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Ohio Utica Shale

Ohio outlines requirements for engineers, surveyors

By Bob Downing Published: January 14, 2014

From the Ohio State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveors (with thanks to Jim Willis of the Marcellus Drilling News who reported it last week):

By John F. Greenhalge, Executive Director
Ohio State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors

With the increased engineering and surveying activity in Ohio related to oil and gas extraction the Board has received several questions concerning the registration process and the requirements for individuals and firms that want to come into Ohio and provide engineering and surveying services to the oil and gas companies. Ohio law requires individuals offering and providing engineering and surveying to be registered in Ohio. Likewise, firms offering and providing engineering and surveying services in Ohio must be registered and obtain a Certificate of Authorization BEFORE offering, contracting or performing engineering or surveying services.

In order to become registered as a professional engineer or professional surveyor in Ohio, individual engineers and surveyors must meet Ohio’s registration requirements; graduation from an ABET accredited or Board approved engineering or surveying curriculum of four years or more, taking and passing the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) or Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) examinations, four years of engineering or surveying experience under the direction of a professional engineer or professional surveyor (eight years for TAC/ABET accredited engineering technology graduates), and taking and passing the NCEES Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) or Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) examinations. These requirements are codified in the Ohio Revised Code and cannot be waived by the Board.

In order for a firm to offer and provide engineering and surveying services in Ohio, the firm must obtain a Certificate of Authorization from the Ohio Board. In order for a firm to obtain a Certificate of Authorization the firm must be registered with the Ohio Secretary of State and must designate a professional engineer or professional surveyor registered in Ohio, depending on the service provided, to be responsible for all engineering or surveying activities and decisions for the firm. The professional engineer or professional surveyor must be a full-time regular employee of the firm. Full-time is defined as working more than 30 hours per week, or working substantially all of the engineering or surveying hours for the firm. Individuals listed as the responsible party must be in control of, accountable for, and either in direct or indirect supervision of the engineering and/or surveying activities and decisions of the business enterprise. Individuals are typically not approved by the Board to serve as the responsible party for a firm if they hold other employment. Full-time employment is not merely determined by drawing a paycheck for 30 hours of work per week, but determined by the hours spent performing engineering or surveying for the firm.

A common scenario encountered by Ohio professional engineers and professional surveyors involves a request from a firm that does work with out-of-state contractors or oil and gas companies asking them to serve as the person responsible for engineering and/or surveying activities and decisions for their firm so that they can work in Ohio. Recently, an Ohio registrant licensed to practice both engineering and surveying was approached by an oil and gas company about doing work in Ohio. The licensee is the owner of an engineering and surveying firm located in Ohio. The firm told him that they cannot subcontract the engineering and surveying work out and need to obtain a Certificate of Authorization in Ohio to provide engineering and surveying. The licensee stated that the firm wanted to put him on their payroll and pay him a small hourly wage for 30 hours per week to review their work, similar to a retainer fee. If the licensee had to go out to a project site or perform any engineering or surveying work himself then the firm would pay him a “real” wage for the hours worked in place of the amount he receives for his hourly “full-time” wage. This scenario is not permissible in Ohio for several reasons. First, the Ohio licensee is not a full-time employee of the oil and gas company in accordance with law. A full-time employee is not determined by the paperwork created by the firm showing an hourly wage for 30 hours a week, but instead by how many hours the Ohio licensee is working for the firm and overseeing its engineering and surveying activities. Second, simply reviewing another individual’s work that was not prepared under the Ohio licensee’s direct supervision is plan stamping, and is a violation of Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 4733-35-07, which provides that an engineer or surveyor shall not sign or seal work for which he or she does not have personal professional knowledge and direct supervisory control and responsibility. This is interpreted by the Board to mean that an engineer or surveyor shall not sign or seal work unless that work was prepared under his or her supervision and direction. The engineer or surveyor must also be involved in the project from its inception and must be closely involved in the preparation of the work product.

Another scenario encountered frequently is an out-of-state contractor that has a history of working with an oil and gas company asking an Ohio engineer or surveyor to accept work as a subcontractor. The out-of-state firm will hold the contract with the oil and gas company to provide engineering and surveying and then pay the Ohio licensee or firm a cut once the engineering or surveying work is completed. This arrangement also violates Ohio law since any firm offering, contracting or providing engineering or surveying services in Ohio must obtain a Certificate of Authorization BEFORE offering, providing or performing engineering or surveying work in Ohio. Furthermore, the out-of-state firm is putting the Ohio firm and Ohio licensee at risk of violating R.C. 4733.20 (A)(3), which prohibits the aiding and abetting  of any person or firm to practice engineering or surveying illegally in Ohio.

A third scenario involves an out-of-state contractor or oil and gas company hiring a professional engineer or surveyor who does not have any experience in the oil and gas industry to serve as the person responsible for engineering or surveying activities and decisions for the firm so that the firm can obtain a Certificate of Authorization to provide engineering and surveying in Ohio. The Ohio licensee is hired in order to meet the requirements of R.C. 4733.16 to obtain a Certificate of Authorization, but is assured that the firm has qualified individuals in place to oversee and perform the work so the Ohio licensee does not have to worry. This scenario violates OAC 4733-35-04 (C), which states that the engineer or surveyor shall refuse to sign and seal any certification that relates to matters beyond his or her technical competence or related to engineering or surveying work for which he or she did not have personal professional knowledge and direct supervisory control and responsibility. In Ohio, it is the registrant’s responsibility to practice in a discipline of engineering or surveying in which the registrant is competent based on education, training and examination.

Key Points to Remember

  • Only individuals and firms registered with this Board may contract for, offer or provide engineering or surveying services in Ohio.
  • In order to obtain a Certificate of Authorization an Ohio-registered professional engineer or professional surveyor must be a full-time employee of the firm and must oversee all engineering and surveying activities and decisions for the firm.
  • Professional engineers and professional surveyors must practice within their area of competency.
  • Professional engineers and professional surveyors should only seal engineering and surveying work product, including plans specifications, plats, reports and all other work product, if the engineer or surveyor was directly responsible for the preparation of the work product and it was prepared with his or her personal professional knowledge and direct supervisory control and responsibility (OAC 4733-35-07).
  • Personal professional knowledge is best demonstrated when a professional engineer or professional surveyor has been personally retained by an owner, registered design professional or a design/build contractor and is personally aware of a projects scope, needs, parameters, limitations and special requirements. It is required that the professional engineer or professional surveyor contract with the owner for all professional services to be rendered.
  • Direct supervisory control and responsibility is best demonstrated when a professional engineer or professional surveyor has direct professional knowledge and is the actual author or has been in responsible charge of a design or project from its very inception to its completion. In some cases it may be necessary for unregistered individuals, such as technicians or drafters, to assist the professional engineer or professional surveyor; however the professional engineer or professional surveyor must maintain responsible charge of the project and total control of all design decisions.
  • Ohio Administrative Code 4733-35-07 requires that if an engineer or surveyor has knowledge or reason to believe that another person or firm is guilty of violating any provisions of Chapter 4733 of the Revised Code, or any of the rules of professional conduct, the engineer or surveyor must present this information to the Board in writing. 

Although the information in this article is targeted towards work with the oil and gas industries, the information and key points apply to all engineering and surveying work in Ohio. Questions or complaints can be sent to the Board at pes.board@pes.ohio.gov

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