Tips to Create a Construction Document Retention Policy

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March 11, 2019
Author: Ben Halverson
Organization: Lorman Education Service

Retaining documents is vital in the business of construction. Construction jobs create an immense amount of paperwork. These might include emails, plans, drafts, contracts, and work records. Federal and state building codes and laws must be followed for buildings to be safe. A document retention policy can be seen as a form of insurance to protect your company from major legal costs in the future. 

Why Is a Document Retention Policy Important?

A construction company needs a document retention policy to maintain a profitable business. Many state and federal regulations require you to keep documents for at least three years1. Some laws vary from state to state, and not all documents require the same treatment. A properly maintained document retention system will serve as a reminder to help employees remain compliant.

A document retention policy provides protection for your company in the event of a lawsuit. The ability to easily access any documents during lawsuit proceedings is necessary to prove documents aren't altered or fabricated. The costs of not being prepared for a lawsuit can be catastrophic and even result in bankruptcy. 

Tips to Create an Effective Policy

For a construction document retention policy to be effective, it must be functional and efficient. Employees must be able to easily work with the program and the files must be accessible when they are needed. Use these tips2 to help create an effective construction document retention policy.

  • Appoint a Manager or Team. For a policy to be effective, it must be overseen by someone. A team may be more effective in keeping all points of the policy running smoothly. A team could be composed of employees from each involved department.
  • Gather information from data management. Retention is only useful if you can ensure the documents will be stored as planned. Working with data management and IT professionals will ensure that all forms of documents are backed up and properly saved.
  • Assign ownership for all types of documents. It is essential to identify each type of document separately. Specifically distinguish between electronically stored information, paper documents, slides, tapes, and discs and decide who is responsible for keeping track of each. This job may be tasked to an individual team or run on a system accessible by all employees.
  • Review federal and state laws. Federal and state requirements, laws, and statutes will determine how long documentation will need to be kept.
  • Create guidelines for organization and storage. Deciding how to organize and store data can make all the difference when it comes to functionality. Stored data is useless if it's impossible to find. Create a system that makes "putting documents away" and retrieving them easy for the employees tasked to each particular job.
  • Create a policy to safely destroy documents. A routine system to efficiently remove unnecessary documents keeps the storage of important documents streamlined and functional. Storing physical documents for years takes up a lot of space. The storage of electronic documents can get messy as well. A system that has reminders to purge unnecessary documents will be less likely to get overburdened.
  • Train employees and keep them updated on the policy. Your document retention policy is only useful if your employees know how to use it. In order to stay in compliance, all employees must understand the policy and know how to use it. 

A smoothly functioning document retention policy within a construction company can mean the difference in winning or losing expensive lawsuits. The long-term paper trail created by this policy can show your company's dedication to high standards and quality work. If you are interested in learning more about the importance of a document retention policy for your construction company, contact us today. To learn more about our training courses, visit the Lorman Education Services Website.



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