Retaining old documents in an AISC program

We received a question from a certified Fabricator about record retention:

“We are going through and organizing our office and storage areas.  We have some older AISC Management binders.  These contained our management reviews, goals, safety meeting minutes, job minutes, training, supplier logs, etc. – basically, whatever documented our AISC procedures at the time.  Can we shred that information?  And if so, how far back can we shred?”

When it comes to record retention, the time you keep your files is really up to you and what works best for your organization. At the very least, you need to have the previous record to evaluate the next. With management review meeting minutes, for example, you would want to be able to look back at the minutes to see that you addressed all action items or add them to the current record if they have not been addressed. Similarly, you would want to at least have the past internal audit record, so you can see that you’ve addressed any outstanding nonconformances or concerns.

Whatever timeframe you choose, setting the retention time in your document/record control procedure is a must. This way, everyone in your organization knows your standard retention time and when it’s time to clean house.