Engineering seals are not another way for practitioners to brag, “trust me, I’m an engineer.” Adding them to engineering documents is a requirement under all state registration laws.
This is how a registered engineer attests that a document is authentic and meets health, safety, and welfare standards while accepting responsibility for its accuracy and legitimacy.
Aside from meeting governing regulations, a quality P.E. seal improves the professional status of an engineer and their engineering firm.
However, state requirements and restrictions on usage of P.E. seals are confusing, and many registered professional engineers misuse or omit it.
When, where, and how: It’s easy to step over the regulatory line if one does not understand the proper use of engineering seals. We answer these frequently asked questions today.
When Is a Professional Engineer Required to Use an Engineering Seal?
Under rules of practice in their Code of Ethics, the NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers) states:
“Engineers may accept assignments and assume responsibility for coordination of an entire project and sign and seal the engineering documents for the entire project, provided that each technical segment is signed and sealed only by the qualified engineers who prepared the segment.”
Engineering documents, as outlined in state laws, are generally those that are filed with authorities for public record. These include:
- Engineering plans and instructions
- Engineering drawings
- Material, design, or product specifications.
- Project requirements
Keep in mind that you should only sign and seal final documents unless otherwise indicated with statements such as “preliminary”, “not for construction,” or other similar terms.
In the case of multi-disciplinary documents, all engineers responsible for each discipline should add their seal. The supervising engineer signs and seals the larger document.
Here’s where most of the confusion arises…
The first fundamental canon of the NSPE Code of Ethics is to “Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.”
A professional engineer must therefore add their seal to claim responsibility for any engineering work that affects the public as stated.
This begs the question, are there any documents that require a P.E. stamp not outlined in state laws?
Not all engineering documents are submitted to authorities, but most that are distributed affect the safety, health, and welfare of the public in one way or another.
Contemplating whether to sign and seal a document? Weigh it against the following questions:
Does it Fall Within the Practice of Professional Engineering?
If you have produced anything that falls under the definition of engineering and involves public interest, it should be signed and sealed.
Is the Document Final for its Intended Purpose?
For example, a drawing prepared to obtain a building permit is final for that stage alone. It should be signed and sealed even if it may not be the final drawing for construction.
Will the Document be Distributed Outside Your Organization?
If the answer here is yes, you must seal the document.
Always remember that the P.E. seal has meaning and legal status thus should not be trivialized — business cards or non-technical memos are not engineering documents.
Where is an Engineering Seal Placed?
Where to place your P.E. seal on a document depends on two things: Your state and whether it is physical or digital.
State laws are mostly general. For example, when hand signing, the Florida Administrative Code requires every sheet of an engineering design document to be sealed.
While only the index sheet should be signed in the case of engineering specifications, calculations, reports, and other large documents. This is the stipulation in most states.
If digitally signing an engineering document, your electronic seal should be placed on the first page of the document.
Methods of Sealing Your Document
Physically Signing and Sealing
A professional engineer can physically stamp a document with a wet seal or embossing seal. Wet seals come in either self-inking or rubber stamps.
A physical seal should contain your name, address and license number. A handwritten signature and date is required on the seal.
Electronic Images of Manual Seals
Electronic signatures are images of manual seals applied to documents.
To authenticate the seal and avoid the reproduction of the files, the electronic signature is protected by a code generated by a secure hash standard (SHA) authentication code generator.
A printed signature report with your name, license number, and all items to which the electronic signature applies must accompany the document. This report also requires a hand-written signature, date, and physical seal.
Like an electronic signature, digital seals involve encryption.
In this case, a digital certificate confirms the integrity and authenticity of the document by identifying its owner and whether it has been altered.
A digital seal is required to be submitted to a certification authority like IdenTrust for vetting.
Once approved, the authority provides a password-protected digital signature file.
Get a High-Quality Seal That Meets All Standards
Your P.E seal is an important affirmation of your status as a registered and licensed engineer: It should meet current state board requirements, and be of the best quality.
That’s why we create only superior quality, board-compliant stamps and seals at Pro Stamps.
We have over 12 years of experience in the engineering field and continually monitor state requirements to ensure you get accurate, high quality stamps.
Order your digital or physical stamp today to get free shipping and a lifetime warranty.
Featured Image: Unsplash by ThisisEngineering RAEng