Apegga1c.gif (2007 bytes) The PEGG
July, 1999
Page 7

Electronic Stamping
Frequently Asked Questions
(Part 2 of 2)

A subcommittee of APEGGA’ Practice Standards Committee is revising the stamping guideline with a particular emphasis on the section that deals with the use of electronic versions of the professional engineer’s, geologist’s or geophysicist’s stamp. The General Regulation under the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act allows the use of  "a computer generated facsimile of the stamp of seal provided that the member . . . otherwise meets the requirements of the Act and the Regulation."

The increasing use of electronic documents has prompted numerous questions from members regarding appropriate procedures for application of electronic professional stamps. The subcommittee is in the final draft stage of guideline revision. It has prepared responses to a series of FAQs to make members aware of the work and to provide an opportunity for feedback. Part I of FAQs, carried in the June PEGG, covered general and security issues related to electronic stamping. Comments can be directed to the group in care of Ray Chopiuk, P.Eng., Director Professional Practice, at the Edmonton APEGGA office by mail, by fax at (780) 426-1877, or by e-mail to rchopiuk@APEGGA.org. A copy of the draft can also be requested.

Procedure/ Content

Is APEGGA switching completely to electronic stamps and will they no longer supply rubber stamps?

APEGGA is offering the electronic version as an option to its Members. The rubber stamps are not being "phased out", and there is no intention for this to happen by default, either.

What is the difference between "accepting responsibility" and "acknowledging responsibility"? Why is this important?

This is a fine point, but important to be clear on. APEGGA is highlighting the fact that the Member can not decide to "opt in" or "opt out" of responsibility, depending on whether or not the professional stamp is employed. The professional realizes that every task taken on means personal acceptance of professional responsibility.

If only one stamp appears per revision, then we have lost the record of who authored previous revisions, right?

The record is in the permanent master data base on the last revision of the drawing. If historical record copies are mailed to the Members, they also would indicate whose stamp appeared on the last revision of the drawing.

This is consistent with the hard copy format. When enough revisions have occurred, a drawing is often redrawn with only the stamp of the current approver appearing.

Why are you recommending that Members limit their responsibility by describing what work they have done on a multi-discipline project or a review of someone else’s work?

We have approached this from a point of view of expecting the professional to act in an ethical way, not a dishonest way. A professional does not want others to misunderstand what work was done or misrepresent what has been done. And, of course, the professional is not allowed to misrepresent what work he or she has been responsible for, by law.

It makes sense then, that clearly stating the scope of each individual’s work is a highly professional and value added step. To say otherwise is to impugn the reputation of all professional practitioners.

Why do you mention that fraud sometimes occurs with misuse of stamps? Isn’t this suggesting that professional members cheat?

Discipline cases for the misuse of engineering stamps often involve those outside our professions, trying to save time and money with a forged document. We are not trying to suggest unprofessional or unethical behaviour on the part of Members, it’s just that errors in judgment and oversights sometimes occur.

You haven’t mentioned the "electronic pen signature" system. What is APEGGA’s position on this system?

The electronic pen signature system uses a "touchpad" on which the Member signs his or her name using an electronic writing instrument, "wand", or "stylus". The electronic image of the signature is then immediately transferred to a drawing, presumably overlaying the Member’s stamp image. There is nothing in this system that should conflict in any way with the APEGGA electronic stamping procedure, and it could be used to apply electronic signatures to engineering drawings.

Won’t this cause a problem between organizations when one requires an electronic stamp and the other doesn’t? When a Member works on loan for another company or when one company is a Consultant working for another that is a Permit holding firm – wouldn’t there be a conflict?

For the company that insists on manual stamping, drawings can be produced without a stamp and the stamp can be applied manually. If the other company wants to enter that same drawing into its electronic system, it can scan it in after it has been stamped.

The only conflict, if it could be called that, is one company refusing to give vector format drawings to the other. This requires scanning instead of immediate filing of the drawing, but this is a necessary part of document management anyway.

What if municipalities or law firms insist on getting a hard copy of a professional drawing and you use electronic stamping?

A copy of the drawing can be printed out without the electronic image and then the Member can apply his or her traditional stamp to the hard copy drawing. This will meet the requirements of the outside client.

Why can’t a Lead Engineer take responsibility for the work of others on the team?

This confuses the various shades of meaning of the word "responsibility". A Lead Engineer is obviously responsible for leadership in the team and performing the tasks of the Lead Engineer. He or she may be responsible for the tasks incumbent on the signer of the permit stamp, if that falls into the Lead Engineer’s job as well. But the responsibility for the actual work performed by another Member cannot be assumed by the Lead Engineer. This is clear from the Code of Ethics that a Member can only take responsibility for work that he or she has done, directed or reviewed and which he or she is competent to perform by virtue of training and experience.

What is the difference between "accreditation" and "stamping"?

"Accreditation" is a broad term that includes:

  • identifying yourself and your designation on a document as in W. Jones, P.Eng.
  • placing your professional stamp and signature on a professional document
  • placing your professional stamp, permit stamp and signatures on a professional document.

"Stamping" refers specifically to the placing of a professional stamp or permit stamp on a document.

Why wouldn’t data sheets require stamps just like drawings?

Sometimes there is very little room on a crowded sheet to add the stamp image. From a quality control perspective, the name and designation perform the same function as the stamp and signature. They both identify the author and the fact that he or she is a Member, and acknowledge ownership for the content of the document.

If a company has no Members who are also computer specialists, how can one of their Members then supervise the creation of the electronic stamping procedure, as your guideline calls for?

Again, this is an issue of the meaning of shared responsibility. The computer specialists are responsible for creating a procedure that meets the principles outlined in the APEGGA stamping guideline. The Member "supervising" this effort is only responsible for ensuring that the integrity of the Members’ stamps is protected in the final design of the system or procedure. It is a limited "overseeing" or supervision role, and does not encroach on the computer staff supervision already in place.

Since the shelf-life of optical discs is a hotly debated topic these days, shouldn’t APEGGA recommend that a hard copy of every drawing be maintained as well as the optical disk storage?

The reliability of optical disks has been accepted by greater and greater elements of business and government in fields like defence and hospital records, that are highly sensitive to the possibility of loss. If "fading" or loss of accuracy is proved to happen in the future, we expect that the industry will provide a "fix" that is simple and quick.

Is this procedure in agreement with the new regulations soon to come out regarding the Permit stamp/Permit number?

Yes. This document mentions the fact that a Permit number may replace the stamp and there are no conflicts that we can see at this time.


The Act and Regulations say that you can use an "electronic stamp" but they do not say that you can use an "electronic signature". How can this proposal go ahead, then?

We are seeking our Association counsel’s opinion on the steps that would need to be taken to ensure the use of electronic signatures is not in conflict with the statutes.

Has APEGGA’s legal counsel approved the section that talks about "legality of documents"?

APEGGA legal counsel will review the document before Council approves a final version.

Is this procedure in conflict in any way with the terms of the new Statute of Limitations Act?

Not to the knowledge of the subcommittee.

(Second of two parts)

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