Watch that disposal trigger …when sentencing

In legal circles a sentence isn’t a good thing (depends on the perspective I guess). And there is certainly no gun involved in disposal triggers, despite the picture.

While we don’t send our record to jail (…depends on your storage area?), it’s kind of similar. I tried to explain it to a non-recordkeeping person once and that’s the first thing they thought of, and it made sense to them.

Sentencing records against a schedule can be a pretty big task sometimes and not always straight forward. We do have advice on how to do it, but that’s never going to cover every scenario and every record and every schedule. Our examples might not do that either, but they might help.

Example 1: Assess records to determine their retention period

Padme works for Lamingtown Parks Service. You may remember her from one of the examples on naming conventions.

Part of their work is environmental monitoring and impact statements when new developments occur.

At the moment, she is drafting a retention and disposal schedule, and wants to work out how long her agency should keep certain types of records. When she talks to Lily, one of the business managers, she says her unit sometimes looks at records that are up to 10 years old to answer queries about land use approvals.

Padme then looks at the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 and can see that the records might be needed for legal action which can happen up to 12 years after an event. When Padme looks more closely at the records and what they cover, she can see that they might be needed to understand how decisions about significant environmental changes were made.

Padme thinks these records might be important to people outside her own agency as they show how the land has been used. This may impact the health and well-being of Queensland communities. Using that information, Padme looks at QSA’s Appraisal Statement and sees that the records fit under various criteria for keeping records permanently. Padme writes this up in her appraisal log and sends it to QSA to be reviewed.

Example 2: Calculate a retention period based on a disposal trigger

James (we visited him in our blog about implementing schedules works for Lamington Power, a government-owned corporation, and needs to sentence some records.

He has looked up the General Retention and Disposal Schedule and found the record class for his HR records from 1951 to 1971 has a disposal trigger of 80 years after date of birth.

There is no quick way to find the dates of birth from the 500 paper files (50 boxes) because they have not been recorded in any of the metadata or the records database.

James decides to calculate that the youngest age of an employee would be 17 years of age in 1971, which means they would be 80 sometime in 2034. Based on this, James decides that all of the records will be kept until 2035, taking into account birthdays late in the year. The downside is that some records will be kept longer than required. However the storage costs are less than the time and effort needed to individually review each file to find the date of birth.

Example 3: Sentence significant records

Joanne from Lamingtown Shire Council needs to sentence a number of design and construction files that are no longer required. The files relate to construction of the Lamingtown Town Hall and a Council depot.

Joanne looks at the Local Government Sector Retention and Disposal Schedule and finds that there are 2 record classes she could use. One is for historically significant buildings and one for other types of buildings. The historically significant building files are ‘retain permanently’ and can be transferred to QSA. The other disposal action says the records need to be kept for 7 years after the building is demolished, removed or disposed of.

Joanne has to work out how she will determine whether the building is significant or not, and whether it’s been demolished, removed or disposed of. She looks at the records held by the business area that created them and talks to engineers about the buildings. She also looks at the Lamingtown Shire Council’s annual reports from the year the Town Hall was opened. Joanne then looks at the appraisal statement for the Local Government Sector schedule to work out which buildings might have local significance.

Joanne decides that the town hall is a significant building for Lamingtown because of its importance to the local community, so she has to keep the records about the construction permanently. However, the Council depot isn’t significant so the records about its construction only need to be kept temporarily.

Example 4: Sentencing using common activities

Record classes in the common activities section of the GRDS can be used for your core functions, even if you don’t have a core schedule. And if you do have a core schedule you can use the common activities as though they were part of that core function in your schedule.

Now there are times when they can’t be used too so here are some examples of when you can and can’t use them with a function in your core schedule or for records documenting a core function.

When a common activities record class can be used with a core function

The common activities section in the GRDS includes a record class for agreements.

Lamingtown Shire Council uses contractors to do land management work, which is a core function. Their core schedule doesn’t have agreements as a record class under Land Management but because agreements is in the common activities section of the GRDS, they can use it to sentence agreements between the council and contractors to carry out land management activities.

Lamingtown Department of Transport use contractors to carry out transport maintenance quite regularly. They have standing agreements with a variety of companies to help maintain the road network in the Lamingtown area. Like the council, they can use the common activities record class for agreements in the GRDS to sentence these records under the Transport Infrastructure Management function in their core schedule.

Both agencies can use this record class to sentence these contract records under the relevant functions in their core schedules because the records are not significant and there aren’t any extra legal requirements that mean they need to keep them for longer.

When a common activities record class shouldn’t be used with a core function

The common activities section in the GRDS includes a record class for meetings. Lamingtown Shire Council uses this record class to sentence most of their routine meeting records.

However, last month they held a meeting with concerned residents after the town was besieged by a plague of rats (pretty drastic), posing a significant threat to public health (I would say so!).

Due to the significance of the incident (there was almost a riot), Katie (Lamingtown’s Manager of Records and Information Management) decided that the meeting minutes should not be sentenced using the common activities record class. Instead, she used the Public Health section of the Local Government Sector Schedule, which had much longer retention periods for meetings of this sort.

More information

You can find more information about sentencing records, disposal triggers and using a retention and disposal schedule on the website.

Remember, you can contact us via email, telephone, blog, Twitter.

Also, just like in the movies, all names, characters, places, and incidents portrayed in this blog post are fictitious and are not based on real people or incidents in any way (I’d really hope not considering the rat problem).

And if you’re interested in the story of Lamingtown so far, you can check out the other blogs here.

Featured image: Pte Leo Body, Cpl W Cummings and Lieut S Bell firing a captured Japanese machine gun at Japanese Patrol, New Guinea, 1943; Digital image ID 23943

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