Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Looks like free speech in North Carolina

...may be a misdemeanor in certain circumstances.

(H/T: Overlawyered)


JeffS said...

...Lacy says he filed the complaint because the report "appears to be engineering-level work" by someone who is not licensed as a professional engineer.

First, I will say this: I am not a professional engineer. I have a college degree in engineering, and have practiced it over the years, privately, and a Federal employee. But no registration as a PE in any state.

Now I will say this: The quoted comment above is the lamest piece of crap that I have EVER EVER EVER seen, especially in regard to "professional engineering".

IMHO, Mr. Lacy needs to pull his head out of his back pocket, take a deep breath, and LISTEN.

A "professional engineer" (PE) is someone who has been determined to have the training and experience necessary to pass judgment on technical work produced in his or her field. That "technical work" could be a design, a report making a specific recommendation, a system analysis, and so on. If the PE accepts the document, he or she stamps with their personal seal and signs it.

This is literally a "stamp of approval", and conveys the message that the product is sound, and can be used. In approving it, the PE accepts the professional liability that all reasonable precautions were taken in developing the product, and that there will be no major problems as a result of the product.

And I do mean "professional liability"; a PE can be financially or legal liable for designs that go wrong. There is clear legal precedent for this.


JeffS said...

Now, what Mr. Lacy does not realize (and I hope the state board sets him straight) is that practicing engineering without a license is not illegal. Anyone can do "engineering". If someone designs and builds a brick barbecue in their back yard, that's engineering.

A person without an engineering degree can design and build a home. They might consult specialists (who may not be an engineer, let alone a PE) about specific problems. Those specialists should be licensed tradesmen (electrician, plumber, etc), but not necessarily engineers.

I remodeled my home, and I did the conceptual designs. The contractors insured that the work met code. None of them were PEs. Only once (and only once!) was a PE consulted, and that because the design required a custom made laminated beam with columns to replace a load bearing wall. The PE designed it, and certified it so that state and county building codes were met.


JeffS said...

The exact details vary from state to state, but in general, it is not illegal to practice engineering (unless North Carolina has some really bizarre laws). There are specific conditions and tasks that require a professional engineer to investigate and approve/disapprove. Those are spelled out in state laws and building codes.

It may be illegal to pose as a PE without being one -- depends on the state laws. It is certainly stupid to design and construct something without consulting the appropriate experts. I've seen it happen. The failures weren't fatal, thank God, but that has happened elsewhere.

And it's noteworthy that most A/E firms hire engineers who are NOT registered PEs, in order to....PRACTICE ENGINEERING. Under the guidance of a registered PE. It's called "mentoring". Most states require at least 4 years of non-college engineering experience BEFORE being allowed to take the PE exam.

So, unless Mr. Cox claimed to be a PE, and use a fake stamp, he did nothing wrong. He provided an analysis, something that ANYONE could do. It could be in error.

All Mr. Lacy had to do was say, "Eh, you're not a PE, I'm going to ignore you." He didn't, thereby marking himself as a first class snob. I've seen this sort of behavior before (from engineers!), and it is generally by an insecure person who could possibly be embarrassed if he doesn't challenge the product.

Hopefully, Mr. Cox is vindicated, and Mr. Lacy is reprimanded. It's a bureaucracy, so I won't guess which way this turns out.

My apologies for the rant -- this sort of attitude by engineers at any time simply enrages me. In part, it's why I never really went for my own PE.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, JeffS, for that explanation. Much as teaching does not require a degree, but being a Professional Teacher requires degrees and certifications, I think I understand your points. I still teach - and engineer once in a while, too, for that matter - I simply do not do it at the more snob-laden professional level (so I'm not an "educator").

Anonymous said...

Thank you, JeffS. We don't mind the rant. It was very enlightening.

Lacy's complaint is obviously ridiculous, but it does prove who is smart.

I'm of the mind that you should be able to build whatever you want on your property. If it falls down around your head then it's your responsibility. No law suits. No blame. Too much red tape. Example, my sister went to the permit department of the podunk burg in the mountains of AZ that they will be building their dream house in. She was told that they couldn't build the barn with loft first where they'd have live while building the main house, because that would be an accessory building. No you can't build a place to store materials and tools...accessory building. No you can't build a pump house, but ...you guessed it,accessory building. They can build a pump box though. At this point I told her to build the pump house, put shingles on it or make it adobe, but if they complain tell 'em it has four sides. Build whatever you want. It's your property complete with dirt road that washes out 3 times a year.

Deborah Leigh