October 2017 - Number 125
Recently we were asked for advice about the destruction of records to ensure compliance with privacy legislation. This was in response to concerns that retaining data in systems like personnel systems is not in alignment with Australian guidelines for data privacy and protection, and that retaining historical data in a live database is costly and slows down retrieval time due to retention of unnecessary data.
The NSW Privacy and Personal Information Act 1988 does not override the State Records Act 1998, and in fact Section 25 of the Privacy Act notes that a public sector agency is not required to comply with the sections relating to the collection, holding and use of information (sections 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18 or 19) if non-compliance is otherwise permitted ‘under an Act or any other law (including the State Records Act 1998)’.
The retention and disposal authorities issued by State Archives and Records NSW set out mandatory minimum retention requirements for records and these have to be complied with, including those for records that contain personal information. The retention periods for personnel records are consistent with other jurisdictions within Australian and are set to ensure that records remain available as evidence for as long as they may be required, for example, for determination of superannuation benefits or to provide evidence in cases of late onset of disease. The cost of retaining historical data needs to be weighed against the cost of not having records that are required for evidence and accountability.
Protecting privacy does not equate to destruction - privacy can be protected by restricting access to records and ensuring systems are secure from unauthorised access. If the data is no longer required for current business purposes but cannot be destroyed public offices should investigate other options, such as exporting the data to other systems. Data that is required as State archives can be transferred to the Digital State Archives once it is no longer required for current business purposes.
New advice on keeping records created in collaborative tools
NSW government agencies are increasingly using collaborative tools to transact government business. These tools will create official records, which need to be captured and kept as they provide evidence of the decisions and outcomes of the collaboration, and demonstrate the work which has been undertaken and that participants acted accountably. State Archives and Records NSW recently published some advice on keeping records created in these environments which lists the types of records which should be captured and how long they should be kept.
State archives transfers
Transferring records no longer in use for official purposes and identified as State archives to the control of State Archives and Records NSW should be a routine and systematic part of a public office's records management program. Recent State archives transfers include:
- Records from Blacktown, Balmain and Morisset Hospitals. The Morisset Hospital records transfer is particularly significant as it includes records dating from 1909.
- Council and committee meetings records from Cowra and Kuringai Councils
- Board minutes, papers and rate books of the former Pastures Protection Boards and Catchment Management Authority which were transferred by Murray Local Land Services to the Charles Sturt University Regional Archives (CSURA) at Wagga Wagga. CSURA is part of State Archives NSW’s network of Regional Archives Centres.
Estrays – ensure your records don’t stray from official control
A number of estray records have recently been recovered back into official control and custody by State Archives and Records NSW. This included the recovery of a collection of records from an imaging service that was closing down. The records, which were from a variety of agencies, appear to have not been returned to or collected by the responsible agency after completion of the copying process.
Ideally no State record should inadvertently ‘stray’ from the control of the public office that is responsible for them. Circumstances where there is increased risk of records becoming estrays include transfer of records off site to service providers for copying. Records are also particularly vulnerable during administrative change when offices are closing or relocating or when property or buildings are sold.
Public offices are reminded of the need to ensure appropriate policies, procedures and controls are in place to ensure the security and safe return of records that have been temporarily placed in the custody of another organisation or individual.
Recent Future Proof blogposts
State Archives and Records NSW uses its Future Proof blog to post information about current digital recordkeeping issues. On the blog we road-test new ideas, distribute new information and initiate discussion on digital recordkeeping issues. Recent posts include:
- Strategies for managing email at the University of Sydney
- New archive management, digital preservation and user discovery software at State Archives and Records NSW
- Q & A with Elizabeth Tydd on your Right to Know 2017
- Microsoft Office 365 in NSW Government agencies
- Machine learning and records management
- Presentations from the October Records Managers Forum, including: Geoff Hinchcliffe, Executive Director, State Archives and Records NSW on the Digital records evolution – solutions for Digital Government; Shane Hamilton, Chief Executive, Aboriginal Housing Office, on Establishing end-to-end digital processes: protecting the rights of people through accurate electronic recordkeeping; and Dr Penny Stannard, Curator Exhibitions, State Archives and Records NSW, on Captured: Portraits of Crime, 1870-1930.
Disposal authorities approved
State Archives and Records NSW recently approved:
- a revised disposal authority for the Office of the Governor of NSW
- a revised disposal authority for primary and secondary education school records
- a new disposal authority for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Board also approved a new General retention and disposal authority: higher and further education records. This authority will be used by the Universities and TAFE NSW but can also be used by other public offices who provide training and further education. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have records that you think could be covered by this authority.
Copies of our retention and disposal authorities are available from the Retention and disposal authorities page on our website.
The following training is being offered in November :
- 2 November - Retention and Disposal of Public Health Sector Records - Coffs Harbour
- 3 November - Implementing a Retention and Disposal Authority for Local Government Records - Coffs Harbour
- 22 November - Managing recordkeeping risk in business systems - Queens Square, Sydney
Why is good records storage important?
As we come into the wet season a key priority for organisations with hardcopy records is to ensure that storage areas and facilities are suitable and well maintained.
Why should my organisation select good storage areas and facilities?
Skimping on storage can have catastrophic results. Damage or loss of records can result in significant disruption to an organisation's business, the inability to account for decisions and actions, the inability to protect the rights and entitlements of the organisation and its clients, and the loss of organisational reputation. It can also result in substantial financial costs to NSW Government. It is estimated that well over $15 million has been spent assisting NSW Government organisations salvage and recover hardcopy records that have been damaged due to inappropriate storage and disasters. Paper and other hardcopy records need to be stored in areas and facilities that are ‘fit for purpose' to ensure that the records are preserved, secure and accessible for as long as they are required.
Selecting suitable and appropriate storage will help to mitigate risks or threats to the survival and useability of the records of your organisation. Good storage reduces the risk of damage, loss or inappropriate destruction of records, and costly conservation treatment that may be required if records are damaged.
What should I consider when choosing storage areas and facilities?
Before selecting storage areas or facilities, it's important to undertake a risk assessment to ensure that the location of the storage area or facility is appropriate and to identify any possible risks to records. This includes identifying whether there are:
- natural hazards such as the proximity to a flood plain, river or creek, or in a bush fire prone area, or
- man-made hazards such as proximity to water, sewage pipes or plumbing (potential water hazard), machinery or air conditioning systems (potential chemical, heat, or fire hazard), or to flammable materials (potential chemical, heat or fire hazard).
The risk assessment needs to identify the likelihood and consequences of the risks and what types of mitigation strategies that can be used to lower the severity of the risk and provide appropriate protection for the records. For example, a risk assessment identifies that a storage area is located near some water pipes. To mitigate the risk of a water leak from the pipes, the records shelving should be organised so that it is located well away from the pipes and the bottom shelf is more than 85-150mm off the ground. Raising the bottom shelf and not placing records on or near to the floor of the storage area means that if there is a water leak, the bottom shelf of boxes won't get wet.
Records should not be stored in areas where there is a risk of water penetration and extreme temperature fluctuations, such as attics. Neither should records be stored in areas with exposed pipes, risk of water ingress or rising damp.
Ensure that the area chosen for records storage:
- is suitable and appropriate for the storage of records
- is soundly constructed of appropriate materials so that records are not in danger of exposure to the elements or to infestation by vermin
- is weatherproof
- insulated from the outside climate
- has good drainage and water run-off
- is secure against intruders has controlled access, and
- is 'fit for purpose'.
Storage areas and facilities should have a good level of security. This ensures that records stored in these locations are protected, that the authenticity and integrity of the records is not compromised, and helps to prevent misuse of the information contained within the records.
Access to buildings and storage areas must be controlled in order to prevent unauthorised access, which may result in the alteration, destruction, damage or theft of records. Only authorised users should be able to access records.
Why are well maintained storage areas important to records preservation?
Regular building maintenance ensures that a building can withstand most bad weather and remain 'fit for purpose'.
The building structure and fabric is integral to providing a stable and suitable environment for the storage of records, and protecting the assets stored within the building. Undertaking regular and programmed building maintenance can prevent many storage problems, reduce costs, and assist the building withstand bad weather conditions such as heavy rain and storms. Your organisation should have regular building maintenance and inspections of the exterior and surrounds, and pest inspections of all storage areas and facilities. Things to particularly look out for are:
- cracks or dampness in walls
- flaky paint and plaster
- signs of water leaks
- blocked drains
- roofs or gutters corrosion
- signs of pest infestation
- signs of damage or unlawful entry, such as vandalism or broken windows
- signs of new risks.
All problems and risks should be fixed or managed to reduce their severity.
The frequency of monitoring and inspections should increase if an issue is discovered or if there has been bad weather, high temperatures or humidity, or high winds. You should always check the storage area or facility as soon as possible after a storm or bad weather to make sure that the building has not been damaged during the storm. Remember, if there has been damage or water has got into the building, then there is high potential for mould growth once the relative humidity exceeds 60%.
What do I do if records get wet?
If records do get wet, you will need to undertake a recovery operation. The following will assist:
- Quick tips for managing a disaster and quick tips for managing recovery will help in the initial assessment of damage and commencement of recovery operations
- the Recovery checklist for the quick assessment of damage to records and their recovery provides detailed information on recovery operations, including drying wet records
- the Protocol for assessors for disasters at NSW Government organisations that involve records should be consulted if you need to make insurance claims to cover the cost of recovery and salvage of wet records
- Conservation Tip No 6 –Dealing with wet records
- the Counter Disaster Strategies for records and recordkeeping systems will assist you in developing effective counter disaster strategies, including the establishment of a counter disaster plan.
If the affected records are
- still required for ongoing business
- not covered by retention and disposal authorities, or
- identified as State archives
then you must contact State Archives and Records NSW to discuss these records. Contact Government Recordkeeping on 8257 2900 or email@example.com
Remember, you must contact State Archives and Records NSW before you make arrangements for the disposal of damaged records.
What can your organisation do?
Your organisation can:
- identify all records storage areas and facilities — know what records you have and where they are located
- undertake risk assessments to ensure that the storage areas and facilities are 'fit for purpose'
- move records out of facilities that are not appropriate and not ‘fit for purpose'
- ensure that records storage areas and facilities receive regular building inspections and maintenance
- be prepared for bad weather and disaster events.
There are a range of resources on our website that can assist you:
- Standard on physical storage of State records
- Solutions for storage guidance
- Advice on disaster management