Protecting your RPEQ signature in a digital world

Protecting your RPEQ signature in a digital world

I am writing this while ‘working from home’. For someone that has been involved in on-site construction activities for many years, to say that this is a little bit of a change for me, is an understatement. So, a big shout out to those electrical and electronic engineers that are keeping us connected in these interesting times.

One contemporary issue for the Board is the use, or more accurately the misuse, of digital signatures. Digital signatures however are here to stay. I recently had a call from a concerned RPEQ about the unauthorised use of their digital signature. We spoke about the responsibilities of RPEQ’s in managing their digital signatures and thought that this might be an appropriate time to address this publically.

I am writing this while ‘working from home’. For someone that has been involved in on-site construction activities for many years, to say that this is a little bit of a change for me, is an understatement. So, a big shout out to those electrical and electronic engineers that are keeping us connected in these interesting times.

One contemporary issue for the Board is the use, or more accurately the misuse, of digital signatures. Digital signatures however are here to stay. I recently had a call from a concerned RPEQ about the unauthorised use of their digital signature. We spoke about the responsibilities of RPEQ’s in managing their digital signatures and thought that this might be an appropriate time to address this publically.

A RPEQ’s signature is something of significant professional and personal value. It may be used to confirm that professional engineering services have been done by or directly supervised by a RPEQ, or even required under certain rules and regulations to ‘certify’ works and services.

‘In the old days’, long before the current coronavirus crisis, it was easy to request a wet signature on a document. In the current situation it may not be possible to obtain a wet ink signature on a document and technology may even make doing so unnecessary. Whilst there are several current electronic processes that internally certify a document, externally this is fairly easy to get around and have a document falsely authorised by someone, in this case a RPEQ.

This environment means that we must be more rigorous in our approach to signatures. If you want to be assured that the signature is genuine, the best way is to contact the signatory directly.

“…we must be more rigorous in our approach to signatures.”

So how does a RPEQ protect that all important signature? A very good question and I would love to have the perfect solution. Unfortunately, there will always be the risk of someone taking a RPEQ’s signature and misusing it. However, there are some things that we as professionals can do to at least minimise the risk of fraudulent use of our RPEQ signatures:

  • Have a different signature for signing as a RPEQ, coupled with your RPEQ number, as opposed to your normal usage
  • Keep a register of when you use your signature (this allows you to be able to quickly confirm the authenticity of a document)
  • Do not allow others to place your signature on a document
  • If you have a digital signature in the workplace, ensure that it is removed from the company system when you leave

Misuse of a RPEQ’s digital signature may equate to a breach of the Professional Engineers Act or the Code of Practice for RPEQs; and just as seriously may be an act of fraud. The Board should be informed if a RPEQ believes their signature has been used without their authorisation. The Board has investigated a number of cases recently that involved the unauthorised use of a RPEQ’s digital signature to suggest that a drawing had been done by that RPEQ. This is the most common – along with alterations being done to designs and keeping the original signature – situation involving misuse of a RPEQ’s signature that the Board encounters.

Ultimately, RPEQs have the responsibility to demonstrate when it is their authorised signature. A record of when they use their signature is one way of doing this. The other is to encourage people to contact the signatory and check to see if the signature was correctly applied.

For more information on protecting you RPEQ signature see articles in BPEQ e-news issues in January 2018 and May 2018.

DAWSON WILKIE

Chair and Regional Representative

BE Civil, FIE Aust, FIPWEAQ, RPEQ, GAICD, CPEng, EngExec, APEC Engineer

Dawson Wilkie was first appointed to the Board as Chair and regional representative in January 2015 and was re-appointed in April 2018. A qualified civil engineer working in private consultancy, Dawson has worked in the profession for more than 35 years. Graduating from the Queensland Institute of Technology in 1979, Dawson went on to work with the New South Wales Department of Main Roads and then in local government with Dubbo City Council and Townsville City Council. Dawson was the Managing Director of a medium-sized construction company and then the Chief Executive Officer at an engineering firm before moving into private consultancy.

DAWSON WILKIE

Chair and Regional Representative

BE Civil, FIE Aust, FIPWEAQ, RPEQ, GAICD, CPEng, EngExec, APEC Engineer

Dawson Wilkie was first appointed to the Board as Chair and regional representative in January 2015 and was re-appointed in April 2018. A qualified civil engineer working in private consultancy, Dawson has worked in the profession for more than 35 years. Graduating from the Queensland Institute of Technology in 1979, Dawson went on to work with the New South Wales Department of Main Roads and then in local government with Dubbo City Council and Townsville City Council. Dawson was the Managing Director of a medium-sized construction company and then the Chief Executive Officer at an engineering firm before moving into private consultancy.

RELATED ARTICLES

smit-patel-JMmTloWmvSI-unsplash

6 December 2019

Professionally managed local government assets increase public value and safety

By employing trained and competent staff, something that the RPEQ systems ensures…

READ NOW

IMG-UNDERSTANDING THE CODE OF PRACTICE FOR REGISTERED PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS

6 December 2019

Understanding the Code of Practice for Registered Professional Engineers

BPEQ’s Code of Practice provides guidance to RPEQs about appropriate professional…

READ NOW

Swearing-in-of-members-on-the-first-day-of-the-Queensland-Parliament-20-August-1929

6 December 2019

Great Debate: Professional Engineers Bill 1929

The old saying goes that history has habit of repeating itself. Those following the progress…

READ NOW

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.