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RE: Unlicensed firms and engineers

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"I am amazed that you do not see this as a legitimate business opportunity."

If someone is inclined to pursue illegal business opportunities, there are probably quite a few that are more profitable than plan stamping.  Joking aside, plan stamping is illegal in most states, and can result in large fines and the loss of one's license.  That doesn't seem like a very good business opportunity to me.  

"If an engineering firm writes a report based on a recommendation and you review the recommendation and agree with the recommendation and stamp it, that's Illegal?"

Under the laws of most states, the second engineer could write a memo stating their agreement with the first engineer and stamp that memo, but they cannot stamp someone else's work.  

"That makes no sense to me."

While there are some cases that it may not make sense, I believe that the intent of the law is to err on the side of caution when public safety is involved.  A person can always find ways to take advantage of the system, but if they prepared a set of drawings themselves or under their supervision, the public can have a greater confidence that they actually are in control of them and agree with them than if they are routinely pressured to quickly sign something they don't have control over for some small fee.  The more you disassociate the preparation/calculations and the stamping the more likely you are to see problems.  The implicit problem with plan stamping is the question of why someone would even consider it, and the answer is usually to save money.  If they are saving money, where is the cost being cut?  Perhaps the drawings was prepared by a lower-cost drafting staff, but all too often the answer is that the plan stamper gives little or no review time to the drawings they stamp.  If they gave as much time to the review as they would to doing the design themsevles, and perhaps caught a few errors and requested a few changes, it is hard to envision much savings to be had.  Of course, it doesn't have to be done that way, and the stamping engineer probalby could do a real review and independent calculations and be about as safe as the original designed, but as a public policy matter, most states err on the side of caution in that regard.  Does that make sense?  

Paul Crocker, PE, SE


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