One of the frequently cited violations at wastewater and drinking water systems is a failure to maintain required records. Solid waste systems also see violations for lack of record keeping. In fact, there have been many systems that have received fines because their operators failed to keep accurate and complete records. To make it even more personal, we might as well acknowledge that there have been operators that have had their license put on probation, suspended and even revoked because of sloppy operations, including poor record keeping. We don’t want this to happen to you.
You may wonder, “Why are records so important? Isn’t it enough that the plant is working properly, water is being adequately treated and solid waste is being managed properly?” While it may not seem intuitive that paperwork is important from a compliance perspective, it is one of the most important indicators that the agency uses to verify that your facility is adequately treating its drinking water or wastewater and properly managing solid waste.
Lets face it, it’s simply not possible for inspectors to be at your facility all of the time. Because of this, they must rely on your records to demonstrate that you are maintaining a high level of operations. The agency has also entrusted you to self-monitor your compliance in many cases. However, if your records are missing, inaccurate or incomplete, it is difficult for the agency to trust the sample results that your facility has claimed to achieve.
That’s why good record keeping practices are necessary for all certified operators. Bottom line, records are vital in proving that necessary procedures were followed, acceptable results were obtained, that water is safe to discharge or consume and waste is disposed of properly. Operators should follow the following steps to help ensure that they are maintaining a successful record keeping program.
- Maintain records of all important business activities and decisions. Records should be detailed and organized.
- Make sure that records are adequate for their purpose. If the documentation is not accurate or complete, it will not be useful to the reader.
- Avoid shorthand or abbreviations that may not be understood at a later date and time.
- Place the records in their appropriate locations. This may include file cabinets, log books and computer systems. If you don’t put them where they can be easily retrieved, the record is useless.
- Follow your organization’s record keeping policies when it comes to documentation, filing, distribution and access.
- Do not destroy, delete or alter records without authority. Make sure that records are kept for the proper amount of time, as well as stored and backed up properly.
- Do not remove records without permission. Some records should never leave the facility or file room.
- Do not lose, misplace or mishandle records. This may sound obvious, but if a record cannot be produced, the agency will likely have to assume that it was never created.
- Make sure that restricted records are not viewed by anyone who does not have the proper authority or access to them.
Hopefully, these tips will sharpen your record keeping skills and to help you and your facility perform well and stay in compliance.