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Frequently Asked Questions: Licence Holders/EITs

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Who can practice professional engineering?
I've just left a consulting firm that has downsized and changes owners. Should I keep any drawings and other documents and for how long? And what are my obligations to previous clients?
I've been asked to do a review of another engineer's work. What are my obligations to that engineer?
What happens when PEO receives a complaint involving engineering work?
What happens if someone uses the title "engineer" without being licensed?
How can I replace my iron ring?
Seal and Drawings
When do I need to use my seal?
What does "providing services to the public" mean? Who is the public?
What kind of documents are supposed to be sealed?
What documents should not be sealed?
Can I use my PEO seal to seal Statutory Declarations and other legal documents?
Can the seal be used in logos, advertising or on business cards?
What should be included in the seal?
What should be done if changes need to be made to a drawing or other document?
How should I handle engineering drawings for which I'm responsible that include changes give to me by a third part not under my direction?
What is current PEO policy with respect to the sealing of electronic drawings? Can I scan a P.Eng. seal and signature and place it on an electronic document?
Does sealing a document increase an engineer's civil liability?
I am moving out of Ontario and do not intend to maintain my PEO licence. Can I keep my seal?
What is the penalty for misuse of a seal?


Who can practice professional engineering?

In most situations only a professional engineer can practice professional engineering in Ontario. According to the Act "professional engineer" means a person who is granted a licence or a temporary licence by Professional Engineers Ontario. PEO can also issue a limited licence to an individual who, as a result of 10 or more years of specialized experience, has developed competence in a clearly defined area of professional engineering. Holders of limited licences are able to practice only within a narrowly defined area of professional engineering. Unlicenced individuals, such as technologists and technicians, are able to do any of the tasks normally reserved for professional engineers only if they are working under the supervision of a P.Eng.

I've just left a consulting firm that has downsized and changed owners. Should I keep any drawings and other documents and for how long? And what are my obligations to previous clients?

If you were not an owner of the consulting firm then you do not need to keep drawings or other documents. In fact, you should return those you do have to the firm or ask their permission if you want to keep some documents. Generally, since you were an employee, you do not have any contractual obligations to previous clients. For instance, you do not need to answer questions about ongoing or past projects. You can provide assistance if you wish and if it is compatible with legal and ethical obligations to your past employer. Your professional obligations to the client, however, continue even after leaving employment.

I’ve been asked to do a review of another engineer's work. What are my obligations to that engineer?

Obligations of one engineer to another are described in the Code of Ethics, Section 77 of Regulation 941. Peer review is covered in subsection 77(7) (ii) which states that a practitioner shall "not accept an engagement to review the work of another practitioner for the same employer except with the knowledge of the other practitioner or except where the connection of the other practitioner with the work has been terminated". In other words, if the P. Eng. who did the work is still involved with the project, the reviewing engineer must inform the first engineer that his or her work is being reviewed. It is best to do this in writing.

What happens when PEO receives a complaint involving engineering work?

PEO has the power to discipline professional engineers found guilty of professional misconduct. The association can also take action against unlicensed individuals who illegally describe themselves as engineers. Similarly, the association can prosecute companies or entities that illegally offer or provide engineering services to the public. PEO may hold a hearing, which works much like a court case: PEO is the prosecutor; the engineer is the defendant; the PEO Discipline Committee is judge and jury. If the Discipline Committee finds the engineer guilty, it imposes a penalty. The penalty might involve revocation or suspension of the license, payment of a fine and/or publishing of the licensee’s name in PEO’s official journal. Publishing of the licensee’s name is mandatory if the license is revoked or suspended.

What happens if someone uses the title “engineer” without being licensed?

If a person uses the title “professional engineer”, or “engineer”, or any other occupational title that might lead to the belief that the person is qualified to practice professional engineering, or uses a seal that leads to the belief that the person is an engineer, PEO will prosecute the matter through provincial court. Fines for people found guilty can range from $10,000 for a first offence, to $50,000 for repeat offences.

How can I replace my iron ring?

PEO does not have any affiliation with the iron ring. The iron ring is associated with the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and is administered to engineering students upon graduation at an Obligation Ceremony. You can find out more about the iron ring and how to obtain one by visiting www.ironring.ca.

When do I need to use my seal?

Section 53 of Regulation 941 of the Professional Engineers Act states that "[e]very holder of a licence, temporary licence or limited licence who provides to the public a service that is within the practice of professional engineering shall sign, date and affix the holder's seal to every final drawing, specification, plan, report or other document prepared or checked by the holder as part of the service before it is issued."

What does "providing services to the public" mean? Who is the public?

The term "providing professional engineering services to the public" is used in conjunction with two specific regulatory issues mentioned in the Professional Engineers Act: the sealing of engineering documents and the need for a Certificate of Authorization. A P.Eng. is providing professional engineering services when s/he undertakes any of the activities considered to be within the practice of professional engineering for the benefit of an employer or 'the public'. For the purposes of all regulatory directives regarding engineering practice 'the public' is considered to be anyone other than him/herself or the professional engineer's employer. Therefore, a P.Eng. is providing professional engineering services to the public when the work is done for the benefit of an individual, corporation, government or other entity that is not the engineer's employer. Work done by a professional engineer solely for the employer's use within the employer's domain is not considered to be work done for the public even if the employer is a public institution such as provincial or municipal governments, school boards, or crown corporations. However, if the work involves the practice of professional engineering it must be done by or supervised by a P.Eng. even if it is solely for the employer's benefit.

What kinds of documents are supposed to be sealed?

Any final documents of an engineering nature such as drawings, specifications, reports, studies, etc., should be sealed. Ideally, all final drawings within an engineering branch should be signed and sealed by the design engineer for that branch and the approving or supervising engineer, but if only one signature and seal is used, it should be that of the approving engineer. Final drawings that cross disciplines should be sealed by each engineer in charge of the respective branches and the approving one. Final specifications prepared by the approving engineer must be sealed on the cover of the bound document. Because of the risk of sealed originals being copied and distributed without the engineer's knowledge, seals should not be applied to original master documents, only to copies. Drawings provided solely for your employer's use within the employer's domain do not need to be sealed (though if the work involves the practice of professional engineering it would have to be done by a P.Eng. or under a P.Eng.'s supervision).

What documents should not be sealed?

Draft or uncompleted documents and documents of a non-engineering nature (business correspondence, sales brochures, passport and birth certificate applications, etc.) should not be sealed. Generally, preliminary documents should be not be sealed. However in some cases, such as when a client wishes to proceed with a portion of the work before the final drawings have been completed, this may be necessary. An example would be where an owner wants to commence construction of a building's foundation and obtains a permit limited to this work. In such cases, the design engineer must be careful when sealing the foundation part of the work. The engineer should try to limit the extent to which their seal is to be relied upon, and the extent to which they take responsibility for the content of the work. One way to do this would be by marking the documents "preliminary" and/or "not for construction," to indicate that construction can't proceed without further written approval of the design engineer.

Can I use my PEO seal to seal Statutory Declarations and other legal documents?

Certain types of legal documents are required to be sealed. However, the professional engineer's seal is not appropriate for these purposes. Contracts and other legal business documents are sealed with a corporate seal if the business entity is a corporation. If not, signatures suffice. Professional seals are not to be used for this purpose. Certain documents, such as statutory declarations, must be sealed by a Commissioner for taking affidavits or a Notary Public in order to be valid. A Commissioner for taking affidavits is a person, such as a lawyer, MPP, municipal official or court official who is authorized to administer oaths or take affidavits. Notaries public are regulated by the Notaries Act. Persons, other than barristers and solicitors, wishing to be appointed as notaries must have their qualifications examined by a Superior Court judge. Only persons certified by a judge will be considered for the position and, if selected, are appointed by the Attorney General. Passport applications, birth certificate applications and other documents that identify professional engineers as suitable guarantors require only the guarantor's signature followed by the "P.Eng." designation.

Can the seal be used in logos, advertising or on business cards?

No. PEO members are not permitted to use, or refer to, their professional seals in company logos, advertising or other promotional materials.

What should be included in the seal?

The engineer's signature and the date the document was sealed, hand written within or beside the stamp, must always be included. Initials alone are not acceptable.

What should be done if changes need to be made to a drawing or other document?

Changes made to a sealed document that are within the practice of professional engineering can only be made by a P.Eng. The changes must be sealed, signed and dated by the P.Eng. responsible for the changes. Annotations should be made to specify exactly what changes the professional engineer made. It's important to note that the engineer responsible for the changes would be subject to the discipline provisions of the Act (Sections 24 and 28), should any complaints about the changes be made to PEO. The Code of Ethics (Section 77 of the Regulations) requires that the second engineer notify the professional engineer who originally sealed the documents of the changes that have been made.

How should I handle engineering drawings for which I'm responsible that include changes given to me by a third party not under my direction?

Known as " as-built drawings," these should not be sealed. Seals should be applied only in those cases where you or your delegate have visited the site, reviewed the project during construction, and have verified every change in detail. The changes must be clearly marked on the drawings and a note referencing the original sealed drawings should be attached. These documents are referred to as “record drawings” to distinguish them from “as-built drawings”. Record drawings verified in detail by the engineer and issued to a third party must be sealed.

What is current PEO policy with respect to the sealing of electronic drawings? Can I scan a P.Eng. seal and signature and place it on an electronic drawing?

PEO policy on matters related to electronic documents is provided in the Guideline for the Use of a Professional Engineer’s Seal. Professional engineers are allowed to scan or otherwise create electronic facsimiles of their seals and signatures and apply these to electronic documents. Professional engineers who do so should consider use of appropriate security measures, since an electronic drawing with a seal and signature could be changed without the engineer's knowledge and a third party would still expect that the engineer is responsible for the entire content of the document.

Does sealing a document increase an engineer's civil liability?

According to lawyer William Black of McCarthy Tetrault, the "signing or sealing of documents by engineers ... has absolutely nothing to do with the question of liability for negligence. Engineers are liable because they prepared the drawings or because they supervised or approved them, and not because they signed or sealed them." Nevertheless, the seal is important because it implies a commitment to the standards of the profession and signifies to the public that a particular P.Eng. has accepted professional responsibility for the document. Should any errors be found, the engineer who seals the document is answerable to PEO, their client and any agency relying on them.

I am moving out of Ontario and do not intend to maintain my PEO licence. Can I keep my seal?

The seal is the property of Professional Engineers Ontario and must be returned when one leaves the association.

What is the penalty for misuse of a seal?

Anyone who illegally uses an engineering seal may be found guilty of an offence under Section 40 of the Act and may be fined up to a maximum of $10,000 for a first offence, and $25,000 for any subsequent offence. Police may also lay fraud or forgery charges. These offences are usually carried out by non-engineers without the knowledge or consent of the engineer in question. This is why engineers should store their seal in a secure place.