Does the documentation frenzy have you down?

May 1, 2002 By    

The reason Enron executives authorized the shredding of documents was to hide procedure and eliminate evidence of wrongdoing.

A propane marketer has the opposite problem. The very reason insurance carriers and trial attorneys are asking for this information is to prove you did or did not properly warn, inform and ascertain the integrity of the system.

When it comes to documentation, no news is bad news.

If a claim suddenly falls upon your doorstep and your records are light on duty to warn and system information, or you lack the customer’s signature, you have a problem. The claims adjuster will hate it, the plaintiff attorney will love it and your insurance underwriter will be much less friendly.

It’s important to understand why this information is required and how it came to be that you don’t have that enough information on your customer systems.

Let’s start with the latter. Twenty years ago we had an aggressive plan to push for safety and eliminate doubt about system information. It was called Gas Check. The promise or the request was that marketers try to get 20 percent of their customers per year. Theoretically, you should be at about 400 percent today. But you aren’t. Why?

Because is it an arduous task to begin with. It is a heavy goal that flies in the face of operations delivery process. Each system requires time and time is money. The customer is supposed to be home, which is hard.

In many cases marketers are doing the right thing, but fail to take the time to write it down. Your best employee may have been delivering propane since Sam McTier was a pup, (love ya, Sam) but if you can’t prove and document all that experience and training, technically, it didn’t happen. OSHA, DOT and plaintiff attorneys will come down on you like Elliot Ness going after Al Capone.

Why is documentation required? The primary purpose of those requirements is to prevent injuries and save lives BEFORE an incident occurs.

After an incident occurs your company will have to prove compliance.

Visualize that train robber from the Capital One credit card TV commercial chasing you through the Desert of Liability screaming, “What’s in your file?”

Another area of concern is documentation of cylinders rejected in the requalification process. The other day I met with a marketer that had not made an entry in the log for nine months.

The real problem here is that when Sven comes in and you turn him down because of cylinder requalification, he goes down the road and has it filled by your evil competitor. After the explosion, Mrs. Sven only remembers that he went down to your plant to have the cylinder refilled and you can’t prove that he didn’t.

I’d be remiss if I left out the importance of certificates of insurance from vendors and subcontractors. I even think you should get certificates of insurance from commercial sales to contractors. You can’t assume you have an umbrella of insulation from their insurance. How do you know that they still have it?

By the way, have you documented THEIR training procedures, given them duty to warn material and confirmed their commitment to adhere to NFPA 54 and 58? After a claim is a bad time to find out all spotlights are focused on you – the supplier.

If you have this sick feeling that you could do better in some of these areas, please, for the sake of your customers, employees, stockholders and stakeholders, make a better effort.

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