ⓘ Engineering law
Engineering law refers to the application of laws applying to the practice of professional engineering. Engineering law is the study of how ethics and legal frameworks should be adopted to ensure public safety surrounding the practice of engineering. California law defines engineering as the professional practice of rendering service or creative work requiring education, training and experience in engineering sciences and the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences in such professional or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning or design of public or private utilities, structures, machines, processes, circuits, buildings, equipment or projects, and supervision of construction for the purpose of securing compliance with specifications and design for any such work. By comparison Ontario lists safeguarding of life and public welfare in its definition. Ontario law defines engineering as the act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising that requires the application of engineering principles and concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment, or the managing of any such act.
The practice of engineering is largely separated from the practice of a natural scientist by engineering law. A semiconductor physicist and an electrical engineer, practising at a large company are mainly differentiated by the laws they are practising under and the licence they carry. The laws and the licence will affect the tasks that can be performed by the engineer compared with the tasks that can be performed by a natural scientist. Engineers are held to a specific legal standard see below for ethics and performance while a natural scientist is not. Engineers are subject to disciplinary measures such as fines or loss of licence for professional misconduct and negligence.
1. Professional competencies
In North America it is common to have four years of engineering education and four years of professional experience before being licensed as an engineer.
Generally between 16 and 40 hours of training per year are required for an engineer to continue to practice. Training is required to ensure that an engineer keeps up with relevant codes, standards and technology.
2. Key topics
Key topic areas for engineering law are:
- Contract law is the promissory basis for the vast majority of engineering projects
- Product liability law for manufactured products
- Intellectual property protection, which includes patents, copyrights, trade secrets and integrated circuit topographies.
- Standards and certification, which can be product or system specific constraints on design and testing processes often imposed for health and safety reasons.
- Safety legislation codes, and regulations, which includes plant safety, risk management, the electrical code and food safety
- Ethics, professional misconduct, negligent practice and gross negligence
- Tort law is integral to assigning blame and penalties after engineering failures
3. Specific engineering laws
In the United States of America and Canada engineering is governed by state or provincial law.
- State of Oklahoma Statutes Regulating Professional Engineering Land Surveying; 475
- West Virginia Code Chapter 30 – Professions And Occupations Article 13 - Engineers
- In New York Engineers are governed by Article 145 of the Education Law.
- Newfoundland Statutes of Newfoundland and Labrador 2008 Chapter E-12.1 An Act Respecting The Practice Of Engineering And Geoscience
- Alaska Statutes Title 8 Chapter 48. Architects, Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Landscape Architects
- Maine General Provisions 32 M.R.S.A. §1251 et seq.; State Board of Licensure 32 M.R.S.A. §1301 et seq.; Licensure 32 M.R.S.A. §1351 et seq.
- Pennsylvania has the Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law. Act of May 23, 1945 P.L. 913, No 367 Cl 63.
- Florida Administrative Code Chapter 61G15 Board of Professional Engineers Organization; Florida Statutes Chapter 471 – Engineering; Chapter 455 – Professional Regulation
- Arkansas lists the Engineer Law A.C.A. § 17-30-101 et seq w/amendments from 2013 Legislative Session
- British Columbia Engineers and Geoscientists Act Chapter 116
- New Brunswick Chapter 9; Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act; Assented to June 5, 2015
- Prince Edward Island E-08-1 Engineering Profession Act
- Vermont Title 26 Professions and Occupations Chapter 20 Professional Engineering.
- Delaware Tittle 24 Professions and Occupations Chapter 28. Professional Engineers
- The State of Texas Title 6 Subtitle A Chapter 1001 Engineering Practice Act and Rules Concerning The Practice of Engineering and Professional Licensure
- North Carolina General Statutes Of North Carolina Chapter 89C. Engineering Land Surveying
- Ontario passed the Professional Engineers Act, R.S.O. 1990, Chapter 28 and R.R.O. Regulation 941: General.
- New Jersey State Board of Professional Engineers Land Surveyors Law
- Saskatchewan Chapter E-9.3 of the Statutes of Saskatchewan, 1996 effective March 7, 1997 as amended by the Statutes of Saskatchewan, 1997, c.S-6.01; 2000, c.43; 2009, c.T-23.01; 2010, c.B-12 and c.19 and 20; 2013, c.C-21.1; 2014, c.E-13.1; and 2018, c.42.The Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act
- New Hampshire Section 310-A.
- California Professional Engineers Act; Business and Professions Code; 6700 - 6799; Chapter 7.
- Wyoming Title 33 Professions and Occupations; Chapter 29 Surveyors and Engineers
- Louisiana Laws; Revised Statutes; Title 37; Chapter 8 – Professional Engineering and Professional Surveying
- 2010 Georgia Code Title 43 Professions and Businesses Chapter 15 Professional Engineers Land Surveyors.
- Maryland Title 14 Business Occupations and Professions Professional Engineers
- Manitoba C.C.S.M. c. E120 The Engineering and Geoscientific Professions Act
- Washington Chapter 18.43 RCW Engineers Land Surveyors
- South Carolina Chapter 22 Engineers and Surveyors; Chapter 49 Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation South Carolina State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers Land Surveyor
- Alberta Engineering and Geosciences Act; Revised Statutes of Alberta 2000 Chapter E-11.
- Connecticut Chapter 391 Section 20-299 to 20-310 Professional Engineers Land Surveyors
- Massachusetts M.G.L. Chapter 112, Sections 81D to 81T, M.G.L. Chapter 112 Sections 61 to 65E and 250 CMR 5: Professional Practice.
- Alabama Law Regulating Practice of Engineering Land Surveying; Code of Alabama 1975, Title 34, Chapter 11
- Mississippi Code of 1972; Title 73 Professions and Vocations Chapter 13 Engineers Land Surveyors
- Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 443 Examining Board Of Architects, Landscape Architects, Professional Engineers, Designers, And Professional Land Surveyors
- Nova Scotia Engineering Profession Act Chapter 148 Of The Revised Statutes, 1989 amended 2006, c. 29; 2008, c. 15; 2009, c. 13; 2010, c. 15.
- Virginia Regulations Governing Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers and Landscape Architects, Statutes Title 54.1, Chapter 4 Excerpts from Title 13.1
- Idaho Engineers and Surveyors Idaho Code, Title 54, Chapter 12
- Michigan law regulating and licensing engineering is under Article 20 of Public Act 299 of 1980.
- Illinois Statutes lists Professions, Occupations, And Business Operations 225 ILCS 325/ Professional Engineering Practice Act of 1989.
- Quebec chapter I-9 Engineers Act
4. Intent of engineering laws
It is illegal for a practicing engineer to jeopardize public safety in any way. This means that an engineer must hold herself or himself to the highest level of moral conduct or suffer litigation if an engineering system fails causing harm to the public including to a maintenance technician. Breaches of engineering law are often sufficient grounds for enforcement measures, which may include the suspension or loss of license and financial penalties. It could also result in serving jail time, should gross negligence be shown to have played a part in any incident that caused loss of human life.
Under circumstances where gross negligence has been proven, an engineering firm may no longer be considered to be vicariously liable for an individual engineers gross negligence.
5. The seal or stamp
In many jurisdictions engineering regulatory bodies require the use of a seal or stamp for all drawings, analysis and documentation related to anyone who relies on an engineer. The engineer sealing or stamping the engineering work must be in control of the engineering work as either an author or reviewer. The sealed or stamped analysis or drawing must be up to the standard of a competent engineer and can be relied on as intended.
A sealed or stamped engineering work is often considered to be the controlled copy of the work.
It does not matter whether or not the customer asked for the seal or stamp. The analysis or drawing must be sealed or stamped if it is a technical engineering work. Internal analysis or drawings within a corporation or a partnership do not need to be sealed or stamped although they may be sealed or stamped at the engineer or organizations discretion. Non-engineering work such as financial analysis or contracts must not be stamped or sealed with an engineers stamp.
6. International engineering law
In an international engineering project there may be a country where the work is originated and a country where the work is executed. The laws of both the originating country and the project destination country must be observed. Further complications may occur when the country where the engineering work is reviewed and approved is not the country where the work is originated or executed. In this case, a high ethical standard must be observed where all relevant laws are applied.
In contract law, the contract law in the country where the contract was signed is generally observed.
The Washington Accord is an agreement that was put in place by a number of international signatories, recognizing their approaches and systems for accrediting university engineering programs as comparable. Signatories to the Washington Accord are Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong China, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
A Washington Accord degree does not confer a licence to practice engineering. Licences to practice engineering are granted by government or independent bodies that are legislated to confer a licence.
In certain jurisdictions engineering laws are weak. The following countries have weak laws surrounding engineering:
- France is not a member of the Washington Accord. The practice of engineering is neither controlled nor regulated by French law
- In Germany the term engineer is an academic title and there are no licences.
- The United Kingdom where only specific safety related tasks require a registered engineer
Weak engineering law can cause a variety of problems regarding public safety. The safety culture of an organization of practitioners is often dictated by ethics clauses in engineering law. If there is no engineering law or weak engineering law there is no control of safety culture afforded by the law. The engineering profession was developed, in North America, to prevent certain problems and behaviours observed in the application of science in the public interest to safeguard life and public welfare. Laws to prevent managers at engineering firms from pushing engineers to make unsafe decisions can make countries more safe.
7. Order in engineering
Engineering must be conducted in an orderly and ethical manner where all appropriate codes and standards are carefully considered. Orderly consideration is a vital part of any engineering work involving public safety or a contract. Any disorder involved in engineering practice could be termed as reckless or hacking and may endanger the publics trust in the safety of the engineering being practised. Negligent practice evolves when managerial, accounting or legal pressure impinges on the careful consideration of proper engineering practice. Engineers must conduct themselves in a dignified manner and their work must reflect this dignity and a dedication to excellence.
To avoid reckless engineering practice engineers should ensure they have documented process, formalized requirements and formal methods. All documents and analysis must be up to a high standard and well considered.
It is possible to compare the professions of law and engineering. Just as courts must maintain a certain order or decorum for a fair trial to proceed so too engineering must be conducted in an orderly fashion with a certain method or procedure. When this order breaks down disasters may occur.
Specifically, Ontario demands fairness and loyalty to the practitioner’s associates, employer, clients, subordinates and employees; devotion to high ideals of personal honour and professional integrity; co-operation in working with other professionals engaged on a project; courtesy and good faith towards other practitioners; and no malicious attempts to injure the reputation or business of another practitioner.