Professional Practice FAQ

COVID-19 Practice Guidance:

To help support registrants in understanding their professional obligations during this time, and to address common questions we’re receiving, we’ve published information on our website dedicated to COVID-19 practice advice and guidance.

We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about professional practice in British Columbia below. You can also contact our practice advisors at [email protected].

    Employment and Business

    • 1. Do I or my client own my design?

      This is dependent on the contract between yourself and the client who owns the designs/work. When this is not negotiated upfront, it can become much more difficult to deal with later in the project. If a dispute arises, Engineers and Geoscientists BC recommends that you consult a lawyer.

    • 2. Are P.Eng.'s, P.Geo.'s, EITs and GITs covered under the Employment Standards Act?

      The Employment Standards Act (the “Act”) is the legislation in the province that sets out certain minimum terms and conditions of employment for employees of provincially regulated employers in British Columbia.The Act, however, does not apply to everyone.

      The Act, for example, does not apply to persons practicing as professional engineers (P.Eng.) as defined by the Engineers and Geoscientists Act. The Act also does not apply to persons who are enrolled as an engineer-in-training (EIT) under the bylaws of Engineers and Geoscientists BC.

      The Act does apply to persons practicing as professional geoscientists (P.Geo.) and geoscientists-in-training (GIT), but they may be excluded from certain parts of the Act in certain circumstances, including where:

      • The professional geoscientist meets the definition of a “high technology professional” under the Act, in which case the professional geoscientist will be excluded from the following under the Employment Standards Act:
        • Part 4 (hours of work and overtime provisions) other than Section 39 (no excessive hours), and
        • Part 5 (statutory holiday provisions).
      • The professional geoscientist meets the definition of a “manager”, in which case the professional geoscientist will be excluded from the following under the Employment Standards Act:
        • Part 4 (hours of work and overtime provisions), and
        • Part 5 (statutory holiday provisions).
      • The professional geoscientist, other than a percussion drill or diamond drill operator, or a helper of either operator, is a person employed in any of the following activities while exploring for minerals other than oil or gas:
        • staking
        • line cutting
        • geological mapping
        • geochemical sampling and testing
        • geophysical surveying or manual stripping

        In these cases, the professional geoscientist will be excluded from Part 4 (hours of work and overtime provisions) of the Employment Standards Act.

        • The professional geoscientist works for an employer in the oil and gas well drilling and servicing industry or in the mining industry, in which case certain provisions of the Employment Standards Act, including Section 40 (overtime), may not apply if certain conditions are met.
        • The professional geoscientist is governed by a collective agreement, in which case certain exclusions apply.

        Where all or part of the Act does not apply, the parties to the employment relationship are largely responsible for negotiating their own terms.

        For employment related advice, Engineers and Geoscientists BC recommends contacting an employment lawyer.

    • 3. I was recently terminated from my job, can you provide advice on how to proceed?

      Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia regulates the practice of the professions. It does not get involved in employment or contractual related matters. For employment/contract related advice, Engineers and Geoscientists BC recommends contacting an employment/contract lawyer.

    • 4. Can an EIT/GIT use the word "Engineer" in a job title given by an employer?

      Policy CO 00-101 approved by Council on May 31, 2000 states:

      “Engineers-in-training (EIT’s) and Geoscientists-in-training (GIT’s) are allowed to use descriptive job titles, assigned by their employer, that include the word “Engineer” or “Geoscientist” or other designations commonly used by registered professionals.  In using such titles, the person must be clearly identified as being an EIT or GIT, and must be working under the direct supervision of a registered member who takes professional responsibility for the work of the EIT or GIT.

      This policy does not apply in the case of EIT’s or GIT’s who are employed in a company where there are no registered professionals providing direct supervision.”
    • 5. Can I be a member of a union as a P.Eng., P.Geo., Eng.L., or Geo.L.?

      There are no express restrictions in the Engineers and Geoscientists Act that prevent membership in a labour union. As professionals, it is expected that the provisions of the Code of Ethics are applied at all times. It is expected that members entering unionized employment situations are mindful of the potential for conflicts of interest and to avoid a conflict of interest but, where such conflict arises, fully disclose the circumstances without delay to the employer or client. In particular, this may prevent the participation of members in labour action if such action is in conflict with their professional obligations under the Code of Ethics.

    • 6. How long should I retain client files?

      As per Bylaw 14 and Retention of Project Documentation (Quality Management Guidelines), Section 3.2.4 states:

      "Records are retained based on the value of their content rather than the means or format by which they are created, stored, and distributed. Documentation that is evidence of engineering- or geoscience-related activities, events, or transactions, or is evidence that engineering/geoscience professionals have met their professional and contractual obligations must be retained as a Record for a minimum of ten years after the end of the project or ten years after a Document used in ongoing work is no longer in use."

      However, in many cases project documents should or must be retained for longer periods as dictated by other legal or business considerations; a qualified legal professional can provide further advice.

      For more information on document retention requirements please read the Quality Management Guideline: Retention of Project Documentation.


    • 1. Will my insurance cover work done by me on my personal property or work done for family/relatives or done for free as a service to the community?

      Professionals of Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia must be aware that providing engineering services to friends or family, as a volunteer for the community, or freely, does not make one immune to professional liability claim. Since either the client or a third party affected by the work can bring a lawsuit against the professional or the volunteer organization, professionals are urged to investigate their need for professional liability insurance.

      Engineers and Geoscientists BC strongly recommends that its members and licensees obtain suitable primary insurance coverage when they are providing engineering or geoscience services. Some insurance policies contain clauses that void coverage when providing professional services without a fee or to relatives. The association also recommends that professionals confirm coverage with the insurer, especially if the services are provided freely or on volunteer basis. Engineers and Geoscientists BC cannot advise regarding specific insurance policy terms, conditions, or limitations. The suitability of an insurance policy must be determined by the engineering or geoscience professional through understanding of their business liability exposure and risk management, and should be informed by consultation with insurance industry and/or legal professionals.

    • 2. Do I need Primary Professional Liability Insurance?

      Although, the Engineers and Geoscientists Act contains no provision requiring members of Engineers and Geoscientists BC to have professional liability insurance, the association strongly recommends that its professional members who provide consulting engineering or geoscience services have primary professional liability insurance. This can be obtained individually but is most often provided through the corporate entity which employs the member. In accordance with the Section 17 (a) of the Bylaws, you are required to let your client know in writing whether or not you have professional liability insurance and whether that insurance is applicable to the services in question.

      For more information regarding professional liability insurance we recommend that you address your questions to a qualified insurance professional. Our affinity partner, Marsh Canada, can also be contacted for more information on insurance.

    • 3. Can I use the Secondary Professional Liability Insurance as Primary Professional Liability Insurance?

      No, the Secondary Professional Liability Insurance Program was not designed by Engineers and Geoscientists BC to act as primary liability coverage.

      The secondary coverage is not intended for firms, corporations, public entities or employers as these groups are expected to carry specific liability coverage as part of their business. It is also not for sole proprietors or decision makers in a firm engaged in standalone providing engineering or geoscience services.

      Please read more about the limits of the Secondary Professional Liability Insurance Program.

    Professional Services and Fees

    • 1. I am a limited license holder, but I am qualified in more than one discipline. Can I issue Letters of Assurance (LoAs) that are not under my scope?

      Limited licensees can engage in professional engineering or professional geoscience in a manner consistent with the scope of their license and according to the provisions of their license. A Limited License holder cannot issue Letters of Assurance that are outside of their defined scope.

    • 2. Am I allowed to work outside of the regular practice area that I usually work in?

      Principles 2 and 3 of the Code of Ethics state that members must “undertake and accept responsibility for professional assignments only when qualified by training or experience” and must “provide an opinion on a professional subject only when it is founded upon adequate knowledge and honest conviction.”

      Members must carefully consider whether their scope of knowledge, education, training, and experience is adequate when undertaking any work. The safety of the public should always be paramount in a professional’s mind. If a professional wishes to gain some experience in a new area of practice, it would be prudent to find another professional who can transfer knowledge through training and mentoring, and who can take responsibility for the work until such a time that the first professional is ready to undertake the work on their own. The association’s Professional Practice Guidelines are a resource that set the association’s expected standard of practice in various areas. All members should be aware of these guidelines and abide by them, where applicable.

    • 3. I am looking for an engineer for xxxxx services. Can someone please guide me?

      Several Member Directories are available on our website, where you can search for members and licencees of Engineers and Geoscientists BC by their area of practice and location.

      For more information please visit:
      Member Directories

      An additional directory has been compiled on the basis of self-declarations in areas of practice provided by individual members called the Discrete Scope Directory.

      For more information please visit:
      Discrete Scope Projects Directory

    • 4. When do I need an engineer for my sewerage system?

      The Sewerage Systems Regulation prescribes conditions, such as Type 3 systems, where the services of an Engineers and Geoscientists BC professional are required.

    • 5. I am a consultant. Is there any regulation that limits the fee that I charge my client for the services offered?

      Engineers and Geoscientists BC regulates the practice of professional engineering and professional geoscience. It does not regulate the fees charged by members to their clients. However, Engineers and Geoscientists BC and the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of BC (ACEC-BC) have developed a guideline document called Budget Guidelines for Consulting Engineering Services that can provide some guidance on project budgets.

      For a copy of the Budget Guidelines for Consulting Engineering Services please visit Professional Practice Guidelines.

    • 6. Can Schedule C-B be withheld for non-payment of fees?

      If the final field review has been completed, then the Schedule C-B cannot be withheld due to the reasons of non-payments of fees. However, if the final field review has not been completed, and if the association member has not been paid in accordance with the contract, then the final field review can be delayed until payment is received.

    • 7. Can I provide services as a geoscientist in BC if I am a professional engineer with Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia?

      Only professionals who hold the P.Geo. designation can practice as professional geoscientists. A professional engineer can provide any scope of engineering service for which they feel qualified on the basis of education, experience, training and knowledge, but they cannot provide services as a professional geoscientists. The reverse is also true: professional geoscientists registered with Engineers and Geoscientists BC can only provide services as geoscientists and not as an engineers. This is in accordance with Principle #2 of the Code of Ethics Guidelines:

      “Members are registered either as Professional Engineers (P.Eng.) or Professional Geoscientists (P.Geo.) and sometimes both. The professions are distinct and registration in one does not give a member the right to practise in the other.”

    Review and/or Transfer of Professional

    • 1. What if I am asked to review and evaluate the work of another professional engineer or geoscientist?

      Principle 7 of the Code of Ethics states that “members and licensees shall conduct themselves with fairness, courtesy and good faith towards clients, colleagues and others, give credit where it is due and accept, as well as give, honest and fair professional comment.”

      Members are entitled to review and evaluate the work of other members when so required by their employment duties and when their experience and knowledge is appropriate. Contacting a member whose work is to be reviewed is not only a professional courtesy but also provides the opportunity for the exchange of pertinent information that would assist in the review.

      When the review is part of a typical or institutional process, such as a submission to a regulatory body or authority having jurisdiction, the reviewing member is not obliged to contact the member. Where a member is approached by a lawyer to review the work of another member for the purpose of litigation, that communication is protected by the solicitor-client privilege and cannot be disclosed unless the client waives the privilege. Therefore, the reviewing member is not required to contact the prior member; however they should note this in their report.

      The steps to reviewing and evaluating another professional’s work are:

      • Decide whether you are qualified to review and evaluate the work and get instructions as to what the client requires in writing,
      • Review the relevant Quality Management and Professional Practice Guidelines of Engineers and Geoscientists BC,
      • Advise the client that you wish to contact the previous professional. If they stipulate that the former professional is not to be contacted, they should be advised that it is contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code of Ethics. If the client continues to insist that the former professional is not to be contacted, you should advise the client that you will need to document this in your report, including the reasons why. In some instances the comments/criticisms may warrant declining the offer to review the work if you cannot contact the previous professional, and
      • Contact the previous professional to inform them that you are conducting a review and ask if there are any additional materials or information that they think you should have.

      For more information please see:

    • 2. What must be done when changing engineer during the course of construction?

      The procedure is described beginning at page 17 of 30 of the Guide to the Letters of Assurance.

    • 3. I have been asked to take over a previously started project and rely on the work of another professional. What do I need to consider in this situation?

      In addition to seeking legal advice, the following are a few things to consider when making the decision to rely on the work of another professional:

      1. In many cases it is not acceptable and is a breach of copyright to reproduce someone else’s work, such as design drawings, without their permission. There is also a requirement as per Principle 7 in the Code of Ethics that the new professional at least try to communicate with the old professional. Please refer to the Practice Bulletin “Contacting the Prior Member” for more on this.
      2. It is important to establish to what extent they are relying on the work of another professional to define their limits of responsibility with respect to the project they are undertaking. The new professional must therefore properly identify their scope of responsibility for the project and establish in writing with their client what exactly they take responsibility for. For instance, if a Letter of Assurance such as a Schedule C-B under the BC Building Code is required, the new professional has to determine if any investigations, in addition to applicable field reviews, are required to provide that assurance, and consideration must be given for work that has already been covered up and may be inaccessible.
      3. Consideration should be given as to the reason why a new professional has been engaged on a project. Relationships between clients and professionals break down for various reasons and although a contractual or legal issue between those persons is not a barrier to the engagement of a new professional, it is prudent to be wary of being asked to take over and rely on the work of another professional without knowing what went wrong. Some reasons, such as failure to follow the professional’s instructions or failure to call for inspections, are a red flag for a problem client.
      4. Make sure you have a written contract that clearly sets out all the relevant terms and conditions, including payment. There can be considerable risk involved in taking over projects that are already underway and those risks need to be addressed and appropriate compensation paid. Otherwise, the client is transferring risk to the new professional at little or no cost.
    • 4. What is the process for transferring my projects to another professional?

      Engineers and Geoscientists BC has no specific document outlining the protocols for transferring projects. However, for building related projects, the Guide to the Letters of Assurance has useful information on this topic.

      In general, when transferring projects to another professional, the receiving professional must agree to take over the projects and must perform necessary due diligence when taking responsibility for work already done. This could include reviewing designs, drawings, reports, or anything else applicable that is not prepared by them but for which they will now be the professional of record.

    Sealing Documents

    • 1. For shop drawings, is it necessary to seal each individual page or is it sufficient to seal a cover sheet?

      No, it is not necessary to seal each individual drawing. It is acceptable, but not recommended, to seal the package cover sheet which lists all the drawings. However, since individual shop drawings are often reproduced and/or separated from their package, it is preferable that each drawing be individually sealed. This prevents the use of a non-sealed version being mistakenly used. For packages with a large number of drawings, using an electronic signature and seal solves the issue. It allows all drawings to be sealed with a click of the mouse and reproduced from original electronic versions. Engineers and Geoscientists BC understands that electronically-sealed versions are not always available and that it is time-consuming to manually seal – stamp, sign, and date – each drawing for very large or multiple drawing packages. However, sealing only the cover sheet should only be considered as a last resort because it is less-than-ideal.

    • 2. Can I scan my seal and signature and place it on an electronic document?

      No, a scanned image of your seal, signature, and date, cannot be applied. However, the image of the seal can be scanned and applied to a document, which is then printed, signed and dated. The legal requirement is that the signature is live.

      For more information on sealing requirements please read the Quality Management Guidelines.

    • 3. My project in BC has a supplier/manufacturer outside of the country. Is sealing of drawings required?

      If equipment, products, or components that require engineering design, manufacturing or fabricating from out of province or country but will be used on projects in BC, the Engineers and Geoscientists BC registered professional should begin by preparing and sealing a performance specification for the equipment, products, or components. The specifications should indicate that the manufacturer or fabricator must certify that the equipment meets the performance specification. In such circumstances, the association does not require the registered professional to seal the fabrication or vendor drawings.

      However, when Engineers and Geoscientists BC registered professionals receive such equipment, products, or components, they do have some obligations that require the application of their seal. If Occupational Health and Safety legislation imposes any requirements such as guards and safety switches, registered professionals are responsible for checking and sealing that the equipment meets these requirements. Registered professionals must also confirm that the equipment meets any requirements of Technical Safety BC. Where the equipment requires services such as electrical, gas, or water feeds, registered professionals are responsible for designing and sealing documents showing these services.

      Pre-engineered buildings designed and fabricated outside of BC must be sealed, signed, and dated by an Engineers and Geoscientists BC registered professional.

    • 4. The Authority Having Jurisdiction is requiring I provide a wet signature on my digital Notarius seal. Do I have to comply?

      The use of digital seal technology provides encryption that indicates the authenticity of a document. Once this encryption has been applied, the document is considered signed, sealed, and dated as per the information on the encryption. This allows documents to be transmitted electronically in a single step.

      Where an electronic document has been digitally sealed, the electronic file is the original and any printed reproductions are copies. It is acceptable to provide these printed copies and no further modification is needed to be made to the document (i.e., no wet stamp or wet signature is required). However, clients and authorities having jurisdiction retain the right to request that originals be provided in either electronic or hard copy form. To provide the hard copy, ensure that the electronic image of the seal is applied with digital certification that meets Engineers and Geoscientists BC best practices, then add fine print to the digital signature zone stating, “This document is a printed copy from a digitally signed and sealed original,” and print the document. A sealed set must be retained by the engineering/geoscience professional as a record.

      Engineers and Geoscientists BC best practices in the use of electronic seals are outlined in the Quality Management Guidelines: Use of Seal.

    • 5. How do I validate that documents digitally signed by a member are valid?

      The use of digital seal technology provides encryption that indicates the authenticity of a document. Once this encryption has been applied, the document is considered signed, sealed, and dated as per the information on the digital certificate. Most modern full featured PDF reader software packages provide the capability for digital signature verification; some basic PDF readers, for example web browsers, do not. For example, Adobe Acrobat Reader digital signature verification is discussed in the following user guide.

      In order to validate a digital signature, your PDF reader application must have a trust relationship configured with the issuer of that digital certificate, in this case Notarius. This trust relationship is established though the installation of “root certificates” on your computing system. Up-to-date versions of Adobe products and Windows provides this automatically for the most recent Notarius root certificates, but if not, Notarius provides a how-to that describes how to configure Adobe Acrobat to validate documents that are signed with a Notarius issued certificate.

      Other PDF reader software packages (BlueBeam, OpenOffice, etc.) that have similar full featured PDF capabilities may present verifications differently, but the concepts remain the same. Consult the user documentation for your PDF reader to determine the procedure necessary to install certificates and subsequently ensure that digital signatures are valid.

      Certificates necessary to be installed in order to establish the required trust relationship are available on the Notarius website.

    • 6. Can I use my seal to notarize passports and documents?

      No; engineering/geoscience professionals must not Seal Documents that do not contain engineering or geoscience content unless stipulated by other provincial or federal legislation or regulation.

      However, Engineers and Geoscientists BC retains ownership of the Seal and is the sole authority to establish rules for its use. One such exemption Engineers and Geoscientists BC has established is to allow an engineering/geoscience professional to certify an EIT or GIT applicant’s citizenship by signing and stamping a photocopy of the document as a “true copy of the original”.

      For more information on sealing requirements please read the Quality Management Guideline: Use of Seal.

    • 7. Can I digitally seal a document that is not a PDF?

      Yes. Many software applications allow for digital certificates (see definition in the Use of Seal Quality Management Guideline) to be applied to files output by the application. For specific instructions, check the software help documentation, manuals, or contact the vendor for support.

      Engineering and geoscience professionals should ensure that the software package:

      • Applies the registrant’s digital certificate to signed and sealed files; and
      • Allows for an image of the registrant’s stamp, signature, and date of seal to be displayed on the digitally sealed file when printed.

      Engineering and geoscience professionals can digitally sign and seal a document that is not a PDF, for example a Word, Excel, MathCAD, AutoCAD, or Revit file, by using the attachment feature of PDF/A-3. This feature enables the user to digitally sign and seal the data attached to a PDF/A-3 cover sheet. The steps to do so using the Notarius ConsignO software are as follows:

      1. Create a Word document that outlines the files that need to be signed and sealed. Leave an area to apply an image of the seal and signature.
      2. Convert the Word document to PDF/A-3 (not A-2 or A-1) using ConsignO Desktop PDF/A conversion tool.
      3. When converting, you will be prompted to add attachments. Add any attachment that is a data file such as BIM, DWG, Code, Word, or JPEG.
      4. Using ConsignO Desktop, apply a signature zone in PDF in the space left in Step 1.
      5. Using ConsignO Desktop, or any other PDF signing tool, apply the digital certificate with appropriate image of seal, date, and signature, as per the Quality Management Guidelines Use of Seal.
    • 8. Do I need to certify my digitally sealed documents?

      It is not mandatory, but engineering and geoscience professionals should consider the intended use of the document and requirements of the recipient when deciding whether to certify a document.

      It is useful to clarify the meaning “certify” and “digital certificate”. The “digital certificate” represents the electronic equivalent of a handwritten signature and date and must be applied to the document to digitally sign and seal it, and meet the intent of the Quality Management Guidelines Use of Seal.

      To “certify” the document is to lock the document; this is a ConsignO-specific term. There are two options when certifying a document: the first is to allow no further modifications and the second is to allow signing in existing zones (in the case that multiple professionals are involved). Certifying the document may be appropriate in some instances but is not mandatory.

      Digitally signing and sealing the document with a digital certificate but without the “certify” option enabled still assigns professional responsibility and the document can still be authenticated by the recipient. A document that is digitally signed and sealed but uncertified (i.e., unlocked) can still be edited, for example applying approved stamps, additional seals, markups, or comments. The date, time, and contents of the document are captured when the digital certificate is applied, delineating any changes that occur after this point.

    The Role of Engineers and Geoscientists BC

    • 1. Can Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia provide legal advice?

      No, the association does not provide legal advice to its members, the public or any other stakeholders.

      Access Pro Bono provides a Lawyer Referral Service that allows the public to access a lawyer and have a 30 minute free consultation. To access this service, call 604.687.3221 or 1.800.663.1919 Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM–5:00 PM. There is also an email contact at [email protected].

    • 2. Does Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia issue Certificates of Authorization to organizations?

      The Engineers and Geoscientists Act contains provisions for the Association to issue certificates of authorization—licences issued to allow individuals and businesses to provide professional engineering or geoscience services. Currently there is nothing in the Engineers and Geoscientists Act preventing companies from operating without such certificates. Therefore, certificates of authorization are not enforceable and Engineers and Geoscientists BC does not issue them at this time.

      However, since the association recognizes the significant influence that organizations have on the practice of professional members, the Organizational Quality Management (OQM) program was created in 2012. OQM is a voluntary program that provides guidance on professional practice and quality management at the organization level.

      For more information on the OQM Program page.
    • 3. I want to start up my own business, what do I need to know from Engineers and Geoscientists BC?

      Engineers and Geoscientists BC currently does not regulate organizations providing professional engineering or geoscience services. Engineers and Geoscientists BC protects the public by requiring businesses that wish to use restricted or trademarked words (examples include “engineer”, “engineering”, “geoscience”, and “geoscientist”—a full list is available at the link below) in their business names to obtain consent from the association prior to registration/incorporation. The association will generally grant consent to a business that has at least one person on active staff who is properly qualified and registered in British Columbia to practice professional engineering and/or professional geoscience.

      The consent process for using restricted or trademarked words is outlined in Business Name Consent.