Professional Engineers Ontario · Professional Engineers Ontario 3 1. PEO Mandate and Criteria for...

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Professional Engineers Ontario U S E O F T H E P R O F E S S I O N A L E N G I N E E R S S E A L Contributors: Colin Cantlie, P.Eng. / Vincent Chu, P.Eng. / Bernard Ennis, P.Eng. / Norm Fisher, P.Eng. / John Harauz, P.Eng. / Don Ireland, P.Eng. / Les Mitelman, P.Eng. / Brian Ross, P.Eng. GUIDELINE July 2005. Revised November 2008 Notice: The Professional Standards Committee has a policy of reviewing guidelines every five years to determine if the guideline is still viable and adequate. However, practice bulletins may be issued from time to time to clarify statements made herein or to add information useful to those professional engineers engaged in this area of practice. Users of this guideline who have questions, comments or suggestions for future amendments and revisions are invited to submit these to PEO using the form provided in Appendix 3.
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Transcript of Professional Engineers Ontario · Professional Engineers Ontario 3 1. PEO Mandate and Criteria for...

  • Professional EngineersOntario

    U S E O F T H E P R O F E S S I O N A L

    E N G I N E E R ’ S S E A L

    C o n t r i b u t o r s : C o l i n C a n t l i e , P. E n g . / V i n c e n t C h u , P. E n g . / B e r n a r d E n n i s , P. E n g . / N o r m

    F i s h e r, P. E n g . / J o h n H a r a u z , P. E n g . / D o n I r e l a n d , P. E n g . / L e s M i t e l m a n , P. E n g . / B r i a n

    R o s s , P. E n g .






    J u l y 2 0 0 5 . R e v i s e d N o v e m b e r 2 0 0 8

    N o t i c e : T h e P r o f e s s i o n a l S t a n d a r d s C o m m i t t e e h a s a p o l i c y o f r e v i e w i n g g u i d e l i n e s e v e r y f i v e y e a r s t o d e t e r m i n e

    i f t h e g u i d e l i n e i s s t i l l v i a b l e a n d a d e q u a t e . H o w e v e r , p r a c t i c e b u l l e t i n s m a y b e i s s u e d f r o m t i m e t o t i m e t o

    c l a r i f y s t a t e m e n t s m a d e h e r e i n o r t o a d d i n f o r m a t i o n u s e f u l t o t h o s e p r o f e s s i o n a l e n g i n e e r s e n g a g e d i n t h i s

    a r e a o f p r a c t i c e . U s e r s o f t h i s g u i d e l i n e w h o h a v e q u e s t i o n s , c o m m e n t s o r s u g g e s t i o n s f o r f u t u r e a m e n d m e n t s

    a n d r e v i s i o n s a r e i n v i t e d t o s u b m i t t h e s e t o P E O u s i n g t h e f o r m p r o v i d e d i n A p p e n d i x 3 .

  • 1. PEO Mandate and Criteria for Guidelines. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

    2. Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

    3. Purpose and Scope of Guideline. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

    4. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

    5. Purpose of Professional Engineer’s Seal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

    6. Recommended Procedures for Use of Seal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

    6.1 General . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

    6.2 Sealing Single-discipline Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

    6.3 Sealing Multi-discipline Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

    6.4 Revising Drawings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

    6.5 Shop Drawings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

    6.6 Standard Drawings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

    6.7 As-Built and Record Drawings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

    6.8 Using Documents Sealed by Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

    6.9 Translated Documents. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

    7. Management of Engineering Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

    7.1 Document Approval . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

    7.2 Control of Sealed Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

    7.3 Use and Control of Electronic Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

    7.4 Retention of Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

    7.5 Copyright Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

    8. Professional Responsibility and Liability. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

    8.1 Professional Responsibility. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

    8.2 Professional Liability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

    8.3 Sealing Fees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

    8.4 Penalty for Misuse of Seal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

    8.5 Ownership and Replacement of Seal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

    9. Questions and Answers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

    Appendix 1. Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

    Appendix 2. Extracts From Regulation 941, Professional Engineers Act . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

    Appendix 3. Amendment and Revision Submission Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

    Appendix 4. PEO Professional Practice Guidelines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27


  • Professional Engineers Ontario produces guidelinesfor the purpose of educating both licensees and thepublic about standards of practice. This is done to

    fulfill PEO’s legislated objectives. Section 2(4)2 ofthe Professional Engineers Act states: “For the purposeof carrying out its principal object” PEO shall “estab-lish, maintain and develop standards of qualificationand standards of practice for the practice of profes-sional engineering”. The association’s ProfessionalStandards Committee is responsible for developingpractice standards and preparing guidelines.

    This guideline has been developed by a task groupof the Professional Standards Committee, reviewedand approved for publication by the full Profes-

    sional Standards Committee and by PEO Council.

    Professional Engineers Ontario produces guide-lines to meet the following objectives, which were

    used to develop the content of this document.

    1. Guidelines are intended to aid engineers in perform-ing their engineering role in accordance with theProfessional Engineers Act and Regulation 941.

    2. Guidelines are intended to define processes requiredby regulatory, administrative or ethical considera-tions associated with specific professional services

    provided by engineers. They do not aim to be shortcourses in an engineering subject.

    3. Guidelines provide criteria for expected practiceby describing the required outcome of the process,

    identifying the engineer’s duty to the public in theparticular area of practice, and defining the rela-tionships and interactions between the variousstakeholders (e.g. government, architects, otherengineers, clients).

    4. Guidelines add value to the professional engineerlicence for licensed engineers and for the public

    by establishing criteria for professional standardsof competence.

    5. Guidelines help the public to understand what itcan expect of engineers in relation to a particulartask within the practice of professional engineer-ing. By demonstrating that the task requires spe-cialized knowledge, higher standards of care, andresponsibility for life and property, guidelineshelp reinforce the public perception of engineers

    as professionals.

    See Appendix 4 for a list of PEO professional prac-tice guidelines.

    In late 2002, the Professional Practice Committee

    (now Professional Standards Committee) formeda subcommittee comprising practising profession-al engineers and tasked this group with addressingquestions regarding the proper use of the profes-sional engineer’s seal and investigating the require-ments for secure use of electronic seals and signa-

    tures. The committee asked the subcommittee toprepare a guideline, which would include an expla-

    nation of the purpose of seals and sealing of doc-uments, and the legal and liability issues associat-ed with seals.

    The subcommittee met for the first time on Novem-

    ber 26, 2002, and submitted a completed draft ofthis document to the Professional Standards Com-mittee for approval on October 20, 2004.

    Following editing by staff and vetting by PEO legal

    counsel, the final draft was approved by Council atits meeting on January 20, 21, 2005.

    This guideline is to be read in conjunction with sec-

    tion 53 of Regulation 941 made under the Profes-sional Engineers Act, which describes the statutoryrequirements for the use of the seal.

    Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 3

    1. PEO Mandate and Criteria for Guidelines

    2. Preface

  • The purpose of this guideline is to provide pro-fessional engineers with guidance on the prop-er use of the professional engineer’s seal. The

    seal is the dist inguishing mark of the profes-sion and an indication to recipients and users ofengineering documents that the content of thedocuments was prepared by or under the per-sonal supervis ion of a profess ional engineer.The eng inee r, by a f f i x ing the s e a l , a s sumesresponsibility and is answerable for the quali-ty of the work presented therein. Proper use ofthe seal is essential, not only for complying with

    the Professional Engineers Act, but also for assur-ing the public that the seal represents the pro-

    fession’s commitment to standards of care andexcellence.

    The procedures outlined in this guideline are intend-ed to make professional engineers aware of the level

    of diligence that is commensurate with the responsi-bility they assume and that is expected in their work.Use of the seal should not be automatic. It should bedone only after the engineer has evaluated and accept-ed the responsibility he or she is assuming.

    Please note that references in this guideline to pro-fessional engineers apply equally to temporary

    licence holders, provisional licence holders andlimited licence holders.


    3. Purpose and Scope of Guideline

    This guideline provides current PEO guidance and pol-icy for use of the professional engineer’s seal. It provides

    sufficient information for practitioners to resolve ques-

    tions that arise in many common practice situations.Members have often asked PEO to clarify, for example,

    what changes to sealed documents are allowed, who, if

    anyone, should seal these, and how the changes shouldbe identified. Others have asked whose seal shouldappear when more than one engineer has been respon-sible for preparing documents. The subcommittee

    reviewed numerous common situations to provide moreexplicit recommendations for proper practice.

    Many people also suggested that PEO should preparea detailed list of documents, divided into those thatmust be sealed, may be sealed, and should not besealed. In preparing this list, consideration was given

    to drawings, feasibility reports, proposals, contracts,

    corporate letters, passport applications and other doc-uments handled by professional engineers in the courseof their business or professional activities.

    Since the use of electronic documents, includingtheir use for legal purposes, is becoming widespread,PEO recognized the need to provide guidance on

    creating, applying and controlling electronic sealsand signatures. The Guideline to Professional Prac-tice recommends that “engineers apply their signa-tures and seals only to the hard copy” of drawingsand documents. However, for various reasons, elec-

    tronic copies of documents are now preferred for

    submissions and record purposes, and require elec-tronic seals and signatures. This guideline, there-fore, provides new policies and procedures to dealwith the use of seals on electronic documents.

    The sole authority for establishing rules for theuse of seal is the Professional Engineers Act. Thiswas recently confirmed by the case of Profession-al Engineers Ontario v. Ministry of Municipal Affairsand Housing, where the court found that no per-son or organization, other than Professional Engi-

    neers Ontario, can decide when or how the seal is

    to be used. As a result, professional engineers arenot obliged to respond to requests or instructionsto affix the seal to documents from any other party,

    including clients. The engineer, alone, must decidewhether a document needs to be sealed and shouldrefer to the policies and procedures in this docu-

    ment for guidance in making that decision.

    4. Introduction

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 5

    For the public, the seal constitutes the distinctivemark of the professional engineer. It must be usedto identify all work prepared by, or under the direct

    supervision of, a professional engineer as part ofprofessional engineering services rendered to thepublic. It assures the document’s recipient that thework meets the standards of professionalism expect-ed of competent, experienced individuals who takepersonal responsibility for their judgments anddecisions. The seal is important because it is a vis-ible commitment to the standards of the profes-sion and signifies to the public that a particular

    P.Eng. accepted professional responsibility for thedocument.

    Affixing the seal to a document is a statement bya professional engineer to others that they can,

    with a high degree of confidence, depend upon thecontents of the document for the furtherance oftheir projects. Since the outcome of a project

    depends on factors beyond the control of an engi-neer, however, a successful outcome cannot be guar-anteed by an engineer. The seal is not, and shouldnot be considered, a certification mark or warran-ty of correctness. According to the Supreme Court(Edgeworth Construction Ltd. v. N. D. Lea & Asso-ciates Ltd.), the “seal attests that a qualified engi-neer prepared the document. It is not a guaranteeof accuracy”. Instead, it should be considered a

    “mark of reliance”, an indication that others canrely on the fact that the opinions, judgments, ordesigns in the sealed documents were provided bya professional engineer held to high standards ofknowledge, skill and ethical conduct.

    5. Purpose of the Professional Engineer’s Seal

    6.1 General

    The use of the professional engineer’s seal is gov-erned by section 53 of Regulation 941/90, madeunder the Professional Engineers Act:

    “53. Every holder of a licence, temporary licence, pro-visional licence or limited licence who provides to thepublic a service that is within the practice of profes-sional engineering shall sign, date and affix the hold-er’s seal to every final drawing, specification, plan,report or other document prepared or checked by theholder as part of the service before it is issued. R.R.O.1990, Reg. 941, s. 53; O.Reg. 13/03, s. 16.”

    This sentence specifies the minimum legal require-ments for the use of seal. Engineers are reminded

    that they are legally required to use their seals inall situations that meet the above conditions. Useof the seal is not subject to specification by con-

    tract or work arrangements; an engineer cannot

    ignore the obligation to seal documents on thegrounds that this act is not included in his or herjob description, or because a client did not requestsealed documents.

    The term “final document” describes any record,written or graphic, created for the purpose oftransmitting information or instructions basedon engineer ing exper t i se or judgment that i sintended to be relied on by others. In general,

    “final” means “final for the purposes intended”.This distinguishes, for example, drawings pre-

    pared for building permit submission from con-

    s t ruct ion drawings . Drawings submit ted forbuilding permits are final for that purpose, eventhough they may not contain al l of the detai l

    required for construction. Both sets of drawingsneed to be sealed. Drawings submitted with abuilding permit application must be completefor that purpose; in other words, they must con-

    6. Recommended Procedures for Use of the Professional Engineer’s Seal


    tain sufficient detail to enable the building offi-cial to perform the code compliance and due dili-gence reviews required pr ior to i s suance of abuilding permit. Since standards with respect todetail may vary significantly from one munici-

    pality to another, professional engineers shouldacquaint themselves with loca l requirementsbefore submitting documents.

    The term “providing services to the public” caus-es considerable confusion among professionalengineers trying to decide whether rules for theuse of seal or the Certificate of Authorizationapply to the work they do. The public, as under-stood within the Professional Engineers Act, is any-one other than the engineer or his/her employer.When an engineer is employed and all the engi-

    neering work done by the engineer is done entire-ly for the employer (even if the ultimate user isnot the employer), the engineer is not consid-ered to be providing services to the public. Forinstance, an engineer designing a consumer prod-uct manufactured by an industrial corporation(which is the engineer’s employer) is not provid-

    ing engineering services to the public. The engi-

    nee r p rov ide s s e r v i c e s t o the emp loye r ; theemployer provides a product to the public. In

    this case, drawings do not need to be sealed. Onthe other hand, if a manufacturing company out-sources design work, the engineer working forthe consulting firm that produces the productdesign is providing (through the consulting firm)

    professional engineering services to the public(i.e. the manufacturing firm). In this case, thedrawings must be sealed. However, there are sit-

    uations where legislation requires that a profes-sional engineer must do some particular task andthat the seal must be affixed to documents toprove this. In these cases, the engineer must sealthe documents, even when the services are beingprovided to the employer.

    Proper use of the seal is essential, since universal

    compliance with these rules provides the follow-ing assurances to the public:

    • authorship–signing and sealing identifies the doc-

    ument was created by or under the supervisionof a licensed professional engineer;

    • responsibility–signing and sealing establishes thatthe individual identified by the seal assumes pro-fessional responsibility for the contents of thedocument or the portion of the contents of the

    document he or she prepared, and acknowledgesthat he or she can be held accountable for thosecontents; and

    • reliance–by signing and sealing a document, aprofessional engineer attests to the fact that oth-ers can rely on the designs, decisions, opinions,judgment s o r o the r p ro f e s s iona l s t a t ement s

    expressed therein.

    The seal

    The seal used on a document is the impression ofthe rubber stamp issued by PEO to all licence hold-ers. An engineer must always retain full controlover the use of the seal and any reproduction of theseal so that no one can use it without explicit autho-rization. Such authority should not be given unless

    the engineer had direct supervision of the work.

    Professional Engineers Ontario also allows, butdoes not require, licensees to use electronic seals.An electronic seal is a facsimile of the impres-

    sion produced by the rubber stamp in electron-ic format, either scanned or created as a drawingobject by a software program. The electronic fac-simile must be identical in size, shape, and con-tent to the seal created by the rubber stamp. Thisimpression has the same value as an impressiongenerated by the original of the seal. An engi-neer must at all times retain full control over the

    electronic version of his or her seal. An engineerallowing another person to access an electronic

    seal could be held liable for any use made of the

    seal by that person.

    The seal must be clear and legible when appliedto the document, regardless of how it is applied.

    An e l ec t ron ic f ac s imi l e o f the s ea l may a l soinclude an electronic facsimile of the engineer’shandwritten signature. However, the engineer

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 7

    must maintain control over the signed seal andmust use an appropriate security method (seesection 7.3).

    What to seal

    Engineers must seal all final documents that are

    within the practice of professional engineering,provided as part of a service to the public. How-ever, affixing a seal to a document does not turn itinto something that is “within the practice of pro-fessional engineering”. The content of the docu-ment determines whether it is an engineering doc-ument. This includes all documents containingengineering calculations, expressing engineeringopinions, or giving instructions based on engineer-ing judgment.

    Seals must be affixed to drawings, specifications,drawings or sketches accompanying change noticesand site instructions, and studies containing tech-

    nical information or engineering direction. Engi-

    neers should also apply their seals to forms for gov-ernment or regulatory authority use that specificallyrequire a professional engineer’s seal, such as aCommitment to General Review.

    Reports providing technical information or engi-

    neering direction to the user must be signed andsealed. Drawings bound into reports need not besealed individually, provided the document itselfis signed, sealed and dated.

    Engineering documents completed by staff engi-neers for use solely by their employers for workwithin the employers’ businesses (in-house docu-ments) are not required to be sealed under the Pro-fessional Engineers Act. However, there may be caseswhere overriding legislation requires an employeeengineer to seal in-house documents. For exam-

    ple, if a company chooses one of its staff engineers

    to perform a Pre-Start Health and Safety Reviewunder the Occupational Health and Safety Act, thewritten report prepared as part of the review must

    be sealed. The fact that seals are not required on in-house documents does not preclude the engineerfrom affixing his or her seal. Since the application

    of a seal to a document does not impose any addi-

    tional liabilities on the engineer, this practice hasbeen adopted by several large organizations as partof their internal quality assurance program.

    What not to seal

    Draft or incomplete documents and documents of

    a non-engineering nature (personal or business cor-respondence, contracts, leases, sales brochures,passport applications, etc.) should not be sealed.Requirements for sealing of documents are legislat-ed by the Pro f e s s i ona l Engineer s Ac t . Cer ta indemand-side legislation requires that particulartasks having public interest implications be doneonly by those having qualifications specified in thelegislation, and subsequently lists a number ofoccupations as qualified persons. In cases where

    legislation includes professional engineers as onlyone category of qualified person (e.g. Condomini-um Act, Brownfields Statute Law Amendment Act),professional engineers should not affix their sealsto any documents required pursuant to the legis-lation, unless the work performed clearly falls underthe definition of “the practice of professional engi-

    neering” under the Professional Engineers Act.

    A request by an employer, client or regulatory offi-cial for a professional engineer to affix his or herseal to a document is not a sufficient reason fordoing so. For example, an employer may ask anengineer to seal a notice that contractors have beenpaid. Since this is not an engineering document, theengineer should not affix his or her seal, even ifthe engineer prepared the notice.

    Professional engineers are not notaries public and

    the professional engineer’s seal cannot be used forpurposes where a notary seal is required.

    Contracts and other legal business documents aresealed with a corporate seal, if the business entity

    is a corporation. If not, signatures suffice. Profession-al seals are not to be used for this purpose. Passportapplications, birth certificate applications and other

    documents that identify professional engineers assuitable guarantors require only the guarantor’s sig-nature followed by the “P.Eng.” designation.


    Who seals

    The engineer who is taking professional respon-sibility for the work must seal documents. Thisis generally the professional engineer who pro-vided the largest contribution to preparing thedocuments, or, where junior staff did the work,

    by the eng inee r who c lo s e l y supe r v i s ed thework. (See below for information re lat ing tomult idisc ipl inary projects , or projects whereseveral engineers contributed large amounts tothe final document.)

    Under section 75 of Regulation 941, PEO licenceholders are not permitted to use, or refer to, their

    professional seals in company logos, advertising,letterhead, business cards, or other promotion-al materials.

    In general, draft or preliminary documents shouldnot be sealed and should be clearly marked as“Draft”, “Preliminary”, “For Review Only”, “ForDiscussion”, “Not for Construction”, or some otherindication that the documents are not ready foranyone to rely on the contents. Professional engi-

    neers should closely control such documents andnot release them to anyone who might depend onthe validity of the contents.

    If it is necessary to sign and seal preliminary doc-

    uments (such as to fulfill the requirements of aregulatory agency), this guideline’s recommenda-tions for sealing final documents should be fol-lowed. Signed and sealed preliminary documentsshould be clearly marked as incomplete and restrict-ed to the particular use for which the documentwas released.

    Some company officials mistakenly assume theyare supposed to seal all documents because theengineering firm is legally liable for any problemsarising from the work. This is a misunderstandingof the purpose of the seal. Sealing a document cre-

    ates no legal liability. The seal identifies the engi-neer taking personal and professional responsibil-

    i t y f o r t h e c o n t e n t o f t h e d o c u m e n t s . I t i sappropriate that the professional engineer respon-sible for preparing the documents is the person

    held accountable by the professional body if some-thing goes wrong. Hence, only that person shouldseal them.

    Another common misperception is that only theholder of a certificate of authorization (C of A) isentitled to seal documents. This is false; there is

    no connection between the C of A and a seal. Theright and obligation to use a seal are conferred bythe P.Eng. licence.


    The engineer’s signature and the date on which thedocument was sealed, handwritten (as opposed to

    block letters) within or beside the stamp, mustalways be included. Initials alone are not accept-able. The engineer’s handwritten signature is anauthenticating mark that complements the seal.The handwritten signature affixed to the documentcan be an electronic facsimile of a handwritten

    original, although for security reasons it is prefer-

    able that the signature be affixed to plans and spec-ifications in a manner that is separate from that ofthe seal.

    Engineer ing documents cannot be s igned bya p rox y, i . e . by a n o t h e r p e r s o n s i g n i n g o n

    behalf of (“per”) the individual identi f ied on

    t h e s e a l . E a c h p r o f e s s i o n a l e n g i n e e r m u s tensure that a facs imi le s tamp i s not used toimprint a copy of his or her handwritten s ig-nature on the document.

    Final specifications and reports must be sealed onthe cover of the bound document, or on a sepa-rate seal sheet within the document. Individualdrawings within a bound document do not needto be sealed.

    Seals and signatures shall be placed on all orig-ina l f ina l documents . Because o f the r i sk o fsealed originals being copied and distr ibutedwi thout an eng inee r ’s knowledge , eng inee r sshould assure that an effective and secure doc-

    ument control system appropriate for the risksassociated with the particular circumstances is inplace (see section 8.2).

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 9

    6.2 Sealing Single-discipline


    Engineering designs and other documents are usually pre-pared by at least one engineer and then reviewed, though

    not in detail, for adherence to concept or corporate stan-dards by a supervisory or approving engineer. For docu-ments covering work within a single discipline and devel-oped by a single engineer, or by others under his/her directsupervision, that engineer must seal the document. Fordocuments covering work within a single discipline butdeveloped by several engineers, the document should besealed by the engineer responsible for coordinating thework of the team, or by the supervisory engineer if he or

    she was sufficiently involved in overseeing the work.

    Where engineers review or verify documents, they

    should not affix their seals. Instead, they shouldinsert their initials in a “Verified by” or “Reviewedby” box on the document.

    When more than one engineer within a single dis-

    cipline contributed to and had decision-makingauthority regarding the work, each engineer will-ing to take responsibility may seal the document.

    6.3 Sealing Multi-discipline


    For a project covering work within several engineeringdisciplines, all documents within a particular engineer-ing discipline must be sealed by the engineer takingresponsibility for work within that discipline, with anindication or qualification of which discipline is impliedby the seal. The supervisory or coordinating engineer(if there is one) should also apply his or her seal to indi-

    cate that the work of the various disciplines has beencoordinated. If only one signature and seal is used, it

    should be that of the engineer taking responsibility for

    the work, generally the coordinating engineer.

    6.4 Revising Documents

    All sealed documents are considered to be final doc-uments. However, occasionally such documents need

    to be edited, altered or amended, either during thecourse of the project, or as part of a new project. Toensure that engineers are not unknowingly acceptingresponsibility for work they did not do, it is impor-tant that documents, once sealed, are not altered with-

    out undergoing an appropriate revision process.

    Where alteration of documents sealed by another engi-neer is required for an ongoing project, the follow-ing procedure should be followed: The original seal isto remain and the engineer altering the documents isto add his or her seal, clearly identifying the alter-ations and who is responsible for them.

    Where alteration of documents (particularly draw-

    ings) sealed by another engineer for a completed pro-ject is required for a new project, the following pro-cedure should be followed: The documents used asthe basis of the new work should be clearly identifiedby a note, a drawing method (e.g. lighter or ghostedlines), or an identifying mark, as work previously done

    by others; the original seal is not to appear and the

    engineer altering the documents is to add his or herseal, clearly identifying the alterations and who isresponsible for them.

    There is no need for the practitioners who preparedthe original documents to be made aware of changesto their documents. In every case, the practitioner

    making changes assumes responsibility for the changesand the effects of those changes on the entire designor report. This is the reason that the engineer makingthe changes must identify his or her changes and thenseal the document. By sealing, that practitioneracknowledges that he or she is taking responsibilityfor the changes.

    6.5 Shop Drawings

    Generally applicable design details developed by man-

    ufacturers or standards organizations, verified by test-ing and/or approved by government bodies, do notneed to be sealed. However, details or subsystem

    designs produced by manufacturers or contractors forspecific projects, or applications that require profes-sional engineering design or judgment, needed forcoordination by the design engineer, must be sealed,


    to ensure there is consistent delineation of designresponsibility for all aspects of the work.

    For structural steel shop drawings, the building designengineer designs the members and overall stability sys-tem and is responsible to indicate member connectionforces as required by professional practice standards.

    Structural steel detailers use this information to pro-duce shop details and connections for the steel mem-bers. Many of the connections use standard details fromthe Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC)handbook, which have been developed over time byqualified engineers. However, there are usually someconnections that are similar to, but not exactly the sameas, standard connections. Further, most drawings bythe building design engineer do not indicate all connec-tion forces at all locations, and the engineer preparing

    shop drawings is often required to provide engineer-ing calculations based on area loads. To address variedconditions, erection drawings submitted for review tothe building design engineer should be sealed by anengineer whose responsibility is to ensure the adequa-cy of all of the steel connections. The seal should alsobe qualified by a note stating that the design respon-

    sibility is “For Connections Only”. This engineer should

    also seal all shop drawings if they are issued to the build-ing designer. As an alternative to the above, the connec-

    tion design engineer can issue a signed and sealed let-ter to the building design engineer stating that all detaildrawings have been prepared and reviewed under theconnection design engineer’s supervision.

    The requirements for timber connectors are simi-lar to those for structural steel, and shop drawingsshould be handled similarly.

    A professional engineer must seal drawings for pre-manufactured custom timber roof trusses that arenot covered by Part 9 of the Ontario Building Code.

    For concrete reinforcing, building design drawings gen-

    erally indicate specific and typical details that are usedby detailers to provide bar lists in accordance with stan-dard bending lengths and details. Since there is no pro-

    fessional engineering judgment required, bar lists do notneed to be sealed. However, the detailer should providea written statement that all bending details conform toCanadian Standards Association (CSA) standards.

    Seals are also required on any documents relating tocontractor-designed systems, such as (but not limit-ed to) sprinklers, pressure piping and control systems,or custom-manufactured components, such as (butnot limited to) switchboards, motor control centres,

    pressure vessels, process machinery and elevators.

    All shop drawings should be provided to the design engi-neer for review and coordination prior to fabrication orinstallation. Professional engineers preparing shop draw-ings should be aware that their obligation to “cooperatein working with other professionals engaged on a pro-ject” (subsection 77.6, Regulation 941) includes provid-ing design engineers with all the information they requirefor design, coordination, or review in a timely manner.Failure to provide such information could cause delays,redesign or lawsuits that would negatively affect the design

    engineer, and could be construed as professional miscon-duct by the engineer preparing the shop drawings.

    Occasionally, an engineer finds it necessary to seal

    shop drawings prepared by others. For example, an

    Ontario representative of a company in the UnitedStates may need to act as agent for that company toassure compliance with provincial laws. Since the seal-ing engineer will take responsibility for the content of

    the documents, he or she must be competent in thedesign area and must thoroughly review the drawingsto ascertain whether he or she will accept responsi-

    bility, before agreeing to seal the documents.

    Professional engineers acting as the agents of peopleor organizations receiving materials are often required

    to review shop drawings prepared by others for thepurpose of confirming compliance with the specifi-cations and drawings of the devices, systems, struc-

    tures, and other apparatuses indicated on the shopdrawings. Engineers should note that this review isfor the sole purpose of ascertaining conformance withthe general design concept and does not indicate anapproval of the design details. In other words, thereviewing engineer is not taking responsibility for the

    design. Therefore, reviewing engineers must not affixtheir seals to shop drawings. If any party requires that

    the drawings be marked with an indication that areview has taken place, a separate and distinct “shopdrawing” stamp should be used.

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 11

    NOTE: The law clearly limits responsibility for a review-ing engineer to matters within the engineer’s profession-al competence. However, engineers often take on moreresponsibility than they should. This happens because con-tractual provisions or actual conduct by the engineerexpand the scope of drawing review into matters thatshould be the responsibility of others. To protect them-selves, professional engineers should never provide serviceswithout a signed agreement that clearly describes the scopeof services to be provided, clearly limits the obligationsof the engineer, and clearly assigns the risks that the engi-neer will assume. Engineers should assume only risks thatare within their ability to control and never those wherethe performance of a third party, such as a contractor orsupplier, might have an effect on the outcome.

    To avoid liability for information contained in shop

    drawings, the reviewing engineer’s organization shouldexplicitly limit the scope of the engineer’s review, bothin the contract and on the shop-drawing stamp itself.Shop-drawing stamps should include language thatstrictly limits any implied approval, by noting thatthe scope of the submittal review is limited to deter-mining conformance with the design intent and theinformation provided in the project documents.

    6.6 Standard Drawings

    Some organizations prepare drawings of common com-ponents or arrangements for use in project documentsprepared by others. These drawings are usually treat-ed as generic standards and should not be sealed bythe person responsible for creating the document.

    When used, standard drawings should always be incor-

    porated into drawings or other documents. It is the dutyof the engineer sealing and taking responsibility for theproject documents to ensure that the standard draw-ings are appropriate and correct for the current project.

    6.7 As-built and Record Drawings

    Professional engineers should use the following distinc-tion between as-built and record drawings. Drawingsreferred to as “as-builts” are prepared by a third party,

    or by the engineer using information furnished by the

    contractor or other field staff. Record drawings arethose prepared by the reviewing engineer after verify-ing in detail the actual conditions of the completedproject. For some projects, this verification may requirefrequent or continuous presence on site. The distinc-

    tion between as-built and record drawings determineswhether drawings representing the final state of theproject should be sealed.

    Because professional engineers are responsible for thecontent of drawings bearing their seals, as-built draw-ings should not be sealed, since the engineer is notresponsible for the content of these documents.

    Some of the information provided on as-build draw-

    ings might be changes authorized by the engineer dur-ing construction. Other information might reflectchanges initiated by other parties due to site condi-tions or other causes. Changes by the engineer willalready have been documented by change orders, sealedsketches, or sealed reports, so there is no need to seal

    the as-builts. Where changes are by others, although

    the engineer will have a responsibility to advise theclient whether the change was the result of a safetyconcern or a contravention of codes or standards, theengineer should not be forced to seal the documents,

    since to do so might imply that the changes were partof the engineer’s design. If as-builts are produced bymaking changes to the original construction draw-

    ings, the seal should not be applied, or should beremoved if already in place, and the drawings marked“as-built drawings”. In place of the seal, there shouldbe a note referencing the original sealed drawings.

    Sealing of drawings with record information mightimply to some parties that the engineer is providing

    some type of warranty or certification of the construc-tion. This is never the case, since the contractor isalways responsible for construction.

    6.8 Using Documents Sealed

    by Others

    Because members of the public, including otherprofessional engineers, may be relying on theinformation in sealed documents, the profession-


    al engineer’s seal should be considered to be amark of reliance, providing assurance of the com-petence and professional standards of those whoprepared the documents. However, it does notguarantee an absolute lack of error in a document.

    A professional engineer using a document sealedby another as the basis of further work shouldverify the information as part of standard duediligence procedure.

    Often engineers must use documents, particularlydrawings, prepared and sealed by other engineers asthe basis for new projects. Since copyright of the doc-uments always remains with the author, engineers mustnot use documents prepared by others as part of a newdesign without the express consent of the author. Forexample, a design for an electronic HVAC control sys-

    tem created as part of an earlier project cannot becopied by another engineer for a new project even if thetwo projects are for the same client. Unless permissionis granted, an engineer’s design cannot be part of thework for any project the engineer is not involved with.

    Drawings of completed projects can be used as back-ground information for new projects if an engineerindicates on the new drawings (by using lighter or dif-

    ferent coloured lines, dashed or dotted lines, notes,etc.) the portions that are not part of the current pro-ject. For example, if an engineer were required to mod-

    ify an existing electronic HVAC control system, theoriginal document could be copied onto the new draw-ing so that the modifications would be shown in con-text. The existing control system would not be part ofthe current project. The engineer who prepared thenew drawings would take responsibility (and credit)for the design modifications and their effect on theoverall system. Though the original drawings were

    sealed and therefore can be considered to be reliable,it is the responsibility of the engineer producing the

    new drawings to decide whether he or she should con-

    firm the accuracy of the original plans and the suit-ability of that design by inspecting existing conditions.

    Portions of written documents should not be copied,

    or unreasonably large sections extracted and used inother documents, without permission of the author.

    Occasionally, a professional engineer will need to revise

    drawings sealed by another engineer. Where the revi-sions are a new project involving modifications to anexisting structure, system, machine, apparatus or otherdevice, the engineer should treat the drawings as back-ground information. The original engineer’s seal should

    not appear on the drawings. The engineer responsiblefor the modifications must seal the drawings.

    Where the revisions will be made to documents thatare the basis of a new or incomplete project, the mod-ifications made to the documents are to be clearlyindicated by a method such as “bubbling” of revisedsections or notes. The seals of both the original engi-neer and the engineer responsible for the revisionsmust appear on the document with clear indicationsof which part, original or revision(s), each seal refersto. As a professional courtesy, the engineer responsi-

    ble for the revisions should inform the original engi-neer of changes made to the document.

    6.9 Translated Documents

    Professional engineers are occasionally required toprovide documents in a language other than theirusual working language. Where documents con-

    tain the same information in two or more lan-guages, practitioners are encouraged to identifyone language that will govern in the event of a dis-

    crepancy between the two texts. However, in somesituations either legislation or the client will requirethat two languages be given equal status and, there-fore, it is important that the practitioner ensurethe two texts have identical meanings.

    The practitioner may seal documents in two ormore languages, provided he or she is fluent ineach. Alternatively, engineers collaborating on aproject may seal documents in the language(s) inwhich each is fluent. For example, one engineermay seal the English version of a document andanother engineer may seal the French version.

    If the practitioner is not fluent in the required lan-

    guage(s), he or she may engage the services of atranslator who is experienced in translating tech-nical documents and who declares in writing that

    the translated text is identical in meaning to that

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 13

    7.1 Document Approval

    Engineering documents should be issued for use

    as the final step in a document approval processrequiring the approving design or supervising engi-neer to seal the document only after verifying itfor accuracy and completeness. Every organizationpreparing engineering documents should have aformal process for preparing, authorizing, distrib-

    uting and retaining those documents. A document

    approval process does not need to be a complex,multi-levelled bureaucratic activity with multipledouble-checking processes. However, it should, atleast, include the following stages:

    • checking to ensure a document is complete andaccurately expresses the output of the engineer’s

    design or analysis;

    • ve r i f y ing to ensure the document mee t s therequirements of the work as expressed by codes,

    standards, PEO guidelines, contractual arrange-ments and other articles defining the scope ofwork; and

    • approval by a professional engineer who acknowl-

    edges that the document meets professional stan-dards and attests to this fact by sealing it.

    7.2 Control of Sealed Documents

    Professional engineers responsible for sealing doc-

    uments should ensure that their organizationimplements a document management process thatprevents the possibility of:

    • others a lter ing sealed documents without theknowledge of the author;

    • removal, or duplication and unauthorized use, ofseal; and

    • unauthorized use of documents.

    To provide this protection, the document manage-

    ment process should incorporate the following,

    non-exclusive, features:

    • procedures that assure a document was prepared

    by competent personnel;

    • procedures that assure all engineering documentshave been prepared by or under the supervisionof a professional engineer;

    • procedures that assure the design, report, or otheroutput of engineering work complies with al lapplicable regulations, codes, standards, prac-

    tices, guides;

    • a sealing procedure to ensure that all engineeringdocuments are signed and sealed by the profession-al engineer taking responsibility for the work before

    any documents are issued to the public;

    • procedures that assure data integrity by prohibit-ing unauthorized and/or undocumented changes;

    • procedures to identify unauthorized copies of finaldocuments and to prevent their being sealed;

    • procedures to ensure all preliminary engineeringnotes and drawings are destroyed at the conclu-sion of the design phase of a project;

    of the original. The translator should be certifiedby a recognized certification body. If not, the dec-laration should be notarized. The practitioner canseal both the original and translated documentsbased on this declaration.

    In some cases, the client may provide translations ofunilingual documents prepared by the practitioner.The practitioner should ask the client to provide adeclaration stating that the meaning of the translat-ed text is identical to that of the original.

    7. Management of Engineering Documents


    • records retention procedures such that the recordsto be retained are selected by the professional engi-neer responsible for sealing the documents;

    • procedures for validating records before storage;

    • established document retention periods; and

    • protection of records against loss or inadvertentdestruction.

    Would PEO consider a lack of proper control of doc-uments to be a matter of negligence or professionalmisconduct? According to section 72(2)(e) of Regu-lation 941, the “signing or sealing a final drawing,

    specification, plan, report or other document not actu-ally prepared or checked by the practitioner” is an actof professional misconduct. Presumably, this alsoapplies to cases where an engineer knowingly allowsanother person to use his or her seal on documentsthe engineer did not prepare or check. Therefore, all

    professional engineers should ensure that they seal

    only documents they are thoroughly familiar with.There is nothing in the Professional Engineers Act thatdeals specifically with an engineer unknowingly allow-ing his or her seal to be used by others. However, since

    the seal is an important symbol of the trust relation-ship between the profession and the public, an engi-neer who fails to control his or her seal may be regard-

    ed as exhibiting unprofessional conduct, especially ifthe unauthorized use of the seal resulted in physicalor financial harm to members of the public.

    7.3 Use and Control of Electronic


    Ontario’s Electronic Commerce Act, 2000, gives legalrecognition to electronic documents, even in caseswhere the document exists only in electronic format.It defines electronic documents as documents “creat-

    ed, recorded, transmitted or stored in digital form orin other intangible form by electronic, magnetic or

    optical means or by any other means that has capabil-ities for creation, recording, transmission or storagesimilar to those means”. By this definition, a draw-

    ing created using a computer drafting package, a faxedcopy of a letter, and a report stored on a compact diskare all electronic documents. Consequently, PEO hasrevised its previously expressed opinion, as stated inthe Guideline to Professional Practice (1988, revised1998), that “engineers apply their signatures and sealsonly to the hard copy of the information”. Recogniz-ing that electronic documents in Ontario now have thesame legal force as paper documents, use of seals onelectronic format documents is now allowed. Thisincludes the use of scanned and electronically drawnseals on electronic documents and scanned copies ofsealed original hardcopies. The principles applying tosealing paper documents apply equally to engineer-

    ing documents created, stored, distributed, or usedin electronic formats. The problems associated withuse of documents given in section 7.2 of this guide-line also apply to electronic documents.

    Because electronic documents can easily be changedand copied with no obvious indication, engineeringorganizations must have well documented processes tosupport the authenticity and validity of documentswith electronic signatures and seals. Managing elec-

    tronic documents in workflow and providing an audit

    trail is vital to validating document authenticity. Con-sequently, professional engineers responsible for seal-

    ing electronic documents must ensure that their orga-

    nizations adopt a method of creating, archiving anddistributing electronic format documents that will:

    • control and protect the electronic facsimile of the

    seal and signature;

    • ensure document integrity, i.e. documents are notaltered once signed, without undergoing the revi-

    sion process; and

    • allow verification of the identity of the practition-er originating the document.

    Electronic documents can be issued for use only ifthe authentication procedure maintains the integrity

    of the documents and the authenticity of the seal andsignature. Document recipients must, in turn, ensure

    they have a process to assure that a document theyreceive has been authorized and has not been tam-pered with. Document originators must also be able

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 15

    to provide a paper copy of their electronically sealedand signed documents.

    Given these requirements, organizations planning toissue and distribute electronic engineering documentsshould implement some form of document security.There are many forms for such security, ranging from

    use of image files that are not as easily edited, to pass-word protected files, to public-key/private-key encryp-tion systems. The security method employed shouldbe appropriate for the distributed document’s risk ofalteration or improper use. The engineer should makethis assessment after considering the following.

    • How trustworthy is the recipient of the documents?

    • How will the recipient use the documents?

    • Does the recipient have a secure document stor-age and control process?

    • Are you concerned about tampering of the document?

    • Are you concerned about removal and reuse of your

    seal and signature without your knowledge?

    • Are you concerned that the recipient may reuse the

    document for purposes other than the one for whichyou are specifically accepting responsibility?

    If it is impossible to use such a procedure, any seals

    or signatures appearing on the document must beremoved. This unsealed document cannot be used forthe purposes contemplated by the Professional EngineersAct, and must include a notice to this effect.

    An electronic document that has not been approvedby a professional engineer can be transmitted to oth-

    ers; however, no authenticating mark (seals or sig-natures) should be affixed to the document. Thename of the author should always be indicated onany non-authenticated engineering document sentto a third party. To avoid confusion, this documentmust include a notice that it is transmitted for infor-

    mation or coordination purposes only. For example,an engineering firm may store a sealed hard copy of

    final drawings and issue unsealed copies for infor-mation that bear, in place of a seal, the note “Referto Design Office for sealed originals”. An engineer-

    ing document that is transmitted without a seal orsignature and without such a notice(s) is consideredto be a document that does not require authentica-tion, i.e. it is not a final version of an engineeringdocument issued for use. Anyone possessing the doc-

    ument should not rely on its contents.

    However, the seal and signature discussed in thisguideline should not be confused with a securitytool known as an “electronic signature”, which isencrypted alphanumeric data used as personal elec-tronic identifying information that people attachto a document to permanently associate themselveswith the document. It is not an identical electron-ic copy of a handwritten signature obtained byscanning or electronic pen. An electronic signa-ture is, however, intended to have the same legal

    force and distinguishing effect as the use of a sig-nature affixed by hand. For this reason, an elec-tronic signature must be:

    • unique to the person using it;

    • capable of verification;

    • under the sole control of the person using it; and

    • attached to, or associated with, data in such a man-ner that it authenticates its own attachment to theparticular data using it and the integrity of thedata transmitted.

    Regardless of the document management system used,professional engineers assume full responsibility for

    the security of their electronic seal and must ensurethat it appears only on documents they have preparedand for which they will accept responsibility.

    7.4 Retention of Documents

    The Professional Engineers Act does not requirethat engineers retain engineering documents fora set length of time. Retention of documents is

    therefore done at the discretion of the engineer,employe r, o r c l i en t . Though document s a reoften kept for reference purposes in anticipa-

    tion of future work, they are retained mainly


    in case of possible legal action against the mem-ber or firm. Documents should be kept for aslong as it is l ikely that a project might have anaction against it.

    A person’s right to exercise legal action for claims isgoverned by the Limitations Act, 2002, which states,“no proceeding shall be commenced in respect of anyclaim after the 15th anniversary of the day on whichthe act or omission on which the claim is based tookplace”. However, many errors and omissions in engi-neering work will be identified fairly soon after anengineer’s work is completed, so a shorter period maybe reasonable for retaining documents that might berequired for one’s defence against future lawsuits. Ofcourse, this will depend on the type of work done andthe likelihood of litigation in that area of practice.Professional engineers should consult with their insur-ance companies before destroying documents.

    All sealed hardcopy and electronic format docu-

    ments must be stored in a manner that prevents

    unauthorized use of the document and/or the pro-fess ional engineer’s sea l . Unauthorized use i sdefined as any use other than the one for whichthe engineer explicitly affixed his or her seal to the

    document. Though all documents and the contentscreated by an employee engineer remain the prop-erty of the firm, no sealed document should beused without permission of the engineer.

    7.5 Copyright Issues

    Copyright is a form of ownership interest that arisesautomatically whenever a new intellectual work, suchas this guideline, is created. It applies to all original

    written and artistic works, including plans, drawings,calculations, reports, and other results of an engineer’s

    work. Copyright gives the owner the right of control

    over the document content and the right to sue forcompensation if someone copies the work. However,copyright is not absolute. Under the “fair dealing”

    principle, people are allowed to make copies of all ora portion of a work for research, private study, review,or reporting. For example, if an organization’s proce-

    dure manual quoted from this guideline, and attrib-

    uted the quote, it would not violate the copyrightowned by PEO.

    Generally, copyright automatically belongs to theauthor or authors. However, contractual relationships,including implicit common-law contracts betweenemployees and employers, affect the ownership of

    copyright. Usually, employment contracts dictate thatif a creative work is prepared as part of the normalwork provided by an employee for an employer, theemployer is the owner of the copyright. Employeeengineers, either explicitly or implicitly, sign over totheir employer copyright and other intellectual prop-erty rights on all intellectual output, including inven-tions, when they enter into employment relationships.

    In other cases, copyright, like any other piece of prop-erty, can be freely transferred by contract. However,copyright law requires that all transfers of ownershipbe in writing and that the transfer be unambiguous.Occasionally, in a contract between an engineer and

    a client, the contract may stipulate, usually at theclient’s request, that the client is assigned all copyrightin the works prepared under that contract. In mostcases, however, an engineer creating plans for a pro-ject retains copyright in the plans, even though the

    plans themselves may belong to the client. Unautho-rized use of engineering plans by anyone, includingthe client, can constitute infringement of copyright.

    The distinction between the intellectual work andthe physical manifestation of, or medium that car-ries, the work must be understood to properly assert

    one’s rights over intellectual property. Copyrightapplies only to the intellectual work and exists sep-arately and apart from the medium, which is a form

    of real property. For example, a person buying apaperback is free to read, mark-up, re-sel l , ordestroy the paperback. However, because the copy-right remains with the author, the purchaser can-not make copies of the book for resale and cannotquote the text without attribution. For an engi-

    neer’s purposes, the ownership of the copyright ofthe content of plans is separate and apart from the

    ownership rights of the plans themselves. In typi-cal engineer-client relationships, the client ownsthe output of the engineer’s work (plans, reports,

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 17

    drawings, etc.) and is entitled to use those plansfor the purpose they were obtained. Under certaincircumstances, the client can also sell the plans.For example, a developer may have hired an engi-neer to provide a design for municipal servicing of

    a property. If, after receiving the plans, the devel-oper decided to sell the site, the plans could bepart of the property transferred.

    Occasionally, engineers experience a situation wherethey are dismissed by a cl ient part of the waythrough the design process. Certainly, the plansprepared to that point belong to the client, but itis debatable to what extent the client can use thecontent of the plans, for which the engineer holdscopyright. Courts often use a “value” approach thatlooks at what the client and the engineer expect-ed to spend or make at certain points in the pro-ject. If a design is stolen in a case where the engi-neer could have expected to receive substantial feesfor completion of the design, the engineer is usu-ally entitled to large damages in copyright. Con-versely, if the engineering work is largely boughtand paid for, the courts will allow the client a great

    deal of discretion in using existing plans.

    Generally, professional engineers are not as preoccu-pied by copyright issues as are artists, musicians andwriters. However, engineers should be aware of these

    issues, since they, like artists, are occupied in convert-ing ideas, including opinions, judgments and designconcepts, into such tangible content as drawings andreports. Engineers aware of these issues will be betterprepared to protect both their ideas and themselvesfrom charges of improperly using others’ creations.The most likely scenario leading to copyright infringe-ment is where a second engineer obtains a copy of the

    first engineer’s plans and copies them either in totalor in part. This can routinely happen when an engi-

    neer refers back to the “reference” copies kept from

    his previous employment (where copyright belongsto the former employer), or when an engineer obtainscopies of documents from a client. (See section 6.8,

    Using Documents Sealed by Others, for more infor-mation on this topic.) Since the Professional EngineersAct defines professional misconduct to include fail-ure to make reasonable provision for complying with

    applicable statutes, it is possible that a breach of copy-right by a practitioner might be considered profes-sional misconduct.

    Engineers should take steps to prevent misuse ofdrawings. Under the international copyright con-ventions to which Canada belongs, nothing need

    be done to preserve copyright once a work is creat-ed. But to give notice to others who may have accessto the work, a notice in the form “(c) 2004 ABCCorporation” is sufficient to inform others theymight be infringing the copyright if they makecopies. Copyright may be registered with the fed-eral government, but there is no requirement to doso. In addition to affixing a copyright notice to alldocuments, include a note that they can be usedonly on the project for which they were prepared.

    Transferring copyright in drawings to a client is a riskyproposition. The law does recognize certain protec-tions for an engineer when an owner of drawings uses

    them for a purpose for which they were not designed.

    However, contracts should make it clear that any trans-fer of engineering documents, including drawings, tothe client is on the terms that:

    • the documents are instruments of professional ser-vice only;

    • they are to be used only in connection with the pro-

    ject that is the subject of the agreement;

    • the client agrees to indemnify the engineer for anyliability issues that arise from the drawings; and

    • the client provides additional compensation for therisk of this added liability.

    Controlling the distribution of copies is a good prac-tice and is where proper sealing practices come intoplay. Master originals can be sealed, provided the seal-ing engineer ensures that the masters are stored andaccess is controlled. Copies should be distributed onlyon an as-needed basis and only the copies that needto be sealed should be sealed. For example, usuallyonly the contractor and the building department musthave sealed copies of the drawings for a building pro-ject. In fact, in most cases, even the client does notneed a set of sealed design drawings.


    8.1 Professional Responsibility

    Professional responsibility refers to engineers’

    obligations to conduct themselves in accordancewith the technical, legal and ethical standardsof the profession, including the higher duty ofcare associated with professional status. When-ever individuals act in their capacity as profes-sional engineers, they must be prepared to answerfor their conduct in discharging their obligationsto the profession and to the public. The seal is anindication of who is taking professional respon-

    sibility for the content of a document. By affix-ing the seal, a professional engineer agrees totake the responsibility and to be accountable forany deficiency of skill, knowledge or judgmentfound in his or her work. Should a complaint bemade regarding a document that is al leged to

    demonstrate negligence or incompetence, theengineer who seals the document is answerableto Professional Engineers Ontario.

    Accepting this responsibility is part of the com-

    mitment made by each individual when accept-ing the exclusive right to practise afforded by the

    professional engineer’s licence. Consequently, the

    use of the seal is not optional. Failing to seal anengineering document provided as part of ser-vice to the public is a violation of the Profession-al Engineers Act. The implications associated withfailing to seal a final drawing are the same as anyact of professional misconduct: The P.Eng. wouldbe disciplined by PEO, and there have been dis-

    cipline cases in which one of the charges was fail-ing to seal.

    8.2 Liability

    A liability is a legal obligation resulting from aduty, or a promise to do something. To say a per-

    son is liable is to indicate that they are the per-son responsible for fixing the problem, payingthe debt , or compensat ing the v ic t im of thewrongful act.

    A liability may arise from contracts, either expressor implied, or in consequence of torts committed.Since contracts are essentially promises, they indi-cate an agreement by the parties to accept obliga-

    tions they would not normally have. Lack of a writ-ten contract does not mean there are no obligationson the parties. In the absence of a written con-tract, the parties of a transaction, such as a fee-for-service relationship, will be bound by commonlaw and other norms including, in the case of pro-fessional engineers, the Professional Engineers Act,PEO guidelines and standards of practice expect-ed of reasonable practitioners.

    A tort is an act, done deliberately or throughcarelessness, that causes harm or loss to anotherperson. Since, in an orderly society, all peopleare expected to conduct themselves so as to avoid

    causing foreseeable harm to other people or their

    property, a person responsible for a tort can berequired by a court to pay damages to the injuredparty. This obligation to take reasonable care isknown as a duty of care. The duty of care is, how-

    ever, more stringent for those, such as profes-sional engineers, who are expected to possess spe-cialized knowledge and who occupy a position of

    trust within society. Professional engineers, there-fore, like other professionals, owe a special dutyto clients and third parties to perform their ser-vices with the degree of knowledge, ski l l andjudgment ordinarily possessed by members of theprofession. They are also required to provide pro-fessional engineering services in the manner areasonably prudent engineer would under the

    same or similar circumstances. The special dutyof care arising from professional status does not

    imply that professional engineers are subject to

    infinite risk, since the law does not expect orrequire perfection. Unsatisfactory results, alone,are not necessarily evidence of lack of skill or

    proper care; as long as an engineer has exercisedthat degree of knowledge, skill and judgment pos-sessed and used by the average practitioner, it is

    unlikely that a court will find him or her liable

    8. Professional Responsibility and Liability

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 19

    for negligence, despite unsatisfactory results hav-ing occurred.

    Failure of an engineer to sign and seal an engineer-ing document does not relieve the engineer of legalliability, since sealing of documents by engineershas nothing to do with the question of liability fornegligence. Engineers are liable because they pre-pared the documents, or because they supervised orapproved them, not because they signed or sealedthem. Similarly, affixing a seal does not necessar-ily impose on an engineer the burden of any addi-tional civil liabilities. The courts assign liabilityon the basis of the facts, not on whether the doc-ument is sealed.

    However, engineers who knowingly sign and sealengineering documents that they did not prepare,supervise, or check, may be sued for fraud or neg-ligence, if the misrepresentation results in someparty suffering damages. In addition, since this isa violation of the professional misconduct provi-sions of Regulation 941, the engineer can be dis-ciplined by Professional Engineers Ontario.

    8.3 Sealing Fees

    Sealing of engineering documents is an integralpart of the role of a professional engineer and can-not be considered an additional service. No feeshall be charged for affixing the seal to documentsprepared by the engineer during the course ofemployment or as part of any engineering servicesprovided to a client.

    Though it is reasonable, within limits, for pro-fessional engineers to provide services to reviewand then seal documents prepared by another per-son, engineers must never “sell their seals” bymerely affixing their seals to documents they havehad no part in preparing or thoroughly review-ing, either for payment or as a favour. Such con-duct is a violation of section 72(2)(e) of Regula-tion 941 under the Professional Engineers Act. Iti s a l so unwise s ince, by sea l ing, the engineer

    acknowledges professional responsibility for thecontent of the documents.

    8.4 Penalty for Misuse of a Seal

    Anyone who il legally uses an engineering sealmay be found guilty of an offence under section40 of the Professional Engineers Act and may befined up to a maximum of $10,000 for a firstoffence, and $25,000 for any subsequent offence.In cases involving the illegal use of an engineer-ing seal , pol ice may also lay fraud or forgerycharges. Typically, it is non-engineers, operat-ing without the knowledge or consent of an engi-neer, who carry out these offences. This is whyengineers should store their sea l s in a secureplace.

    PEO has prosecuted individuals who have usedillegally obtained seals or forged replicas. Therehave also been cases where non-licensed individ-uals have obtained digital copies or sheets of pho-tocopied transferable facsimiles of an engineer’sseal and used them fraudulently.

    8.5 Ownership and Replacement

    of Seal

    Every seal given to a licence holder remains the property of Professional Engineers Ontario. The engineer to whom it is issued has exclusive use of it for as long as he or she is a member in good stand-ing of the association. The seal must be returned to PEO upon retiring or resigning as a member.

    If your seal is lost or stolen, notify PEO immedi-ately. Replacement seals can be obtained by contact-ing PEO’s Administrative Services Department. You will be asked to complete a form and return it with a cheque for the replacement fee. This fee is $30. If you are a member in good standing, you will receive a new seal in a few days.


    The following questions from professional engineersand answers from PEO are intended to demonstratehow the principles outlined in this guideline can be

    applied to specific situations.

    Q: Is it necessary to seal a report/document that con-tains a summary (compendium) of management bestpractices along with specific construction and mainte-nance recommendations for a specific infrastructurefacility?

    A: Section 53 of Regulation 941 provides the statu-tory requirements for the use of the professional

    engineer’s seal. This section lays out two condi-tions that, if met, require engineers to seal docu-ments. The first condition is that the documentmust contain information conveying decisions,opinions, instructions, or other content, based onengineering judgments. The second condition is

    that the document is provided to the public (i.e.

    anyone not part of your employer’s organization).

    A summary prepared separately from the work

    that generated the original content would not beconveying engineering judgments if those judg-ments had been distributed in other documents.In this case, the summary would not need to be

    sealed. This would not be the case, however, ifthe summary were actually a collection of stan-dard instructions, drawings, or other engineeringcontent, assembled as direction for a specific pro-

    ject. In this case, there would be engineering judg-ment exercised in the evaluation and selection ofthe specific information, making the assemblytherefore an act within the practice of profession-al engineering (assuming the content relied onthe application of engineering principles). In thiscase, if the summary were provided to someoneother than the engineer’s employer, it would needto be sealed.

    In particular, a collection of best practices pre-

    pared as construction and maintenance recom-mendations for a specific infrastructure facilitywould need to be sealed, if the recommendations

    involved engineering principles. The engineer

    assembling the document should clearly identifyhis or her role as a person integrating standarddocuments.

    Q: In the case of Engineering Firm A designing aproject for Client A where Engineering Firm Bundertakes contract administration of the work forClient A without Engineering Firm A’s involvement,and there are field changes to the drawings autho-rized by Client A (a government body), is it neces-sary that Engineering Firm B notify EngineeringFirm A of the change? Can Engineering Firm Bundertake the field change and obtain as-built orrecord drawings from Contractor A and forwardsame to Client A without sealing the revised draw-ings (as-built or record)?

    A: The situation where one engineering firm (FirmA) is responsible for design and a second engi-

    neering firm (Firm B) or other party is responsi-

    ble for contract administration or review is quitecommon. PEO has a guideline covering the prac-tice of general review of construction that specif-ically deals with a general review engineer as being

    separate from a design engineer. For all intentsand purposes, once the first engineer has deliv-ered the contractually obligated documents, thefirst engineer is terminated from the project .Therefore, it is not necessary for the second engi-neer to inform the first engineer of any changes.The change s , and any impl i ca t ions o f thosechanges, become the responsibility of the secondengineer.

    PEO makes a distinction between as-built andrecord drawings. As-built drawings are those pre-pared by a third party, such as the contractor. Anengineer should never seal as-bui l t drawings.Record drawings are those prepared by either athird party or by the engineer, for which the engi-

    neer has verified in detail all the indicated changesor site-related information. These must be sealed

    by the engineer.

    Q: In the case of Engineering Firm A designing a pro-ject for Client A (a government body), Client A under-

    9. Questions and Answers

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 21

    taking contract administration of the work and therebeing changes to the drawings, can Client A make thechanges without involvement of Engineering Firm A?Can Client A (a government body) receive as-built orrecord drawings from Contractor A for their own recordsand not seal the as-built or record drawings, if there arechanges to the work as designed by Engineering Firm A?

    A: In situations where an engineering firm doesnot handle contract administration, the client canmake changes to the project without notifying thedesign engineer. However, if the design changesinvolve the practice of professional engineering,the client must have a P.Eng. (either a separateengineering firm or an employee of the client) makethe changes. This requirement may not be applic-able in certain federal projects where provincial

    jurisdiction does not apply, since the regulation ofprofessional engineering practice is a provincialmatter. The client can receive unsealed as-builtdrawings from the contractor directly. There is noobligation on any party to ensure that sealed recorddrawings are prepared and provided to the client,unless this is specifically noted in the contract.

    Q: Our organization retains outside consultants toundertake design work on our behalf. The drawingsare signed and sealed by the consultant. What arethe implications for our organization’s director ofengineering if the director signs the drawings? Thesigning is not for the purpose of approving the design,but merely to acknowledge acceptance of the tenderpackage.

    A: As far as the Professional Engineers Act is con-cerned, the only person responsible for the doc-uments is the engineer who affixed a seal to thedrawings. All other signatures are simply mattersof internal administrative control. Many organi-zations apply a series of signatures to all draw-ings, including signatures by non-engineer man-agers. Such signatures are required for numerous

    reasons, such as sign-off for budgeting purposes.These authorization signatures do not indicateany minimization or delegation of professionalresponsibility for the professional engineer whosealed the drawings. They also do not imply thata non-licensed person signing the drawing hasillegally practised professional engineering.


    Approving/supervising engineer is the profession-al engineer taking overall responsibility for a largeor multidisciplinary project. This engineer can

    authenticate an engineering document that is theresult of the expertise of several engineers work-ing in the same team on a shared project, whereit may be considered impractical to apply theseals and signatures of all engineers. Since thisengineer is taking responsibility for the work ofthe team members, this engineer must be com-petent in all engineering disciplines representedby the document.

    As-built drawing is documentation created by orbased solely on information provided by a third

    party that reflects the installed, constructed, orcommissioned conditions of a device, machine,equipment, apparatus, structure, system, or otheroutcome of an engineering project. Since the engi-neer has not verified that the information is com-pete or accurate, as-built drawings must not besealed (see Record drawing).

    Content is the information within a document,regardless of form or media.

    Coordinating (or Integrating) engineer is the pro-fessional engineer responsible for integrating theexpertise and output of a large and/or multidiscipli-nary team of engineers. This engineer takes respon-sibility for ensuring that all work relevant to the pro-

    ject has been completed and has been prepared byprofessional engineers, but does not take responsibil-ity for the work of the team members.

    Direct supervision means the professional engi-neer was the decision-making authority for thepreparation of the engineering documents, thatall those who assisted in preparing the documents

    reported directly to and received directions onlyfrom the engineer, that the engineer had author-ity to assign tasks to those assisting on the basis

    of his or her assessment of their capabilities, thatthe engineer could compel them to act in accor-dance with his or her decisions, that the engi-

    neer regularly reviewed the work done by others,

    and that the engineer was available to provideguidance to those preparing the documents at alltimes between commencement and completion

    of the project.

    Document refers to a single coherent body of infor-mation recorded in the form of words, symbols,sounds, or images on any medium.

    Document integrity means that information ina document has not been altered and has beenmaintained in its entirety. To maintain integri-ty, the medium used must be stable throughout

    t h e e n t i r e p e r i o d o f r e q u i r e d i n f o r m a t i o nlongevity. The integrity of a document must bemaintained through all stages of its l ife cycle,including authentication, consultation, exami-nation, verification, fragmentation, reproduc-tion, transfer, transmission, storage, archiving,

    destruction, recovery, reconstitution, or manip-

    ulation of any kind.

    Engineering document is a document of any kind inany medium that expresses engineering work carried

    out by a professional engineer. In general, they areany outputs of an engineering design or analysisprocess, such as design requirements, engineering

    drawings, specifications, reports, or instructions. Thefollowing are examples of engineering documents:

    • any drawing prepared as a graphical instructionbased on engineering decisions, such as processflow diagrams, structural framing plans, electricalpower distribution diagrams;

    • design notes, including calculations;

    • pre-start health and safety reports;

    • reports based on engineering judgments, document-ing recommendations, opinions, evaluations, certifi-cations, condition assessments, analysis, verification;

    • technical standards and specifications;

    • technical procedures;

    • technical guidelines providing descriptions of pre-

    scriptive methodologies; and

    Appendix 1. Definitions

  • Profess ional Engineers Ontar io 23

    • forms for submission to regulatory authorities, suchas a Commitment to Provide General Review of Con-struction, or applications for Ministry of Environ-ment Certificates of Authorization.

    Handwritten signature is a name or personal mark,in handwritten form, that a person affixes to a doc-ument and routinely uses to express consent oracknowledge responsibility with respect to the doc-ument, or to authenticate it.

    Impression is a facsimile (of a seal, signature, etc.)on a document, regardless of the medium used.

    Original is a document that emanates directly fromthe author and is the only authentic source forcopies or reproductions. In the case of technology-

    based documents, the integrity of the original mustbe ensured and the original must be capable ofbeing linked to a person, whether or not the doc-ument is released.

    Record drawing is a document created to accurate-ly reflect as-constructed, as-built, or as-fabricatedconditions and that has been sealed by a profes-sional engineer after verifying that the document

    is accurate. They are usually retained to meet busi-ness or regulatory requirements.

    Sealed means a document is signed, dated and bearsan impression of the professional engineer’s stamp.The seal implies that the professional engineer atteststo the completeness and accuracy of the document.

    Shop or factory drawings are documents comprisingdetailed representations of a device, machine, equip-ment, apparatus, structure, or other result of manu-facture created for the purpose of installation, assem-

    blage, fabrication, construction or manufacturing, orto illustrate the use of routine or specific methods.

    The following are terms often used to refer to vari-ous stages in typical corporate or organizational doc-

    ument management schemes. As generally used, theyare often vague and ambiguous about the role of a

    professional engineer.

    • Drawn by identifies the person(s) who generates thedrawing.

    • Written by identifies the person(s) who creates thedocument.

    • Checked by means a person has examined the doc-ument to determine whether the content is com-plete, correctly formatted, consistent with corpo-rate standards, and accurately reflects information

    supplied by the designer. It does not include anexamination of whether the engineering princi-ples in developing the document are correctlyapplied. Documents do not need to be checkedby a professional engineer.

    • Prepared means the engineering document was cre-ated by, and the supporting work (such as analy-

    sis, calculation, evaluation, testing, etc.) was doneby, a licensed professional engineer or person(s)working under the direct personal supervision of aprofessional engineer. An engineering document isprepared by a professional engineer, even if it isdrawn by, or written by, others.

    • Verified means an engineering document has beenexamined for correctness against design require-ments by a professional engineer or a person work-

    ing under the direct personal supervision of a pro-

    fessional engineer.

    • Approved means a professional engineer responsi-ble for preparing the engineering document, or forintegrating documents prepared by other profes-sional engineers, is satisfied that the content of thedocument or documents meets professional stan-dards and, in recognition of the app