What It Means to Be an Engineer in Responsible Charge

What It Means to Be an Engineer in Responsible Charge

February 22, 2022

Nearly every engineering project requires a team of engineers working together. Like most organizations, though, there needs to be a hierarchy. Certain engineers have various responsibilities on a given project.

This hierarchy of responsibility is made simpler by designating an engineer in responsible charge. This engineer has multiple responsibilities, including the final sign-off on project plans and other documents. Being the engineer in responsible charge comes with more than just a wider scope of responsibility. It’s also far from an all-encompassing term.

In this article, we’ll answer some questions regarding engineers and their responsibilities.

What does the term engineer in responsible charge actually mean?

This is a standardized term defined by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). The engineer in responsible charge exerts “direct control and personal supervision of engineering work.” The engineer in responsible charge is an active participant in the entire engineering process from beginning to end.

All engineering decisions on a given project must be made by the engineer in responsible charge or by others that the engineer in responsible charge directly supervises or has authoritative control over.

Can the engineer in responsible charge sign off on plans and documents?

Yes, but there’s a specific distinction to be made when the engineer in responsible charge signs off on plans, drawings or documents. You’ll notice that the above definition specifically mentions active participation in the engineering process.

This means that for an engineer to satisfy the responsible charge requirement, he or she would have to be integral to the design and development of the project as it has progressed. It’s not enough for the engineer in responsible charge to simply review documents that he or she had little hand in creating and then sign off on them.

What is the engineer of record?

The engineer of record (EOR) is a professionally-licensed engineer who must satisfy the responsible charge requirements. He or she is the one doing the direct supervision of engineering work and then signing off on it at the end.

The EOR must be able to answer any questions about the project including but not limited to the engineering decisions that were made, the engineering abilities and expertise of their subordinates and other project-specific considerations that have been accounted for.

Are there any misconceptions about responsible charge and engineers of record?

Yes, there are two main misconceptions when it comes to the concept of responsible charge. The first involves financial liability. If an engineer of record signs and seals a project and something unfortunate happens down the line, he or she will not be held personally financially liable for the event. There may be disciplinary action taken, but signing off does not indicate a personal acceptance of financial liability.

The second misconception is that once a project makes it through the permitting process, it is automatically ready to begin. Permitting officials like EORs can make mistakes, and any issues discovered after the permitting process has been completed still need to be addressed properly.

Call to discuss your engineering project today

Understanding an engineer’s responsibilities and the concept of responsible charge can go a long way toward ensuring the safety of the public. For your next civil engineering project, call us at High Plains Engineering & Consulting, LLC. We offer multiple civil engineering services in addition to project management services, so call us for your next project today.

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