One of the core missions of Document Control is to ensure that users can trust the documents at their disposal. Document Controllers facilitate controlled processes to achieve this objective, such as quality checks, revision control, and facilitation of distributions and reviews – just to name a few.
But do you know what “trusting a document” means, in practice?
Two years ago, one of our consultants returned to the office after a business trip abroad. She was very concerned, because during her mission, she came across a person who was in charge of handling project final documentation in a hazardous industry and who did not want to understand the need for “As-built”, or “As-constructed”, or “As-installed”, or “As-fitted” drawings.
That person was opposing the practice and was arguing that people on site should be able to operate with “Issued for Construction” drawings.
This story chilled the spine of our whole team, who is well aware of all the accidents caused by this sort of thinking.
Consepsys consultants travel around the world every year indeed and, through their interactions with hundreds of Document Control professionals, users, engineers, managers and directors, they systematically collect stories about incidents, accidents and deaths due to poor Document Control practices.
This attitude towards “as-built” drawings showed a profound lack of understanding of:
- The very purpose of Document Control;
- The best practices that prevent incidents, accidents and deaths;
- What happens on the engineering and construction side of a project;
- The fact that what ends up being built is often different from is shown on the “Issued for Construction” drawings;
- What happens at the end of a construction project, that is hand-over of what has been built and its documentation;
- The fact that the end of a project is not the finish line: the life of what has been built only starts at the end of the project – the Operation phase;
- The dangers that Operations people face in hazardous industries, when documentation does not follow safe and best practices,
and a terrifying lack of professional ethics.
Document Control and safety
The need for strict Document Control is much higher in hazardous industries, where people operating facilities are exposed to potential danger everyday – such as oil and gas, chemicals, mining, aviation, nuclear and so on.
“As-built” documents contribute to a much safer environment for these people.
Let’s take a simple example
Imagine that, on an Operations facility, a high-voltage battery must be installed (see Figure 2), based on the displayed “Issued for Construction” drawing (Figure 3), which shows that neither ends of the cables are connected to the battery.
Project and construction people cannot guarantee that what has been installed reflects what is on the drawing, because they have given you only an “Issued for Construction” drawing. But as with all constructions, there is a probability that the final installation is somewhat different from the “Issued for Construction” drawing. In this case, there is a probability that they have connected the cables to the battery.
This voltage is sufficiently high to kill you if you come in contact with it.
The battery and one end of the cables have been placed in a locked electrical cabinet, and two of the cable ends are hanging loose, on the outside. You do not know whether the hidden ends of the cables are connected to the battery or not. All you have is an “Issued for Construction” drawing.
Would you grab the metallic parts of the cables protruding out of the electrical cabinet (Figure 4), based on the questionable “Issued for Construction” drawing and in the absence of an “as-built” drawing?
Only a dishonest person would respond “yes”. Well, this is the kind of situation in which people who do not understand the importance of accurate “as-built” documents put Operations people every day. They expose real people to real mortal danger.
We hope that this example sticks with you – whether you had not yet understood the importance of as-built documentation, or whether you are trying to convince someone else to follow safe and best practices.