineering.
(a) As used in the Professional Engineers Act, the term “responsible charge” directly relates to the extent of control a professional engineer is required to maintain while exercising independent control and direction of professional engineering services or creative work and to the engineering decisions which can be made only by a professional engineer.
(1) Extent of Control. The extent of control necessary to be in responsible charge shall be such that the engineer:
(A) Makes or reviews and approves the engineering decisions defined and described in subdivision (a)(2) below.
(B) In making or reviewing and approving the engineering decisions, determines the applicability of design criteria and technical recommendations provided by others before incorporating such criteria or recommendations.
(2) Engineering Decisions. The term “responsible charge” relates to engineering decisions within the purview of the Professional Engineers Act.
Engineering decisions which must be made by and are the responsibility of the engineer in responsible charge are those decisions concerning permanent or temporary projects which could create a hazard to life, health, property, or public welfare, and may include, but are not limited to:
(A) The selection of engineering alternatives to be investigated and the comparison of alternatives for the project.
(B) The selection or development of design standards or methods, and materials to be used.
(C) The decisions related to the preparation of engineering plans, specifications, calculations, reports, and other documents for the engineered works.
(D) The selection or development of techniques or methods of testing to be used in evaluating materials or completed projects, either new or existing.
(E) The review and evaluation of manufacturing, fabrication or construction methods or controls to be used and the evaluation of test results, materials and workmanship insofar as they affect the character and integrity of the completed project.
(F) The development and control of operating and maintenance procedures.
(3) Reviewing and Approving Engineering Decisions. In making or reviewing and approving engineering decisions, the engineer shall be physically present or shall review and approve through the use of communication devices the engineering decisions prior to their implementation.
(b) Responsible Charge Criteria. In order to evaluate whether an engineer is in responsible charge, the following must be considered: The professional engineer who signs engineering documents must be capable of answering questions asked by individuals who are licensed by the Board in the appropriate branch of professional engineering relevant to the project and who are fully competent and proficient by education and experience in the field or fields of professional engineering relevant to the project. These questions would be relevant to the engineering decisions made during the individual’s participation in the project, and in sufficient detail to leave little question as to the engineer’s technical knowledge of the engineering performed. It is not necessary to defend decisions as in an adversarial situation, but only to demonstrate that the individual in responsible charge made, or reviewed and approved, them and possessed sufficient knowledge of the project to make, or review and approve, them.
Examples of questions to be answered by the engineer could relate to criteria for design, methods of analysis, methods of manufacture and construction, selection of materials and systems, economics of alternate solutions, and environmental considerations. The individual should be able to clearly express the extent of control and how it is exercised and to demonstrate that the engineer is answerable within said extent of control.
(c) Successor Licensee. In situations when the professional engineer in responsible charge of an engineering project is unavailable to complete the project or when the project is a site specific adaptation of a previous design, a professional engineer (hereinafter referred to as the “successor licensee”) may assume responsible charge of the project as long as the successor licensee exercises the requisite extent of control and assumes responsibility for the engineering decisions as required by subdivision (a) and meets the criteria described in subdivision (b), as well as meeting the requirements of the Professional Engineers Act and Sections 411 and 415. Except as provided in Sections 6735, 6735.3, and 6735.4 of the Code, the original licensee is not relieved of any responsibility arising from the engineering services of which he or she was in responsible charge.
(d) Portions of Projects. Nothing in this section prohibits a professional engineer from providing services for portions of or to add to or to modify an engineering project engineered under the responsible charge of another licensee as long as the professional engineer exercises the requisite extent of control and assumes responsibility for the engineering decisions as required by subdivision (a) and meets the criteria described in subdivision (b), as well as meeting the requirements of the Professional Engineers Act and Sections 411 and 415. The professional engineer need only be in responsible charge of the portions, additions, or modifications or the portion of the project affected by the addition or modification and not of the entire project. Except as provided in Sections 6735(b), 6735.3(b), and 6735.4(b) of the Code, the original licensee is not relieved of any responsibility arising from the engineering services of which he or she was in responsible charge.
(e) The term “responsible charge” does not refer to any of the following:
(1) the concept of financial liability;
(2) management control in a hierarchy of professional engineers except as each of the individuals in the hierarchy exercises independent engineering judgment and thus responsible charge;
(3) such administrative and management functions as accounting, labor relations, personnel performance standards, marketing of services, or goal setting. While an engineer may also have such duties in this position, it should not enhance or decrease one’s status of being in responsible charge of the engineering.

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

There's a lot of very complex answers to this question, but when you separate the wheat from the chaff, they boil down to these two things:

Make sure they have professional liability insurance with your name on it.

Make sure you don't stamp anything that's wrong.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Company's Engineer of Record

This is from an Australian industry group's document but the principles probably still apply.

"Professional employees should insist on their employment contract expressly providing that:
- The employer will indemnify the employee against liability while the employee is acting within the scope of his/her employment;

- The employer will organise professional indemnity insurance to cover liabilities incurred by the professional during the course of their employment; and

- The employer will pay the applicable excess in relation to any claim and will not seek recovery from the employee."

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