Professional License Lawyer in North Carolina

Can an Engineer in NC Sign and Seal Plans Created By Another Person?


Can an Engineer in NC Sign and Seal Plans Created By Another Person?

We have previously discussed the Board’s authority and some common errors that result in discipline here.  Now we are going to take a look at one of the more common issues that arise for licensed engineers.  That is whether or not a licensed engineer can sign and seal plans created by another person.  There are a couple rules set forth by the NC Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors that answer this question.  First, we’ll take a look at 21 NCAC 56 .1101 then 21 NCAC 56 0701.

What is the NC BELS Code for Properly Sealing Plans?

21 NCAC 56 .1101 is a very straight-forward code that gets right to the point of sealing work.  It states “[i]t is misconduct for a Professional Engineer or Professional Land Surveyor to seal work done by another individual unless the work is performed under the ‘responsible charge’ of the Professional Engineer or Professional Land Surveyor” (Italics added).  A couple issues that the Board is worried about here is if a person other than the engineer goes to the wrong building and assesses the wrong roof or structure.  Then the engineer, who did not actually go to the physical structure, relies on incorrect information when sealing plans created by the other person.  Or the person that goes to make an assessment of a structure and creates plans is not actually licensed, unbeknownst to the engineer that seals his/her plans.  This is why only sealing plans of a licensed professional under the engineer’s responsible charge is extremely important.

So, What is a ‘Responsible Charge’ Anyways?

Although the code does not specifically define ‘responsible charge’, 21 NCAC 56 .0701 does make it clear that a responsible charge is someone that is under the ‘direct supervisory control’ of the engineer.  Below we go further into 21 NCAC 56 .0701 and the rules of professional conduct which define ‘direct supervisory control’.

What is an Engineer’s ‘Direct Supervisory Control’ mean?

Another issue that may arise by signing and sealing plans of another is that those plans may be out of the sealing and signing P.E.’s competency.  An electrical engineer should not be signing and sealing structural plans and vice versa, according to 21 NCAC 56 .0701(c)(3)

As previously discussed above, a licensed P.E. should not affix his/her seal to plans not done under his/her ‘direct supervisory control’.  ‘Direct supervisory control’ “requires a licensee or employee to carry out all client contacts, provide internal and external financial control, oversee employee training, and exercise control and supervision overall job requirements to include research, planning, design, field supervision and work product review. Direct supervisory control may be accomplished face to face or by other means of communication. A licensee shall not contract with a non-licensed individual to provide these professional services.”

To avoid the most common NCBELS complaints remember to correctly sign and seal plans and reports.  Make sure to not affix a sign and seal to work done by another not under the engineer’s responsible charge or direct supervisory control.  These errors are completely avoidable and can cause a loss of income and added stress.

Nothing in this blog post is legal advice or establishes the attorney-client relationship.  This is for informational purposes only.  If you’d like to learn more about professional licensing issues in North Carolina check out our site at or our YouTube site here.  919-521-8810 is the direct line to North State Law.