A Quick Guide To Creating A Document Destruction Policy
It is important for businesses of all sizes to create an intelligently designed document destruction program.
- Shredding documents, files, receipts, papers, customer information and other confidential information should be done properly, legally, and on a regular basis.
- Records retention periods are increasingly governed by regulations.
- Many states have passed laws requiring businesses to shred papers and documents that are no longer in use.
- This is especially important in the financial and healthcare industries where HIPAA and GLB laws apply. If you work in these industries, be sure to carefully check all the relevant laws in your area.
But even in those few businesses and geographical areas where it may not be the law to shred papers, it is still a very common sense business practice, and one that is not so hard to incorporate.
A Basic Guide To Help You Get Started Creating A Document Destruction Policy
This is not a comprehensive document destruction policy guide, and is in no way legal advice or a substitute for researching applicable laws and procedures in your area.
If you need more details, and have questions, I recommend that you request information from shredding companies with our quotes form on the right or using the directory at http://www.document-shredding.org and ask questions from the shredding contractors who respond.
Many (but not all!) will have information, experience and relavent information about shredding and specific laws in your location and industry.
However, with that said, you will definitely find at least a few of these ideas useful for organizing your businesses paperwork, streamlining the organization of files, and increasing profits.
1. Regular paper waste baskets are not enough for the office!
Get secure, locking containers that work similar to a public drop off mailbox and don’t use regular dumpsters for disposing of office paper. With secure, convenient mobile document shredding services, a truck can come to your location, take the locked containers outside to the parking lot, and shred the media in front of a company representative.
Many of the newer document shredding trucks that are in use today have a built in camera so that a designated employee can see the papers being shredded. Afterwards, the employee can receive a signed and dated certificate of destruction. The certificate should acknowledge fiduciary responsibility for the shredded paper and/or other media such as hard drives or CDs.
2. Use a consistent, planned & detailed document management procedure for the entire organization.
Many businesses and organizations may have dozens or even hundreds of different departments, each with their own method of disposing of paperwork and each on a different schedule.
A more effective plan is to have a records manager for the entire organization plan a consistent procedure to use department wide.
3. Records should be destroyed on a consistent schedule and not in a disorganized way.
Consistency is key. Papers accumulated daily in the locked paper consoles in a department should be shredded on a weekly or monthly basis.
Other types of records, such as photocopies that are not useful after 3 months could be shredded quarterly or yearly, depending on the quantity.
Original records might be shredded annually, every few years, or archived with a document scanning or document storage service.
With a scanning or storage service, hundreds of thousands of paper records can be condensed into one DVD disc or stored offsite, creating more office space and adding tremendously to overall office organization and efficiency.
4. All document management policies should be documented and posted.
The policies should be detailed and cover all types of records and all procedures for disposal. You may be able to get posters or signs from a document shredding company or simply print up copies of the policies in a large font and post them around the department near places where paperwork is generated or discarded.
You might also just create a simple chart with the file type in one column and the timeline/shredding policy in the next column. Examples of these types of policies can be found online in PDF format.
5. Employees should be trained regarding the organization’s document management procedures.
Not every employee needs to be a ‘records management specialist’. However, at the very least, a simple, educational meeting and discussion of document management policies should be a standard part of training employees.
6. Be sure to hire good contractors so that every step of the document management process is secure.
Not all document destruction companies are equal and the least expensive paper shredding solution is not always the best choice. To find out more factors to consider read the article here.
This is a big growth industry, and only seems to be getting bigger. Many document shredding businesses are starting every month, and not all of them have the same standards of security. You can use the quote provider on the Document Shredding Directory and then use the checklist provided there to see how a company ranks and then choose one that fits your needs.
7. Keep documents about every document destruction event.
These files should be stored in case of any liability issue as proof that the organization took reasonable steps to destroy files. Think of mountains of old outdated paperwork being condensed into a few pieces of paper while the rest is safely shredded and recycled. These company records combined with the certificate of destruction might be all that is left over from 100’s of boxes of paper, and can be stored in one file drawer.
If you do this, you’ve really accomplished a lot for the organization of your business.
Create The Most Organized System Paperwork System Possible
Ideally, you want to aim to create the most organized business possible, with the highest level of security and consideration for your customer’s data and least amount of paperwork possible.
Designating a records manager and creating a comprehensive document destruction and records management policy can help you to achieve these goals.