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Do Engineering Reports Need to Be Signed and Sealed?

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Introduction

In regard to forensic engineering, there is a misconception that engineering documents unrelated to construction are not required to be signed and sealed, but in fact, this is not true for a wide variety of documents, including engineering reports. This article is intended to increase awareness on the vast extent of documents, including engineering reports, that are required to be signed and sealed by engineers.

Florida, Texas, and Arkansas have been used as examples as it concerns the points raised in this article, and cites to their licensure laws have been provided. However, because licensure laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, practitioners are encouraged to check with each state to ensure full compliance with local rules and statutes.

What Constitutes the Practice of Engineering?

States such as Arkansas [Article 2.D(1)] and Florida [F.S. 471.005(7)] use the Model Law definition for the Practice of Engineering. This definition basically states that any service or creative work which requires engineering education, training, and experience—such as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, and design of engineering works and systems; the inspection of construction for the purpose of determining compliance with drawings and specifications; and such other professional services as may be necessary to the planning, progress, and completion of any engineering service—is the practice of engineering.

However, more and more states have taken Texas’s lead and have begun identifying activities that, in and of themselves, constitute the practice of engineering:

§ 1001.003(c)(1) “The practice of engineering includes consultation, investigation, evaluation, analysis, planning, engineering for program management, providing an expert engineering opinion or testimony, engineering for testing, or evaluating materials for construction or other engineering use”

Therefore, developing and issuing a document or report that contains a professional engineering opinion or engineering directive does, in and of itself, constitute the practice of engineering.

Are Engineering Reports Considered to Be Engineering Documents?

A number of states’ engineering licensure laws identify or define engineering documents as encompassing any instrument of service that expresses a professional engineering opinion or provides an engineering directive.

States such as Texas [§ 1001.401(b)] and Arkansas [Article 12.B.2] identify engineering documents within their rules as being a “plan, specification, plat, or report.” Florida is one of the states that provides a definition of an engineering document:

61G15-30.002(4), F.A.C. “Engineering documents are designs, plans, specifications, drawings, prints, reports, or similar instruments of service in connection with engineering services or creative work that have been prepared and issued by the professional engineer or under his responsible supervision, direction, or control.”

Therefore, if the engineering report contains a professional engineering opinion or engineering directive (both of which fall under “engineering services”), then yes, an engineering report is an engineering document.

Are Engineering Documents Required to be Signed and Sealed?

Common to all states is the requirement that all final drawings, specifications, plans, reports, or documents prepared or issued by the licensee (engineering documents) related to construction are required to be signed and sealed. Also common to all states such as Florida [F.S. 471.025(1)], Texas [§ 1001.401.(b)], and Arkansas [Article 12.B.2.], is the requirement that all final drawings, specifications, plans, reports, or documents prepared or issued by the licensee and filed for public record or provided to the owner or the owner’s representative be signed and sealed.

Conclusion

To avoid a licensure violation, licensed engineers are best served by simply developing the practice of signing, dating, and sealing any document produced that contains an opinion, directive, or creative work based on or reflecting the practice of engineering. Similarly, any individual not licensed in the state where the project existed should not issue any document that contains an opinion, directive, or creative work based on or reflecting the practice of engineering to avoid the unlicensed practice of engineering.

Acknowledgments

We thank William C. Bracken, PE who provided insight and expertise that greatly assisted this research. If you have any questions, please contact William at wbracken@jsheld.com.

References

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This publication is for educational and general information purposes only. It may contain errors and is provided as is. It is not intended as specific advice, legal, or otherwise. Opinions and views are not necessarily those of J.S. Held or its affiliates and it should not be presumed that J.S. Held subscribes to any particular method, interpretation, or analysis merely because it appears in this publication. We disclaim any representation and/or warranty regarding the accuracy, timeliness, quality, or applicability of any of the contents. You should not act, or fail to act, in reliance on this publication and we disclaim all liability in respect to such actions or failure to act. We assume no responsibility for information contained in this publication and disclaim all liability and damages in respect to such information. This publication is not a substitute for competent legal advice. The content herein may be updated or otherwise modified without notice.

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