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Re: RE; Plan check submittals and shop drawings

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On 10/9/98, Drew Norman in his perceptive posting raised the issue of the
Structural engineer of record having to sign and seal design documents
prepared (and signed and sealed) by non-subordinate PE's for component
structural elements, such as proprietary trusses, on California public
school projects covered by the state Field Act and administered by DSA.
There has been recurring debate as to whether this second signing and
sealing (or "overstamping", as it has often been called) is allowed by the
PE Act.

Drew put it this way:

>A word of caution.  My friend reports that back in early 1980's,  DSA's
>predecessor, OSA-SSD, obtained a letter from BORPELS with a written opinion
>which it believed supported its then policy of requiring the SER for a
>school or hospital sign and seal drawings representing components of the
>structural system designed by other professional engineers.  As I understand
>it, although DSA understands that many professionals BELIEVE that there is
>an issue and recognizes that this created difficulties with ENFORCEMENT of a
>policy requiring SER signature, its position remains that these engineers
>are INCORRECT.  While DSA plancheckers may be PERMITTED to accept a
>statement of acceptance, policy may ALSO permit them to require SER seal and
>signature in instances where they believe it necessary or appropriate.  My
>friend said he would try and look into this further and to try and find a
>copy of the BORPELS letter.  I will report to the group if he gets

I can't account for current DSA practices in this matter, or produce the
letter, but I can fill in a little history on it from having watched the
struggles and reported on them at the time. Perhaps this information from my
files will help the archival search and help resolve fears of conflict among
the regulations and among the enforcing agencies at present.

In the early 1980's the worries were limited to the professional SER's. On
Jan 11, 1983, Central Section of SEAOC held a panel discussion on this
"overstamping" concern. The then- Board of Registration SE member Jimmie Yee
was on this panel and said,  "The Board of Registration does not have a
problem with overstamping. The Board requires each engineer in responsible
charge to sign his own work, but does not prevent him from signing another
engineer's [signed] work. Therefore overstamping is not a violation. The
Board does not require an exclusive engineer of record on a project." In my
view, this opinion squares with the PE Act just fine.

By the late 80's, a different SE was on the Board, a new, non-PE was
Executive Officer, and a very different interpretation was emerging. In a
Dec. 16, 1988 letter that became notorious, Executive Officer Darlene Stroup
warned a certain structural engineer SER, who was following OSA/SSS
directives to overstamp truss plans prepared and stamped by others, that
"you must provide complete details and analysis... [of trusses]... with your
package of plans and specifications, or you must be in responsible charge of
the preparation of shop drawings (sic) and calculations to be submitted for
deferred approval, and include with the package a statement of your
responsibility therefore (sic)." 

This same letter warned of disciplinary action against the recipient SER if
he "placed a signed statement [accepting responsibility as per OSA/SSS
regulations] on shop drawings prepared by a registered civil engineer...and
where the shop drawings were not done under your responsible charge."
Stroup pointed to Sec 6735 of the PE Act, which she said "implies" the
overstamping expected by OSA/SSS is a violation of the Act.    

The OSA/SSS Chief SE at the time was Pat Campbell, and after getting nowhere
in phone calls, he wrote Stroup at the Board in August 1989 to request a
meeting to resolve the dilemma facing SER's, and he documented the state
statutes and administrative regulations he was compelled to uphold that
required the SER to accept responsibility for these designs by others. A
year after that, Stroup replied by letter that "OSA's requirement that the
[SER] stamp and take responsibility for prefabricated or manufactured
designs [by others] which are included as part of a project is contrary to
[Sec 6735 and Rule 404.1]". She suggested that OSA "modify its policy" (in
effect, construe its own state laws differently) into compatibility with the
Board's policy.

On Jan 14, 1991, Pat Campbell finally got his meeting. It was before the
Board's Enforcement Committee. I attended, and my report was published in
the SEAOCC Newsletter. Pat presented three sample statements of assumption
of responsibility that a SER could sign to comply with the Field Act and
admin regulations. The Board's then- legal counsel Don Chang found no
violation of the PE Act if a SER signed any one of the proffered statements.
The Committee and later the full Board endorsed them. In the lengthy
discussions that day, nobody could show that Stroup had any valid basis for
warning the hapless SER two years previously that he could be disciplined.
The SE Board member however still objected to the SER signing another's duly
sealed designs, but it was clear he had nothing for backing but his own
personal notions of how he wanted things to be. The PE Act did not support
him. My own offerings that day were to point out that Stroup had read Sec
6735 inside out, and 6735 really meant what Jimmie Yee said back in 1983, as
quoted above.

Since that time there has been further turnover in executive officers (some
of them under well-earned duress) and of Board SE members. (At present,
there isn't one and there hasn't been since February.) Recognition has
emerged that professional acceptance of designs by others can be manifested
by a notation that is deemed an "engineering report" for which the reviewer
signs and seals, although no written policy has come from the Board in this
connection. Presumably DSA acceptance statements have evolved into current
versions. No changes in the PE Act affect this issue. The ambitious
multi-year PE Act Rewrite, as finally enacted, rewrote virtually nothing,
and is known cynically as the "peewee rewrite". I am not aware of any
controversy lingering about SER's "overstamping" the deferred design
submittals that are properly stamped by their originator, for DSA work or
otherwise. Not that a dispute couldn't be resurrected all over again as
other ambitions and agendas fizzle.

Charles O. Greenlaw, SE     Sacramento CA