Paperwork finishes the job

June 1, 2003 By    

Don’t you just hate paperwork? Unless you’re the kind of person who gets excited about details in triplicate, we all resent the heavy burden of paperwork in our daily work and personal routines.

When it comes to safety, documentation is a labor of an unloved task. We hate the task because we hate the process. We hate the process because it feels like a waste of time and duplicate effort. There are times when we feel enough is enough.

Then we have the “infrequency gremlins” that speak to our inner ear and remind us that we rarely ever need it. After all, we rationalize, the nature of propane incidents is low frequency/high severity. The odds are deceiving.

This is why we become complacent. Its why we fail to achieve documentation goals, and why we fail to back up and keep duplicates of information we think we’ll never need.

But you don’t have to experience the loss of such information to prevent a future problem. Hopefully this will never happen to you:

The other day I spoke with a marketer who lost all of his Gas Check or equivalent records in a fire at his main office. It was a single-page insurance company form filled with customer records. No duplicates were ever made.

The service employees will vaguely remember the work, but without paper proof they cannot support their actions. A plaintiff attorney would drool like a fox over fresh road kill.

Combine this situation with the need to remarket the insurance. Prospective insurers will want to see documentation of Gas Check or equivalent information, employee training and leak check verification on out-of-gas service calls.

Many of you are shaking your heads with the smug knowledge that you have various information storage systems and backup information. Have you examined your process for weak spots by playing “what if,” emergency disaster, with application to every piece of documentation that you know is vital to be able to reproduce?

We all fall short on documentation occasionally. We assume that various sources keep multiple records, so we don’t need to keep it all, right?

This week my travel agent called because a flight she had rebooked was shown as an open ticket. Even though I only took one flight, the airlines are going to charge her for the open ticket because their records don’t show the cancellation.

As I dug through my credit card paid invoices, I found the appropriate transactions and had to fax them to my travel agent. Then she gave me a lecture about not saving my old ticket. Apparently without the ticket or stubs, I can’t prove I took the flight. I’m sure it can be reconstructed, but not by me.

Hope I don’t get a call from Homeland Security.

When it comes to your company’s safety security, now is the time to invent all those strange things that never happen. Hold a mock fire drill to check and see where the exposed records may be at the time of a fire.

Your ability to buy insurance may depend upon it. Your ability to document safe work in a court of law definitely depends upon it. The rest is up to you.

Until next time, be safe.

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