An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure?

By Richard Porter-Roth posted 05-02-2011 10:04


In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, “PG&E admitted that it would never be able to find all records for about one-third of its 1,800-plus miles of urban gas-transmission pipes.”*

For a brief recap, a PG&E gas pipeline exploded last September. The explosion leveled a neighborhood and killed eight people. In the post-explosion investigation, PG&E could not provide conclusive proof as to the type of pipe weld seam for that portion of the pipeline. In a later investigation of the pipe that failed, “Federal metallurgists…concluded that the pipe failed at a seam weld…”

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requested documentation on that portion of the pipeline and PG&E could not provide the records. PG&E subsequently moved approximately 100,000 boxes of records to a large facility and had hundreds of employees search through the boxes for relevant records – which apparently was not a successful endeavor. PG&E was fined $3 million for not producing the records and is now up for another $3 million fine for not meeting a second deadline to supply records. Now, PG&E is saying that they most likely will never find those records and is asking that “Instead of complete records, PG&E said, it wants the commission to accept what amount to educated guesses about some pipelines.”**

At this point, it appears that without proper documentation for the pipelines in question, PG&E will have to do one of two things – either pressure test the lines in question or replace the existing pipelines in question. (pressure testing is estimated to be $125,000 - $500,000 per mile for 705 miles of line that will take approximately 5 years, replacement, I’m guessing, would be even more expensive).

What can we learn from this? It is difficult to know whether PG&E has a good records keeping program and if they have one, does it include all of the old records? Many companies implement an ECM system but, due to cost and usage reasons, do not convert all of the paper backfile to image. Many companies, I suspect, also have boxes of paper in storage that are completely undocumented and it would be too expensive to pop the tops and document the contents into a records program or, would it?

*Read more:

** Read more:

Bud Porter-Roth

#riskfactors #paperrecords #ElectronicRecordsManagement #documentimaging #ScanningandCapture