Week of 25 January 2021: Do not forget to purge your files
Email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org
Us engineers are proud of our work and want to keep it in perpetuity. After all, you just never know when you might need it again, do you?
Well, those old engineering files (paper and digital) just may come back to bite you someday if you are not careful. Lawsuits of all kinds are based on old project data. And don't try to purge it after a suit has been filed or there is even the hint of a suit--that can land you in jail.
The word here, like everywhere else, is that you need to be efficient. Keep only what is needed for anticipated future activities. In severe cases, everything you have is subject to subpoena--including personal notebooks, the contents of your desk, and so forth.
Particularly worrisome is anything you have let get out of your hands--emails, cloud-based storage, faxes (yes, some people still use faxes) and so forth. If you write about the industry, as I do, even all your writings, even this one you are reading, are subject to subpoenas.
Time and again we see stories where people are caught in some sort of a situation where their social media information is subpoenaed and used in a trial.
This month, being focused on capital projects, however, the main worry is documentation around those projects such as calculation sheets, drawings, correspondence and so forth.
Ironically, the people I have seen that do the best job of cleaning up their files are those accepting bribes under the table. They are usually pretty good at hiding their trail of malfeasance, although even the best are not perfect. Read our "Pulp Rats" series every August in this space to understand that particularly nasty corner of industry.
The main concern, I have already covered above but it is worth repeating. Engineers and scientists have a propensity to save their data. Saved information can come back and bite your company and you. Many a career has been ruined by a fastidious hoarder. Even worse, most think, "it can't happen to me."
For safety this week, do save your safety instructions. Ironically, these often seem to be the thing most likely to end up in the trash can. They are written for a purpose.
Be safe and we will talk next week.
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