records retentionBY WILLIAM BRACKEN, PE, SI, CFM

The start of the new year is the time when businesses and individuals tend to work on organizing current records and purging old ones. Be careful, though, that you don’t purge records that Florida Statutes or the Florida Administrative Code require you to keep.

For engineers, Chapter 61G15, F.A.C., contains two separate provisions that require licensees to retain records. The first provision is Chapter 61G15-22.008, the retention of continuing education documentation, and the second is Chapter 61G15-30.009, the retention of engineering documents.

The first of these provisions is found in Chapter 61G15-22, License Renewal, Continuing Education. The provision reads:

Chapter 61G15-22.008, Record Keeping. It is the licensee’s responsibility to maintain sufficient records to demonstrate completion of qualifying professional development hours for at least two licensure cycles (four years).

This provision requires each licensee to keep sufficient records to demonstrate that the minimum number of professional development hours have been completed. These records are to be kept for no less than two renewal cycles or four years from the close of the renewal cycle that they were earned in. So, some records may actually need to be kept for up to six years for those professional development hours that were earned close to the beginning of a renewal cycle. For example, the most recent renewal cycle ended in February 2017; if you took a CE class in March 2017, you will need to keep that certificate until February 2023.

FBPE audits the continuing education records as per Rule 61G15-22.006. F.A.C., Demonstrating Compliance, and rigorously enforces this requirement. Failure to comply can result in disciplinary action against the licensee. Also, since licensees must certify compliance with CE reporting requirements when renewing their license, failure to support that certification with the required proof can result in the opening of a disciplinary case under Rule 61G15-19.001(6)(s): “Renewing or reactivating a license without completion of Continuing Education (CE) hours and subject areas as required by Section 471.017, F.S., and Rule 61G15-22.001, F.A.C.”

The second of these provisions is found in Chapter 61G15-30, Responsibility Rules Common to All Engineers. The provision reads:

Chapter 61G15-30.009, Retention of Engineering Documents. At least one copy of all documents displaying the licensee’s signature, seal which is legible to the reader, date, and all related calculations shall be retained by the licensee or the licensee’s employer for a minimum of three years from the date the documents were sealed. These documents shall be maintained in hardcopy or electronic format.

This provision requires each licensee to keep at least one copy of every document that was signed, sealed, and dated, regardless of whether it was physical or electronic. The provision requires these records to be kept for no less than three years from the date the documents were sealed. It also allows the licensee to maintain these documents in hardcopy or in electronic format provided the signature and seal can be verified. For example, in the case of an originally physically signed, dated, and sealed (embossed) document, the embossed copy can be scanned and maintained digitally provided the embossing on the original can be seen within the copy (typically accomplished rubbing by graphite over the embossing).

The provision also requires that each licensee or their employer retain all calculations relating to the signed, sealed, and dated documents for no less than three years from the date the documents were sealed. It also allows the licensee to maintain these documents in hardcopy or in electronic format.

One final word of caution, with the ever-increasing push toward paperless files, computer back-ups and offsite storage are highly recommended. The loss of stored information resulting from the loss of a computer does not alleviate the licensee from his or her obligation to comply with any of these requirements.

About the Author

William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM, is a licensed Professional Engineer and Special Inspector in Florida, and is the president and principal engineer for Bracken Engineering, located in Tampa. Mr. Bracken served on the FBPE Board from 2012 to 2018, acting as Board chair for 2015 and 2016. He also served as the FBPE’s vice chair for 2013 and 2014.