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Importance of Record Keeping in a Tight Labour Market

April 2023
Claire Miller, Lyndon Richards and Jeremy Russell

Our experience consistently reminds us that good record keeping practices are as fundamentally important to the overall success of a project as the manner and execution of the works themselves.

You will have seen numerous articles by lawyers in the past addressing this topic.  However, what we are currently seeing on a number of projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia suggests that a review of the pitfalls when record keeping falls short, is overdue.

The need to keep good records and properly manage the contract can sometimes feel like it is at odds with the need to put a shoulder to the wheel, get on with the work at hand and not upset the relationships which have been built as the works have progressed.

We commonly hear about instructions issued; or agreements reached on key issues, without either  being properly recorded on the basis that the parties have a good commercial relationship. However, if those involved leave the project without these agreements or instructions being properly recorded, this can cause serious difficulties when it comes time to reconcile any disputes.

Good record keeping practices are particularly important in today’s market because of the resources drain in the construction sector as a result of the boom in work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

We are currently being instructed by a number of different clients (Contractors, Consultants and Employers alike) on a variety of projects inside the Kingdom, and it is clear that as a result of the scale and pace of these projects, our clients have to take an aggressive approach towards talent acquisition in order to properly resource the jobs. This has led to a real competition for the best talent both within the Kingdom, and across the wider MENA region.

We expect this aggressive talent acquisition strategy to lead to a high turnover of staff from projects across the region, and a corresponding loss of accumulated project knowledge from sites. The reality is that many of the very ambitious projects under construction over the next five years will see numerous changes within key positions.

This well mean that those left working on these projects will be even more reliant on the project records which have been accumulated during the course of the works.

In order to ensure your projects are well placed to deal with any staff turnover, here are a few record keeping tips and tricks which may assist you best manage a project:

  1. Structure and Accessibility

There are many different document management tools available. We recommend that a product is used which is suitable for the project requirements with staff trained on how to use the product effectively and ongoing reminders should be sent to ensure compliance.

Data can be useless unless it is organised in a way that makes it searchable and retrievable by the people who are reliant on it and it is important to develop a sensible file structure, save files down to the correct places, and ensure documents are saved in a searchable format which can be retrieved efficiently.

  1. Clear, Concise, Consistent

Good record keeping practices require project correspondence to be clear, concise and consistent. The subject of the correspondence should relate to the issue which the correspondence deals with. The correspondence should be kept to the point and any supporting documents referenced in the correspondence should be attached to or at the very least identified with enough specificity that they can be easily referenced. Emotion should be left out of the drafting and a record needs to be understood even by someone unfamiliar with the event, issue or dispute to which it refers.

  1. Picture Perfect

Pictures and drone images allow a record of the work to be kept in a way that isn’t open to interpretation. When dated and saved in a traceable location, they are a powerful tool which can be used to assess the progress of the works, show a methodology, or establish a defect.

  1. In the Cloud

While traditionally information has been stored on hard drives in offices on site, cloud storage options provide an alternative with some real advantages over traditional on-site storage.

There is no limitation caused by the lack of space at site, as the records are stored remotely. This also offers another more important advantage in that the data is more secure. By storing data across multiple locations off site, it is less vulnerable to human interference or accidental damage.

With careful planning, most disputes are avoidable, but where a dispute cannot be avoided, good record keeping will assist the parties to accurately reconstruct the facts surrounding the dispute. Moreover, our experience in the Middle East tells us that formal disputes are often finally determined on the basis of the party that can adduce the records necessary to support their particular position.

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