In 62 BC in Rome, the great Julius Caesar divorced his second wife, whose name came up in a courtroom trial involving trespassing. Had she done anything wrong? Didn't matter, said Caesar. "My wife ought not even to be under suspicion". Thousands of years later, it's hard to know if the former Mrs. Julius could have saved her good name and marriage with documentation. But modern day contractors can certainly protect themselves with it. While no one wants to start a work assignment assuming that all parties will face off in court, there's no denying that we live in a litigious society. And the construction industry is especially prone to lawsuits, ranging from claims of defective work to displeasure over finished products.
How can contractors protect themselves from these suits? How can they make sure that clients, partners, suppliers, and others in turn honor their obligations and agreements? By documenting all steps of a project in writing, even before a project starts. All parties involved in a project should fully understand, before signing and committing to anything:
- the financial obligations of all parties
- any or all provisions that parties must make
- the potential for work stoppage or delays during the course of a project, and actions to be taken if such events occur
But even these safeguards can't entirely protect firms from suits. This is why it is important that thorough construction documentation of project events occur during project work, too. That daily report that no one enjoys doing can be a great help in this regard. Thorough record keeping here both creates a valuable court document, and can act as a deterrent to suit filing as well. And construction software on the market today like Raken can be very helpful in creating a daily report that provides the documentation that can prevail in court. Such daily reports should include:
PhotographsThe human brain remembers visual images better than text, so record everything with photography on a worksite, including actual work, storage of supplies and vehicles, signage, and any safety issues and concerns. Changes to any of this should be re-photographed to appear in that day's report.
Record All WorkThis includes not only tasks performed by contracting employees, sub-contractors, suppliers, inspectors, etc. Records should include both the type of tasks performed, and the amount of time spent doing them. "Events" (visitors, press conferences, etc.) that affect daily work should be recorded as well.
Safety Concerns And General IssuesActual or potential safety problems should be documented with both photographs and writing. This should include all actions taken and notifications issued. Observations on site weather and official weather reports and statements should be included here. More general issues to include here are steps taken to insure quality control, any training undertaken during the project, and documentation of all meetings held and who was in attendance.
While such record keeping sounds excessive, for legal purposes, it's not possible to be "over-documented". And project management software for construction like Raken not only makes it much easier to collect and store (for as long as ten years online) such data, it’s easy to use. The Raken app can be used on any mobile device using Android and iOS. This means managers can quickly create a full legal document that can also serve as a general update for stakeholders and partners as well. After all, as Caesar's wife could tell you, it's not much fun to spend time in court. Proper documentation can help contractors avoid or improve the outcome of such visits.