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Confused with licensing

Confused with licensing

Confused with licensing

(OP)
Hello all!

First off, sorry if this is in the wrong section, there's so many here.

I have tried to find this answer for myself, but there seems to be such a massive gray area, and many differing opinions out there on this topic.

I recently got a degree in mechanical engineering and have been doing freelance work, mainly circuit board design and 3d printing prototypes for startups for consumer products.

Everything I learned in school taught me that you only need a PE if you are signing off on engineering docs, public works, building's, ect. Most people with a MechE suggest that it is not needed.

So my questions are:
1. Can I form a company that does design and prototyping for consumer products?
2. If so, is it not advised to have the word "engineering" in the company name?
3. If I can't have a company that can do this work, would hiring a PE, and having him have a board seat qualify?

Any advice is appreciated. It is just really frustrating that it seems like I wouldn't be able to do this, because consumer products are seperately regulated, and I'm not doing any work that requires a stamp.

I'm in Florida also.

Thanks!
Kyle

RE: Confused with licensing

Agree with IRstuff....read the law (Chapter 471, Florida Statutes) and the rules of the state board (Chapter 61G15, Florida Administrative Code).

In Florida, if you offer engineering services to the public, you must be licensed as a PE and your company must have a Certificate of Authorization.

RE: Confused with licensing

(OP)
Thanks for the replies! I have definitely read that and was part of the reason for me asking.

471.005 defines engineering as:

"Engineering includes the term “professional engineering” and means any service or creative
work[...] which embraces such services or work, either public or private, in connection with any utilities,
structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, work systems, projects, and industrial or
consumer products or equipment of a mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, or thermal nature,
insofar as they involve safeguarding life, health, or property;

So my takeaway from that section is for consumer products, it is only requiring of a license if the consumer product is intended to protect life or property, i.e smoke alarm, fire extinguisher, ect.

It seems incredibly illogical to me that:
1. For me to design a consumer product for a company when the outside company will be the one selling and offering it to the public, and the product will be required to have proper approvals, that I would have to be a licensed engineer. Yet the company selling it to the public would not.
2. If I right now wanted to start a consumer-based company, invent and create multiple product lines, and sell them to the public, I would not need to have a PE, only to have the products meet all needed regulations. But, if I offer that exact same service for an outside business, somehow I am then required to have a PE..?
3. If a Google search is made for "Product design and prototyping, Florida," those companies are required to be licensed engineering firms because they offer "service or creative
work, the adequate performance of which requires engineering education, training, and experience".
4. If someone asked any random person to "engineer" them a new type of pencil, they wouldn't be allowed unless they have a PE..?

Thanks again!

RE: Confused with licensing

While I'm sure you'll find as many opinions on this forum as you've probably already heard, I would suggest contacting your state board directly for clarification (as they'd be the ones to "come after you" should you find yourself on the wrong side of their interpretation).

The Florida Board actually has one of the more helpful websites I've seen - their Contact page gives you direct phone numbers and e-mail addresses to many of their staff directly, including their legal department. I'd reach out to them with your specific details and put the question to rest.

Best of luck!

RE: Confused with licensing

Well, you're reading that wrong. It means that the products must be designed to protect the life, health and property of the public, regardless of the type of product. For example, a poorly designed circuit board inside a poorly designed case of some product could catch fire and burn a house down regardless of the function of the product.

Now, on the other hand if you're doing work assisting other companies with parts for a product then I really don't see the problem with carrying on. You're not offering any of these services to the public.

RE: Confused with licensing

"either public or private"

RE: Confused with licensing

I don't read it that way at all, Lionel. If you remove all of the language not pertaining to what he is designing towards (consumer products), the rule only applies to consumer products meant to safeguard life, health, or property. If the product being designed is for safeguarding a life (like a smoke detector), then you want a PE involved, otherwise, no PE needed.

Definitely something to clarify with the board...

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Confused with licensing

This is not nearly as confusing as it looks like on the surface. If your company is "holding itself out to the public as an engineering firm" you need to have a P.E. in an ownership/director position. Just "hiring a P.E." doesn't do it unless you are a corporation and you hire him/her as a director, otherwise just having a P.E. on staff isn't enough.

I do all my work for companies (never private individuals) whose resulting output is not going to be used directly by the public (e.g., I don't design apartment houses), so I never use my P.E. stamp for anything and all my work comes under the industrial exemption. But I wanted to call my business "MuleShoe Engineering" not "MuleShoe Solutions" or "MuleShoe Energy" so I got my P.E. It seems like your proposed operation would likely fit in the same category so you have to choose between "Kyle223 Solutions" or "Kyle223 Engineering". The first does not require a P.E. in responsible charge, the second does.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Confused with licensing

Seems to me that the out is always in " offer engineering services to the public;" if you are scrupulous in paperwork, records, advertisements, etc., and can readily show that you are not offering such services to the public, you meet the letter of the law.

Note also, the law has a separate exemption for defense, space, and aerospace companies.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Confused with licensing

I suppose you could claim your product was designed to not safeguard life health and property. I suspect you may have other problems, however, since such a product is clearly mis-designed and would be a liability.

RE: Confused with licensing

MacGyverS2000 - There is no reason to assume that the word safeguarding only applies to safety related products.

Safeguarding - "protect from harm or damage with an appropriate measure." or "measures to protect the health, well-being and human rights of individuals, which allow people — especially children, young people and vulnerable adults — to live free from abuse, harm and neglect."

To re-word the statement, substitute measures to protect the health, well-being and human rights of individuals for safeguarding life, health, or property.

As a different example. Say you're designing passenger elevators. The elevator is not a safety product, but you still need to provide safeguards (mostly in the form of redundancy) that prevent the elevators from hurting or killing people. You should not be designing the elevators that become deadly it a single failure occurs.

----

As for the OP. At the end of the day, if you don't call your company an engineering company and never claim to provide engineering services and don't try to do public work that obviously should be engineered (designing structures or electrical system plans for examples), then you're most likely OK.

You mentioned 3D printing. I doubt anyone would take offense to you creating 3D models and then printing them for walk-in customers unless the application of the piece is structural and could hurt or kill someone if it failed.

RE: Confused with licensing

What does offering services to the public mean?

It appears that most responders here are taking the position that the public means consumer level, i.e. to an individual.

I think the public includes companies that will eventually produce the designs. If you are offering services to anyone or any company that will contract with you for services then you are offering services to the public, even if you only take on one client at a time.

If you were a wholly owned subsidiary of a manufacturing parent company and constrained by the terms of your corporate charter from soliciting or accepting clients other than the parent company then you would not be offering services to the public or if you were a department of the manufacturing company only designing for in house production then you would not be offering services to the public. Just about any other business model would be offering services to the public.

I also concur with LionelHutz, a building component will have an impact on health and life safety even if it is not a stand-alone life safety component like a fire alarm. All parts of the building comprise a system that will impact health and life safety components.

For example , if you were designing a ventilation system there would be a requirement for smoke control, safety shutdowns, fire dampers etc. in the system. These would impact life safety. Even a normal ventilation system, where you are controlling and maintaining an acceptable indoor air quality system would have an impact on health of the occupants.

Best to check with the authority having jurisdiction and get the correct reply.

Let us know how they respond.

RE: Confused with licensing

"I think the public includes companies that will eventually produce the designs. If you are offering services to anyone or any company that will contract with you for services then you are offering services to the public, even if you only take on one client at a time."

This, at least, is an exemption covered in the California PE law.

"For example , if you were designing a ventilation system there would be a requirement for smoke control, safety shutdowns, fire dampers etc. in the system. These would impact life safety. Even a normal ventilation system, where you are controlling and maintaining an acceptable indoor air quality system would have an impact on health of the occupants."

This is a not a product for sale, per se.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Confused with licensing

Come back a few steps then: You develop (design) a new shaped wrench to unscrew oil filters.
If the handle breaks off and the broken head injures the user, your product did affect safety directly.

A coffee pot overheats, the handle falls off and the pot drops on the child's head. Safety again will be called up.

A friend was involved a lawsuit about those hand steamers for curtains: Burns, sputter, hot water on the floor.

In GA, you must be registered to offer engineering services as well.

RE: Confused with licensing

But then could the manufacturer in turn sue the design engineer? (Assuming that the design was followed and the failure was a design failure, not substandard material?)

This is why I like the Canadian model where the practice of engineering is broadly defined so that anyone doing design needs to be licensed ( or managing designers or any of a wide variety of job functions that are legally defined as engineering.)

RE: Confused with licensing

Quote:

But then could the manufacturer in turn sue the design engineer? (Assuming that the design was followed and the failure was a design failure, not substandard material?)

If the engineer is an employee then there is little/no point. The employee has little money to take, likely has shown good faith following corporate design quality process, and suing employees is a good way of alienating current and future staff. If the engineer is a consultant then sure, they're insured just as any business so the company only has to worry about alienating their supply base. IME, industries tend to be small worlds so barring major losses its not in a company's best interest to sue their suppliers. Therein lies the giggle, consultants are notorious for supplying lousy engineering, many of them being licensed.

In the US, PE law is written to protect the public from paying for lousy engineering. The public's right to do their own lousy engineering is also guaranteed by the same laws. Businesses are a different entity not protected by these laws.

RE: Confused with licensing

They wouldn't sue their own employees, but they might certainly fire their butts and provide a "fired for cause" response for any future employment inquiries. In most cases, the company simply sucks it up, particularly when no single employee can be clearly blamed, or if no one from the original design team is even still around. And some of these sorts of things can be pretty huge; I've seen companies suck up tens of millions of dollars of overruns because the original design wasn't manufacturable or testable. And, there's always the feature that doesn't work, and the response comes back with, "Oh yeah, we never got around to testing that one."

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Confused with licensing

One would think that you are already working with an attorney to start up your business.

Would it not be a better option to address this question to the attorney? The legal opinions stated by engineers on this forum will be absolutely worthless in a court of law.

RE: Confused with licensing

Didnt read all the above answers, but here is my answer. Get your PE. It add validity to your title, company, etc. Its a harmless process.

RE: Confused with licensing

Public means everyone. States usually define what engineering and engineering activities are.

Like jrisebo, get licensed for all of those reasons and to remove all doubt. It really is a harmless process.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: Confused with licensing

This may not seem as straight forward as the language in the law implies. What is the public? You have to look to your particular state law and the exemptions it allows. Generally, the public is anyone that is outside of your own company that might be exposed to your engineered product or service. Most states provide an exemption for employees doing work on or in their own company industrial facilities. That is because in theory most Industrial Company's controls access to the facilities, have their own internal design rules and is generally liable for any accident or injury and the employee is generally following the dictates of management. While I have a real problem with that theory as it has lead to some of the more horrific accidents in the oil and gas industry and along the Houston Ship Channel, it is because these industries have major political leverage and can get this exemption put into law. In reality even most plants allow access to vendors, delivery personnel and other contractors that should be considered public.

There are also an number of other types of exemptions, like for federal government employees, and utility employees, etc. Really up to your state legislature to decide who they think it is important to regulate or exempt.

Then there is the issue of jurisdiction. Most states will tell you that they have no jurisdiction to prosecute unlicensed practice in their state as long as the engineering work is for a plant or project in another state. That state may have jurisdiction, but how do they reach someone for prosecution who may never lay foot in their state. Once again it will fall upon the owner of the facility and their liability for using an unlicensed engineer or an unstamped drawing, if and when some issue arises.

As a licensed engineer you assume the responsibility of protecting the health, safety and the welfare of the public first. This actually generates more liability for you personally then not being licensed, since according to most state laws a non licensed engineer cannot assume the responsibility for there end product, a licensed engineer does. Seems sort of an oxymoron type of legal philosophy. But it is one that an engineering manager hired by a Company and put over me as a licensed engineer told me had been advised by his attorneys not to get licensed so he could avoid some of those liabilities. And I can tell you from experience that even as a licensed engineer I have had some documents I signed and before they were sent to a client were changed by an unlicensed engineering manager WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE. The engineering manager just didn't want to tell the client the truth because he thought it was not the answer the client's internal (and unlicensed engineers) wanted to hear. When a complaint was filed with the state board in the state the work was done in the complaint was not upheld, because the work was for a project out of state. The State Board were the project was to be done, because they delayed so long the project was eventually cancelled, they were able to dismiss the complaint since the violation did not occur in their state.

I have been an engineer for over 40 years and licensed for over 20. I am licensed in four and at one time as many as six states and am a managing partner and supervising engineer in a licensed engineering firm in two states. There are many days I question why I have to take all the mandated continuing education and pay all the licensing fees. Seems I have to also have to comply with a lot of higher ethical standards mandated by law that many in our profession seem to ignore. Particularly when I look around at all those doing the same consulting work that I am doing and not bothering to get licensed.

SO ultimately my answer to your question is: Ethically you should, it just depends on how ethical you are.

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