Tony Dobrowolski: Regulation update long overdue



Unless you work in the field, I'm assuming you didn't know that the majority of the regulations governing engineers and land surveyors in Massachusetts were last updated in 1993.

That was the first year of Bill Clinton's first term as president.

About time for a change, wouldn't you say?

Well, the state Division of Professional Licensure announced a proposal last week that it says will comprehensively reform those rules by allowing for the use of certain technologies in the course of business. The proposal is also expected to clarify the existing regulations for all licensed professionals.

Now, I'm not an engineer, or a land surveyor, but based on the amount of time that's passed since the last major overhaul of the rules I wonder why reform has taken so long.

Think of all the things that have happened since 1993. There was no Internet back then, digital was just a word in the dictionary, hand-held mobile devices were considered something out of Star Trek, and the Toronto Blue Jays were actually good (they won their second consecutive World Series that year, in case you forgot).

A video was something that you watched on a VCR. Twitter was defined as either a trembling agitation, a small tremulous intermittent sound that birds make, or a light silly laugh, according to the 10th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, not a method for people to communicate with each other.

We've listed the technology references for a reason. While technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the field of communications, it has stagnated in areas that people rely on for other things, like constructing roads, bridges and buildings. We've gone into the stratosphere in one area of our lives, while leaving another one far behind. No wonder we have so many problems with our infrastructure.

In Massachusetts, at least, it appears we're trying to catch up.

In October 2011, Gov. Deval Patrick announced a first in the nation initiative to review all state regulations and streamline regulations for small business. By 2012, 446 sets of regulations had already been reviewed, which created 286 opportunities for reform, according to the DPL. Of the 64 percent of state regulations that have been reviewed, approximately 14 percent have been identified for either modification or review. These agencies are now in the third round of review.

As part of this process, the state conducted a significant review of the current regulations of the Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.

According to the DPL, the members of these professions have found that the current regulations are "outdated" and "lacking structure," obvious conclusions considering that most of the rules are 20 years old.

The board has developed a new set of rules that more clearly articulates the requirements for licensure and recognizes important technological advancements that might impact how licensees conduct business on a day-to-day basis.

"Engineers and land surveyors play a vital role in our state's economy, helping to build and maintain our infrastructure," said Mark Kmetz, the director of the Division of Professional Licensure. "They deserve a regulatory code that is clear and coherent, and that reflects how their professions are practiced in the 21st century."

Here's a look at some of the proposed changes.

One proposal will allow licensees to authenticate their work through the use of digital signatures and digital professional stamps.

Another proposal clarifies an existing requirement that businesses who perform engineering work have an appropriately qualified licensee directly in charge of the work. Currently, a licensee cannot approve work unless it was performed by the licensee personally, or by an employee under the direct supervision of the license.

This clarification is intended to provide better guidance to small engineering and land surveying firms, like the ones that exist in the Berkshires, while also offering stronger protections to businesses and consumers utilizing the services of those firms.

The text of the proposed regulations can be found on the DPL's website at


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