Engineering Rules book illustrationThe Florida Board of Professional Engineers has temporarily expanded the use of electronically or digitally signed and sealed engineering plans and documents to include printed copies. The amended rules run through Dec. 31, 2020.

In order to effectuate the Governor’s and the State Health Officer’s orders regarding self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the amended rules temporarily waive the restrictions in Chapter 61G15-23, Florida Administrative Code, that printed copies of digitally or electronically signed and sealed plans or documents are not considered signed and sealed.

While these new rules are in effect, printed copies of digitally or electronically signed and sealed plans/documents would be deemed as properly signed and sealed for any purpose, as if physically signed and sealed.

Essentially, the time-limited changes negate the disclaimer language on digitally or electronically signed and sealed plans that printed copies of those plans are not considered valid. While the amended rules limit the period during which a PE may issue printed documents without complying with Rule 61G15-23.003, F.A.C., through the end of 2020, any documents issued during this period are valid for their life.

The Board chose not to mandate any method for signifying that the documents issued during this period are valid. A PE may choose to change their digital/electronic signature to remove disclaimer language regarding printed copies, then add the disclaimer back at the end of the year. If the disclaimer language is left in a signature, it is the PE’s responsibility to educate the document’s recipients concerning the amended rules. The PE should discuss this with their clients and any authorities having jurisdiction.

Professional Engineers must continue to abide by all of the rules regarding signing and sealing, and should apply the amended rules only when and where appropriate.

While FBPE’s rules apply only to Professional Engineers, it encourages building officials to temporarily accept the printed engineering documents as part of their efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The amended rules were filed with the Florida Department of State on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. The rules will remain in effect through Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020.

Changes to the rules include:

61G15-23.004(3)(g), F.A.C.

Beginning on the effective date of this rule amendment, November 2, 2020, and continuing until December 31, 2020, the restriction contained in subparagraph (3)(c)3., above, and the text of required language illustrated in subparagraphs (3)(d)1. and 2., that printed copies of digitally signed and sealed plans or documents are not considered signed and sealed is removed, and printed copies of said plans or documents are deemed validly signed and sealed for any purpose allowed by law. After December 31, 2020, the existing restriction is reinstated. Any licensee seeking to use printed copies of digitally signed and sealed plans or documents must retain an original copy of the signed and sealed plans.

Rulemaking Authority 471.025(1), 471.033(2), 471.008 FS. Law Implemented 471.025, 471.033(1)(j), 668.003, 668.006 FS. History–New 11-3-15, Amended 9-7-17, 6-19-18, 11-2-20.

61G15-23.005(4)(e), F.A.C.

Beginning on the effective date of this rule amendment, November 2, 2020, and continuing until December 31, 2020, the restriction contained in subparagraph (4)(c)3., above, and the text of required language illustrated in subparagraphs (4)(d)1. and 2., that printed copies of electronically signed and sealed plans or documents are not considered signed and sealed is removed, and printed copies of said plans or documents are deemed validly signed and sealed for any purpose allowed by law. After December 31, 2020, the existing restriction is reinstated. Any licensee seeking to use printed copies of electronically signed and sealed plans or documents must retain an original copy of the signed and sealed plans.

Rulemaking Authority 471.025(1), 471.033(2), 471.008 FS. Law Implemented 471.025, 668.006 FS. History–New 11-3-15, Amended 2-3-16, 10-26-16, 9-7-17, 6-19-18, 11-2-20.