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As Built Documents Crucial to Facilities Operations

What’s on the record matters. And not just when it comes to negotiating contracts. Having proper construction documents, O&M manuals, and other infrastructure documents are crucial to operations in all sorts of facilities. If those documents have incorrect information, it can be a precursor to tragedy. BP and others in the oil industry recognized this fact after one catastrophe several years ago.

Following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and subsequent oil spill, investigators uncovered a history of poor safety procedures on the rig and an environment where workers were too scared to voice their concerns. At that time, informants within BP told investigators that safety practices were also seriously lacking at the company’s offshore rig, Atlantis PQ, located in the Gulf of Mexico. Specific allegations emerged about the as built documents for the facility. The revelations were startling in their disregard for best practices. For instance, up to 80 percent of the engineering plans used to build and operate the installation were never authenticated by BP engineers to ensure their safety and reliability.

One whistleblower worked for a contractor employed by BP and submitted emails between BP staffers in 2008 to investigators that indicated the employees had concerns that BP may not have been keeping a complete record of drawings used to build the Atlantis rig. And to quote a BP Executive, if BP assumed the drawings were accurate and up-to-date when they were not, it “could lead to catastrophic operator errors.”

While keeping as built construction documents up to date is a common problem plaguing facilities managers of every stripe, in the cases of Deepwater Horizon and Atlantis, these facilities’ documents acted as operator manuals for the rigs. Working from the wrong documents likely hampered or compromised operations at those sites.

Despite the risks dated construction documents pose for everyone from local governments to oilrig operators, many projects and companies do not have an employee assigned to handling the documents, ensuring they reflect the current state of the building or facility. And when no one is responsible for the updates, documents quickly become dated and dangerous.

“The Deepwater Horizon mishap is an abundantly clear example for why you need to have the most current info on your building,” says David Trask, national business development manager for the Facilities Information Management Program at ARC Document Solutions. “Where is that information? Where does it live? How fast can you access that info, and is it current?”

One of the biggest problems facilities managers have is keeping that facility information current. Some do it on their own; some get help from consultants; and some let the paperwork pile up and grow old.

“Who’s taking care of updating that information?” Trask asks. “Often, there ends up being a stack of things to update, and employees have no tool for that.”

Another challenge facing many companies is a lack of organized construction documents and other related documents. In such cases, the company has the information, but it is in differing formats and not easily accessed. ARC can organize these files in one place: the cloud. But in many facilities management scenes—from hospitals to local governments maintaining roads and bridges—the documents for these facilities are almost constantly changing with an almost constant need to be updated. For many managers, the obstacle is keeping that information current and in one spot.

“You need someone to manage [the updating and organization of] that information,” Trask says. “It can be a tremendous effort to update that info—so it never gets done.”

For example, in the case of a building doing a renovation, architects, contractors and others will have to track down that construction document information and make sure it becomes current if it’s not already. And that’s when the wild goose chase starts.

“What we find is the information often lives in multiple places or that some of the info may have been thrown out, or a subcontractor took the document and didn’t return it,” Trask says.

But what about in the case of an emergency: How does staff access crucial building documents during a fire? Who’s the go-to person to access those documents, and are they available to several people? Can the documents be accessed by mobile technology?

Organizing and updating facilities documents can be a big job, but the burden can be shared with a consultant’s help. Sometimes, not seeking help for the task can be foolish.

“If just one person in the building is the only one who knows the location of pertinent building documents, it’s no help if that person isn’t present when he’s needed to access the documents,” Trask says. “With ARC’s Facilities Information Management Program, we can handle that task of doing the updating and ensure all of that info lives with the building, not with just one person.”

To speak to an expert about keeping your critical facilities information current contact us here.

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