Engineering Rules book illustrationThe Florida Board of Professional Engineers has approved a second emergency rule temporarily expanding the use of electronically or digitally signed and sealed engineering plans and documents to include printed copies.

In order to effectuate the Governor and State Health Officer’s orders regarding self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the emergency rule temporarily waives the restriction 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.

During the 90-day period that the new emergency rule is 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 emergency rule negates the disclaimer language on digitally or electronically signed and sealed plans that printed copies of those plans are not considered valid. While the emergency rules limits the period during which a PE may issue printed documents without complying with Rule 61G15-23.003, F.A.C., to 90 days, 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 90-day period. If the disclaimer language is left in a signature, it is the PE’s responsibility to educate the document’s recipients concerning the emergency rule. 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 emergency rule 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 emergency rule was approved filed with the Florida Department of State on Friday, July 17, 2020. The rule will remain in effect through Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

The emergency rule:

61G15ER20-10 Printed Copies of Digitally or Electronically Signed and Sealed Plans Considered Valid.

During the effective period of this rule, comprising ninety (90) days from the effective date, the restriction contained in Rules 61G15-23.004(3)(c)3., and 61G15-23.005(4)(c)3., F.A.C., that printed copies of digitally or electronically signed and sealed plans or documents is removed, and printed copies of said plans or documents are deemed validly signed and sealed for any purpose allowed by law. After the expiration of this emergency rule, the restriction is re-imposed. Any licensee seeking to use printed copies of digitally or electronically signed and sealed plans or documents must retain an original copy of the signed and sealed plans.

Rulemaking Authority: 471.008, 471.025, 471.033(2), FS. Law Implemented:471.025, 471.033(1)(a), (e), (j), 668.003, 668.006, FS. History—New.