Records, records, records

Failure to keep good project records may not only be a breach of the contract, but it will also almost certainly put you in a weaker position and could end up being an expensive mistake.

Project records kept at the time ensure a history is maintained that will permit the “reconstruction” of events, allowing them to be analysed and reviewed.

Destruction of any records would be unwise, is against the policy of most sizeable contractors and in some cases may be against the law depending on the nature of the records.

People come and go, their personal memories with them and even they fade over time and regardless are not sufficient to be relied upon where proving historical events is important. Well maintained project records form an auditable “memory” of events that can be used.

Max W Abrahamson, Engineering Law and the ICE Contracts, 4th Edition, 1979 wrote “A Party to a dispute, particularly if there is an arbitration will learn three lessons (often too late): the importance of records, the importance of records and the importance of records.”

Records can be used:

  • Offensively: in supporting your entitlements from the Employer and claims against sub-contractors that have failed to perform
  • Defensively: to defend allegations/claims from both your Employer and sub-contractors

What records should be kept?

Daily Site Diary/Report

  • Day/date with site open and close times
  • Weather
  • To include labour levels/hours/allocations (location and activity) including any standing or non-productive time
  • Plant/equipment levels/hours/allocations (location and activity) including any standing or non-productive time
  • Material deliveries including details on acceptability/condition and storage arrangements
  • Details of any visitors, inspections, testing, meetings, accidents/incidents etc

Photographs

  • A picture paints a thousand words, but not if you can’t tell what/when/where it was taken.
  • Take regular photographs of progress and problems as they arise.
  • Progress photos may be daily/weekly/monthly depending on the complexity of the project and any requirements set out in the contract documents.
  • You need to ensure you include the following key information with photographs:
    • Date
    • Location
    • Description

Meeting Minutes (Progress / Design / Subcontractor / Internal)

  • Powerful pieces of evidence that can be used.
  • “Spin” can be applied to the way the minutes are written to subtly change the precise nature of the discussion and in some cases simply misrepresent events that occurred.
  • To protect your interests, ensure that you keep your own records of meetings and if not producing the official minutes, review those that are issued and challenge them in writing if you do not agree with them.

As-Built Programme

  • Start and finish of activities,
  • Events that occur along the way that have impact on subsequent sequences and activities.
  • Can be done by
    • Progress notes kept at the time.
    • Marking up the project programme (by hand or electronically).
    • Creating a separate as-built programme as the project progresses.

Record Drawings

  • Keep copies of drawings noting progress.
  • Use colours/highlights to show location/scope.
  • Include dates/times as appropriate.
  • Annotate with as much detail as possible.

Sample Submission Records and Approvals

  • Some projects require submission and approval of samples.
  • Even if not required it can avoid future disputes.
  • Identify the samples to be provided.
  • Submit appropriately as literature / physical material samples / constructed sample panels.
  • Get approval from the person empowered to do so and
  • Make sure the approval is recorded in writing with a signature where appropriate and dated.
  • Photographs can assist as a record of samples and their approval.

Daywork Sheets

  • For the valuation of works that is otherwise difficult to value.
  • Include names/positions/activities/duration/locations.
  • To be accompanied with other site records for the avoidance of doubt (photos, marked-up drawings etc).

Other good practice project records

  • Requests for Information (RFI’s) and responses
  • Confirmation of Verbal Instructions (CVI’s) and responses
  • Any instruction from client to be in writing
  • Certificates for handovers and completion
  • Building Control Sign off and other statutory approvals
  • Drawing Comments/Approvals

How long should the records be kept?

  • For simple contracts, keep records for 6 years
  • For contracts executed as a deed, keep records for 12 years
  • The difference between the above has been covered by a separate article and can be found here.

How to store records

  • Often over-looked
  • Need to be accessible both during the project and post-completion to relevant parties
  • Depending on the size/complexity of the project and any specific contract requirements this could be hard copies, electronic locally/server/cloud based.
  • Maintaining the full set of records as described above may not be possible, practical as a result of resources and time available
  • A simple daybook can be kept recording much of the above including discussions.
  • Keeping photographs is simple with most people having ready access to a mobile device that will have that built-in capability – make it work for you.

Conclusion

The best project records will mean that you can turn back time to any given day on a project and be able to reconstruct the events that occurred that day, who/what was on site for how long, what they did where, the weather conditions, any issues/accidents/incidents that occurred etc.

These project records will promote effective communications and a spirit of collaboration as it keeps all stakeholders involved and informed making early decision making easier. This reduces the likelihood of any disputes (often caused by poor, misleading or late communications) and in the unfortunate event that a dispute does arise, the records will mean you are well informed and armed.

If you would like some recommendations and assistance with the implementation of your record keeping, we can support you and your business with this, contact us to find out more.

Records, records, records

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