Guidelines for Professional Engineering Practice in New York State
Law, rules and regulations, not Guidelines, specify the requirements for practice and violating them constitutes professional misconduct. Not adhering to this Guideline may be interpreted as professional misconduct only if the conduct also violates pertinent law, rules and regulations, some citations of which are listed at the end of this Guideline.
Guideline 3: Professional Seals and Signatures
- Meaning of Seal and Signature
The seal and signature of a licensee on a document indicates that the licensee takes professional responsibility for the work and to the best of the licensee’s knowledge and ability, the work represented in the document is accurate, in conformance with applicable codes at the time of submission and has been prepared in conformance with normal and customary standards of practice and with a view to the safeguarding of life, health, property and public welfare.
- Application of Seal and Signature
Section 7209 of Article 145 of the State Education Law requires every professional engineer to have a seal. It does not specify the type of seal to be used, with an embossing seal, rubber stamp or electronic version all being acceptable to the Department and the State Board for Engineering and Land Surveying.
Section 7209 also identifies when a professional engineer is required to sign and seal documents. In general, all plans, specifications and reports prepared by the professional engineer or by a full-time or part-time subordinate under their supervision, shall be signed and sealed when filed with public officials. In addition, whenever a document is signed and sealed, a stamp is required with appropriate wording warning that it is a violation of this law for any person to alter any document that bears the seal of a professional engineer, unless the person is acting under the direction of a licensed professional engineer. For information on changing documents sealed and signed by a professional engineer refer to Section IV below.
Whatever the means of production, on all documents on which a seal is required, there shall be visible the required image, satisfying the provisions of Sections 7209, and Part 68.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner, and which clearly and legibly shows both the professional engineer’s name and license number. The documents are to be signed by the professional engineer whose name appears on the seal in such a manner that neither the name nor the number appearing on the seal is obscured in any way.
Regulations of the Commissioner - Part 68.10 describes the requirements of the seal to be used in the State of New York. For those that are licensed on or after July 1, 1984, seals used by licensed professional engineers shall be circular in shape, approximately 1 3/4 inches in diameter, bearing the legend at the top of the outer band "STATE OF NEW YORK" and at the bottom "LICENSED PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER". In the inner circle, the licensee’s name is placed above the Great Seal of New York and the license number, with no other letters or numbers, is placed below the Great Seal.
- Electronic Seal and Signature (E-Signature)
New York State allows the use of an electronic signature with the same validity and effect as the use of a signature affixed by hand. An electronic signature is an electronically generated identifier that is unique to the person using it. The Electronic Signature and Records Act (ESRA) defines what constitutes an electronic signature in New York State and describes its specific uses and limitations.
The use of electronic signatures is voluntary by both public and private entities. A state or local municipality is not required to accept electronic signatures.
ESRA does not define a specific protocol to perform electronic signatures. It does describe the security level and performance requirements associated with the exchange and validation process. Therefore, before an electronic signature is transmitted, an agreement between both parties is required to permit a valid exchange of electronic information in a compatible manner.
The NYS Office For Technology (OFT) has been designated by ESRA as the facilitator responsible to promote the use of electronic signatures and records. The NYS Law and Regulations, OFT Guidelines and other articles can be found on OFT’s website http://www.cio.ny.gov/policy/ESRA/esra.htm .
- Alterations to Work
As described in Section II above, all plans, specifications, and reports to which the seal of a professional engineer has been applied, must also be stamped with appropriate wording warning that it is a violation of this law for any person to alter a document in any way, unless acting under the direction of a licensed professional engineer. If a document bearing the seal of an engineer is altered, the altering engineer shall affix to the document their seal and the notation "altered by" followed by their signature and the date of such alteration, and a specific description of the alteration.
- Sealing Work Prepared by Others
The Rules of the Board of Regents Part 29.1 addresses unprofessional conduct in all professions regulated by the Board of Regents, and Part 29.3 specifically addresses conduct in the design professions of engineering, architecture, land surveying and landscape architecture, with Part 29.3(a)(3) and (4) addressing the sealing of work prepared by others.
Situations where this might be considered appropriate would include, but not be limited to:
- Construction documents prepared by an owner or his unlicensed employee, where the proposed project is to be built for the owner, not for a third party.
- Construction documents owned by an individual, such as those purchased through the mail from an out-of-state business entity. Frequently these would be plans for a house or pre-engineered building for the purchaser's occupancy. Such documents must be reviewed by a New York professional engineer as described below and made site-specific. Depending on the condition of such documents after the review (i.e., clarity after all revisions or additions have been made), the professional engineer shall incorporate such documents into the set of documents to be submitted to the appropriate authority, and it shall be signed and sealed by the professional engineer. Before a building is built, the plans must be thoroughly reviewed and the plans sealed by a professional engineer or another authorized professional. Written documentation must be retained for a period of six years.
- Engineering documents prepared by a corporation for franchisees, such as fast-food chains. In such case the documents shall be reviewed by a New York licensed professional engineer as described below and made site-specific. All safety-related aspects should be clarified, and all necessary site work information should be clearly provided.
- Engineering documents for prefabricated and pre-engineered devices and structures may also be reviewed and sealed by New York licensed professional engineers. In the review process the professional engineer is responsible for verifying that the device or structure has been designed to meet or exceed the code requirements for the particular site on which the device or structure is to be used or erected. Typically the professional engineer or his/her consultants may provide the necessary site specific design work for the project.
- In those instances where an unauthorized individual or firm has rendered engineering services in this state to a client for a project in this state, and a New York licensed professional engineer subsequently becomes aware of the fact, such professional engineer should report the incident to the Education Department such that an investigation of the unauthorized practitioner might be conducted.
Sect. 29.3(a)(3) requires that when a licensee reviews work prepared by others, a thorough written evaluation of the work must be prepared and retained by the licensee for a period of not less than six years. This report shall include and address:
- A thorough written evaluation of drawings and specifications; reports; design calculations and references to applicable codes and standards against which the work was checked.
- The report shall identify the common name of the project; owner of the project and/or the client; the preparer of the documents; date of evaluation; documents reviewed, with listing of dates of issue.
- Conformance with applicable codes including, but not limited to: town, city, state and federal codes; appropriate professional standards (ASME, IEEE, ASTM, etc.).
In signing and sealing work prepared by others, the licensee may correct, alter, or add to the existing documents or prepare additional documents to address items found inappropriate or missing. When the documents meet the appropriate standards, they may then be signed and sealed by the licensee. A licensee who seals and signs the documents may be seen as accepting all responsibility for the work as though the licensee had personally prepared all documents.
When the scope of review is limited work to individual aspects of the work, the licensee should indicate this by noting such on the sealed and signed documents. Refer to Section IV above – Alterations To Work.
- Best Practices For Drawings, Specifications and
On all drawings which are intended to convey engineering information and services, a title block should be provided. The title block should contain:
- the name and location of the firm providing the engineering services;
- the name of the project and project location;
- the client for whom the services have been provided;
- the date the work was completed.
In addition the title block may contain identification of those who prepared and checked the documents, as well as drawing numbers and such similar incidental items as are customary.
Similar information shall be provided on the title page of all specifications and reports
Engineers should legibly indicate their name and business address on all engineering documents. Engineering documents which are issued for preliminary or conceptual use shall clearly note the intended purpose of such documents. When elements of the project are shown on an engineering document only for information or clarification and the Engineer does not intend to accept responsibility for the elements, the engineer shall note on the documents the extent of his/her responsibility.
Engineers should note on any preliminary engineering documents that such documents are not in final form, but are being transmitted to the public agency for review, comments and interpretations. The documents may subsequently be revised by the engineer to reflect resolution of issues with the public agency prior to final action by the agency. Changes, revisions and modifications to a project may prompt additional document submittal for agency approval action on the same project.
- As Builts / Record Drawings
From time to time a client may ask the engineer or design team to modify construction documents, plans and specifications to reflect conditions in the field. That is, to prepare "As Builts" or "Record Drawings" and sign and seal the same. The engineer should clarify the expectations for the client with respect to what the engineer is able to provide. Two scenarios to consider are noted as a guide:
- Where the engineer is responsible for the observation of construction activities, the engineer might state that "Record Drawings" or "As-Builts" prepared by the engineer are representative of the project as constructed and sign and seal as might be required.
- Where the engineer is not responsible for the observation of construction activities, but is nonetheless asked to produce "As-Builts" or "Record Drawings" based on information provided by others, the engineer may sign and seal these documents as requested with the addition of a statement which qualifies the information, such as - the "Record Drawings" or "As-Builts" prepared and submitted are a product of or compilation of information and /or documentation provided by others. The engineer should specify the origin of the information/documentation provided by others.
Notwithstanding the above, "As-Builts" or "Record Drawings" are a tool which the engineer might use in approaching a project. The accuracy of "As-Builts" or "Record Drawings" varies among projects, disciplines, field conditions and other factors. It is the responsibility of the engineer to perform appropriate due diligence to confirm and verify information provided in "As-Builts" or "Record Drawings" in the performance of his work.
Citations of Pertinent Law, Rules or Regulations:
- Education Law, section 7201 – “definition of practice of engineering”
- Education Law, section 7202 – “practice of engineering and use of title “professional engineer”
- Education Law, section 7209 – “special provisions”
- Education Law, section 7210 – “certificates of authorization”
- Regents Rules, part 29.1 – “general provisions”Regents Rules, part 29.3 – “general provisions for design professions”
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