EMS – Tips for document control

Document Control

Managing an environmental program for a facility requires good organizational skills.  As I discussed in EMS – Creating an Obligation Register, even a small mine may have over a hundred individual permits to maintain and hundreds of individual requirements associated with those permits.  All that boils down to a lot of paperwork to keep track of and a lot of information to keep organized.  If you have been procrastinating, thinking that you will get organized when you have some spare time, don’t wait.  That spare time will never arrive and, the longer you put it off, the more documents you have piling up.

I’m a big fan of electronic files for everything.  Electronic files can be searched whether they are located on a file server or in a document database.  Having the ability to access all the files while you are traveling is essential in today’s world.  If a question comes up while you are meeting with regulators, electronic files will allow you to access the needed information quickly and efficiently.  Your ability to locate and access information, whenever it is needed, will make more efficient use of your time and make your job more manageable.  During a regulatory inspection, the ability to readily produce required documentation will build credibility with the regulators and make inspections easier.

Take a look at your obligation register and use it to draft up a file structure.  I like to organize my files by permit and year, breaking out the files into outgoing and incoming correspondence.  If any folder in the file structure has more than ten files in it, I would consider breaking out the file structure into another level.  This will keep the files organized and easy to find.

Come up with a naming convention for your correspondence which will include each of the key word searches for the document.  In addition to the specific document name, consider adding each of the following into your naming convention:

  • Regulatory agency abbreviation – standardize to make it easy to find.
  • Permit type or media – air, water, waste, etc.
  • Permit number
  • Specific document name
  • Date

A document with a properly formatted naming convention will make file searches a breeze.  No more rifling through folders looking for that document you can’t seem to locate.  Once the naming convention is established, add your new document, copy the properly formatted name from previous correspondence, and paste it in to your new document file name.  Then all you have to do is correct the specific document name portion and the date.

A well-organized document control system will pay dividends almost immediately.  As with all of my blogs, I welcome your comments and suggestions.  What have you found to be the most effective and efficient way to manage documents?

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