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Thread: Design for Company & Liability

  1. #1
    Associate Engineer
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    Jan 2020
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    Design for Company & Liability

    Hey everyone,

    I've got kind of an odd question. I never finished my engineering degree (originally computer/electrical), and instead joined the manufacturing industry in order to gather money and experience (and most importantly, the fortitude to deal with life outside of my terms). Over the past near-decade, I've worked for several agricultural manfacturers and a medical electrical equipment manufacturer in various capacities ranging from entry level assembly/machining/testing to quality and engineering technician roles, progressing due to aptitude and work ethic I suppose, as it was normally not my idea.

    I find myself now in a position where I am tasked with actually designing end-products for a company (read: being this company's entire "engineering" department from cradle to grave). I am not doing this because of misrepresentation of myself and credentials, just due to opportunity and perceived ability (small company, established presence but looking to start manufacturing).

    My question is, are there any liability issues I need to examine before continuing on with this? To my knowledge a P.E. is not required for this type of work (located in U.S.), but I do not want to tread too far into something and realize I'm lacking the credentials to build and sell a product. Am I overthinking this? I suppose a guy could build and sell a product out of his garage without a degree, but I feel like there may be an issue here somewhere.

    I should probably go get that degree...

    Any input is greatly appreciated, apologies if this is an incorrect place to post this.

  2. #2
    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Feb 2011
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    It's not too uncommon for organizations that design and engineer non-life threatening products to employ non-formally educated designers and engineers.

    Your employer carries any liability that there night be.
    Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

  3. #3
    Associate Engineer
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    Jan 2020
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    Great, thanks Kelly, I appreciate it. I suppose it just makes me nervous as there are no engineers involved to hand it off to and say, "please check my work and make sure I'm not dumb."

    I suppose going forward I'll just have to get a premium membership and double-down on studying everything I can. Also, in dire times of uncertainty, perhaps lean on this forum a bit

  4. #4
    Technical Fellow jboggs's Avatar
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    Also - speaking in broadly generic terms, at least in the US, if somebody wants to sue you or the company for anything at any time, they can. Doesn't mean they will win, but they can sue.

    Others may disagree but generally the only times the PE certificate is an issue is when you are either doing work that by law must be done under the responsible leadership of a licensed PE (building structures, bridges, infrastructure), or if the company you're working for claims to offer "engineering services" on the open market. For example "Bubba's Welding and Engineering Shop" might get a visit from the state board of engineering examiners, and be asked to show them the licensed PE on their staff. No PE = infraction of the law.

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