The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) defines Responsible Charge as the “direct control and personal supervision of engineering work.” This may lead some to wonder how much the Professional Engineer can rely on the work of an Engineer Intern.

The Engineer of Record is a Professional Engineer who seals drawings or documents for a project. The seal of the Engineer of Record acknowledges that a professional engineer prepared and coordinated or had subordinates or Engineering Interns prepare the files under the direct supervision of the professional engineer.

It is acceptable for a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) to rely on the work of an Engineer Intern (EI) if the intern is not a licensed engineer only if the Professional Engineer acting as Engineer of Record is in Responsible Charge of the EI.

The Engineer of Record must be fully competent and proficient by experience and education in the field or fields of engineering of the scope of the project. The Engineer of Record assumes responsibility for the safety and soundness of the engineering work.

The Florida Board of Professional Engineers recognized that the concept of Responsible Charge is often misconstrued, so the Board published an excellent clarification of the topic in their July 2017 newsletter:

The test established within 61G15-18.011(1)(c) consists, in part, on the following:

  1. The engineer shall be capable of answering questions relevant to the engineering decisions made during the engineer’s work on the project in sufficient detail as to leave little doubt as to the engineer’s proficiency for the work performed and involvement in said work.
  2. The engineer shall be completely in charge of, and satisfied with, the engineering aspects of the project.
  3. The engineer shall have the ability to review design work at any time during the development of the project and shall be available to exercise judgment in reviewing these documents.
  4. The engineer shall have personal knowledge of the technical abilities of the technical personnel doing the work and be satisfied that these capabilities are sufficient for the performance of the work.

Further to Bullet Point #1: When faced with questions about the engineering decisions made on a project, it is not necessary to defend decisions as in an adversarial situation, but only to demonstrate that the engineer in responsible charge made them and possessed sufficient knowledge of the project to make them. Examples of questions the engineer must be able to answer include the criteria for design, methods of analysis, selection of materials, economics of alternate solutions, and environmental considerations.

It should also be noted that 18.011(1)(d) clearly states that Responsible Charge relates to engineering decisions within the purview of the Professional Engineers Act (F.S. 471) and does not refer to management control, administrative or personnel management functions.

It is also important to note what the term Responsible Charge does not mean. This includes:

  • Financial liability for the project
  • Accounting and administrative functions including labor relations, marketing and performance standards. While the engineer in charge may also have responsibilities in these arenas based on the specific project or company, it is not a requirement of the Responsible Charge position

To summarize, a PE may be in Responsible Charge of Engineering Interns if they are under his direct supervision and the work of the Engineering Interns has been thoroughly reviewed before plans are submitted.

NSPE Position Statement No. 10-1778 states the following:

The professional engineer in Responsible Charge is actively engaged in the engineering process, from conception to completion. Engineering decisions must be personally made by the professional engineer or by others over which the professional engineer provides supervisory direction and control authority. Reviewing drawings or documents after preparation without involvement in the design and development process does NOT satisfy the definition of Responsible Charge.

The PE or Engineer of Record must also be capable of answering questions related to the plans and understand every aspect of the process and have an in-depth understanding of the capabilities of the engineers working under his charge. It is only once those conditions are met that the PE may seal plans and assume responsibility for the project.

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