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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?
Certificate of Authorization (C of A)
What is the C of A?
Do I need professional liability insurance?
I am a C of A holder. The Act gives me the option to forego insurance as long as I disclose to my clients that I have none. Does this eliminate my risk of being sued?
Does PEO have some type of affinity agreement for reduced premiums with insurance companies providing professional liability insurance?
I'd like to go into business on my own. What do I need to do?
Why do I need a C of A if I already have my P.Eng. licence?
I provide engineering services to other companies; not to the public? Do I need a C of A?
Why do I need a C of A if I am not sealing drawings?
There is a large scale non-compliance with the Act in Ontario. Why should I get a C of A when I know my competitors don't have one and PEO is not enforcing the Act?
I'm listed on my employer's C of A. What should I do if I leave that firm?
If I am the only P.Eng. listed on a firm's C of A, what happens when I resign?
I'm retired and I've been asked to work occasionally for my former employer. Do I need a C of A?
I offer my engineering expertise as a volunteer. If I receive no payment for these services, why do I need a C of A?
I've been in business for 20 year and have a storeroom full of drawings, correspondence and specifications. How long do I have to keep my project files? What kind of files should I keep?


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.

What is the Certificate of Authorization?

The Certificate of Authorization is a legal instrument issued by PEO which grants a privilege to the holder to provide professional engineering services to the public. To obtain a Certificate of Authorization the entity must have at least one professional engineer with at least five years of experience since graduation who will take responsibility for the entity's engineering activities. The engineer does not need to be a full-time employee of the entity but must provide supervision adequate for the responsibility assumed. The entity must also either acquire professional liability insurance or agree to compulsory disclosure. The Certificate of Authorization is valid for no longer than one year. The Certificate of Authorization is renewed annually as long as the holder complies with the provisions of the Professional Engineers Act.

Do I need professional liability insurance?

The Professional Engineers Act requires a Certificate of Authorization (C of A) holder to either have professional liability insurance or agree to compulsory disclosure. This is an undertaking to provide each client with a letter stating that the holder does not have insurance. The Act does provide an exemption for engineering businesses that provide engineering services that may involve pollution, nuclear, aviation or shipping hazards. However these firms must have insurance or provide compulsory disclosure for services provided in other than these named areas of practice. Normally employee engineers working for Certificate of Authorization holders that have professional liability insurance are covered by the employer's policy. Engineers working for these firms, especially if they are named on the C of A as taking responsibility for the engineering activities, should review their exposure to liability with the firm’s insurer. If you work for a Certificate of Authorization holding firm that does not have professional liability coverage you should investigate how a lawsuit against the firm might affect you. Other employee engineers should check with their employer's insurance company to see if they are covered for professional negligence or errors and omissions.

I am a Certificate of Authorization holder. The Professional Engineers Act gives me the option to forego insurance as long as I disclose to my clients that I have none. Does this eliminate my risk of being sued?

No.

Does PEO have some type of affinity agreement for reduced premiums with insurance companies providing professional liability insurance?

PEO does not have any arrangement with insurance companies for these products. Visit Group Benefits for information about affinity programs offered through Engineers Canada and the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers.

I’d like to go into business on my own. What do I need to do?

Any entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation) that offers or provides professional engineering services to the public must have a Certificate of Authorization. This requirement is stipulated in Section 12(2) of the Professional Engineers Act.

Why do I need a Certificate of Authorization if I already have my P.Eng. licence?

Section 12 (2) of the Professional Engineers Act stipulates that every entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation) that offers or provides professional engineering services to the public requires a Certificate of Authorization. While the licence entitles an individual to practice as a professional engineer, the Certificate is required to provide PEO with a means for governing the activities of entities. A sole proprietorship is a business entity and is distinct from the individual practitioner.

I provide engineering services to other companies; not to the public? Do I need a Certificate of Authorization?

"Public" does not mean public institutions or society in general; it means an entity (business, individual, government, charity) that is at an "arm's-length" relationship to the engineer and could rightly be called a client. If an employer utilizes engineers to provide engineering services within the employer's domain only, then the employer does not need a Certificate of Authorization. If however, the employer (government, manufacturer, consulting firm or engineer working as a sole proprietor) provides engineering services outside the employer's domain (i.e. to the public) then the employer requires a C of A.

Why do I need a Certificate of Authorization if I am not sealing drawings?

The Professional Engineers Act stipulates that an entity requires a Certificate of Authorization if it is providing engineering services to the public. These services may not necessarily involve the production of drawings. Professional engineers may provide advice about technology, review construction, perform health and safety audits, give opinions about mineral properties, or provide expert testimony. Though none of these activities involve the preparation of drawings, each is an act of providing engineering services and, therefore, the entity requires a Certificate of Authorization. However, if you provide engineering services you should ask yourself this question: why are you not sealing documents that you provide to a client or other external body? Section 53 of the Professional Engineers Act governs the requirement for sealing of documents. You are required to seal all drawings and other documents provided as part of engineering services done for an external entity, regardless of whether or not there is other legislation (such as the Building Code Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act, or Regulation for Industrial Facilities) that specifically requires a engineer's seal. In order words, any document of an engineering nature prepared for a client or as part of the work done for a client (this includes drawings for custom equipment) must be sealed.

There is large scale non-compliance with the Act in Ontario. Why should I get a Certificate of Authorization when I know my competitors don't have one and PEO is not enforcing the Act?

PEO has an active enforcement policy that investigates and prosecutes all reported violations of the Professional Engineers Act. If your competition is providing engineering services to the public but does not have a Certificate of Authorization then that entity is in violation of the Act. Notify PEO's Enforcement department if you encounter this situation.

I'm listed on my employer's Certificate of Authorization. What should I do if I leave that firm?

Notify PEO in writing immediately about your change of employment status.

If I am the only P.Eng. listed on a firm's Certificate of Authorization, what happens when I resign?

The Certificate of Authorization will be suspended for a period of 90 days at which time if no suitable P.Eng. has been found by the firm to replace you, the Certificate will be revoked.

I'm retired but I've been asked to work occasionally for my former employer. Do I need a Certificate of Authorization?

This depends on whether you plan to work as an independent contractor or as a contract employee. Both arrangements have benefits for you and your employer but there are significant differences in taxation, compensation and professional responsibility. You should discuss with your former employer which arrangement to use prior to coming to an agreement on how you will provide services. PEO has published guidelines on both. Since an independent contractor is a sole proprietorship you will require a Certificate of Authorization if you decide to make this arrangement. PEO reminds professional engineers registered as retired and are paying reduced fees that they are not entitled to practice professional engineering either for payment or as a volunteer.

I offer my engineering expertise as a volunteer. If I receive no payment for these services, why do I need a Certificate of Authorization?

The Professional Engineers Act makes no distinction between providing professional engineering services for a fee or on a volunteer basis. The individual or volunteer organization providing professional engineering services will need a Certificate of Authorization. You should also remember that providing services as a volunteer does not make one immune to liability. Since either the client or a third party affected by the work can bring a lawsuit against the engineer or the volunteer organization, volunteers are urged to investigate their need for professional liability insurance.

I’ve been in business for 20 years and have a storeroom full of drawings, correspondence and specifications. How long do I have to keep my project files? What kind of files should I keep?

There is no legal requirement stipulating how long documents must be retained. The documents belong to the person who created them and that person is at liberty to do with them as s/he sees fit. The most pressing reason for keeping documents is the possibility of future legal action. At present there is essentially no period of limitation so it is possible that someone can bring legal action against an engineer many years after a project is completed. Since document retention is really a matter of legal protection, you should discuss the matter with your insurance provider.