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How to Tell if Your Document Disposal Policy Needs Work

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Cartoon-style image of person with laptop sitting at workplace on background of big checklist, to do plan.Have you ever heard of the story about the boiling frog? The premise is that if a frog is placed into boiling water, it will jump out. But if it is put in water that is room temperature and the water is slowly brought to a boil, the frog won’t realize the danger and will be boiled to death. This is a metaphor cautioning people to be aware of gradual change so as to avoid harmful consequences.

In any industry, people can become accustomed to their environment and fail to notice incremental changes over time, such as the business environment becoming outdated, policies or systems becoming ineffective, or even staff cutting corners to get the job done faster. This can result in a dangerous outcome The changes gradually become the norm and new employees are trained according to these altered requirements. It’s not until someone realizes the problem and brings attention to the need for evaluation and realignment that danger can be averted.

Your document disposal policy may be experiencing this kind of “boiled frog” syndrome. How long has it been since it was reviewed, tested, and brought up to date? If you are confident it is up to date, how sure are you that employees are following it?

Is Your Document Disposal Policy Working?

Here’s a short quiz to determine if your policy might need some work.

  1. Are employees unsure of what documents should be destroyed? Do they find themselves second-guessing what should be shredded?
  2. Are employees unsure of when documents should be destroyed and when they should be kept? Are they aware of which documents should never be destroyed?
  3. Are you finding documents with private information being left in the open, on unattended desktops, file cabinets, in the lunchroom, or other open areas around the office?
  4. Are files getting lost or is confidential information being deposited in recycling bins?
  5. Are there stacks of files waiting to be shredded?
  6. Are you finding that the shredding machines are ineffective, regularly jamming, or simply not working? Does the equipment shred documents small enough so the content can’t be deciphered or reassembled?
  7. Have you seen or suspect that dumpster divers are rummaging through your company’s recycling bins and garbage late at night?
  8. Have you ever had reports or heard concerns from staff or clients about their information being shared without permission or accidently leaked?

How to Get Your Document Disposal Policy Started or Updated

  1. Make sure you have a policy. If not, select a trustworthy staff member to assemble a small group of leaders to start putting one together. It can be developed over time, but getting it started is the most crucial thing.
  2. Ensure that your company is following the current required state and federal laws regarding retention periods. Not all documents have the same lifespan. Make sure that the process of meeting retention dates is active and working. This is a vital part of your company complying with data privacy laws.
  3. Raise the standard on protecting private information. Staff should return all unattended files to locked cabinets or file drawers. Security guidelines should direct how files are stored and shared digitally.
  4. Implement a “shred everything” policy. This means that anything that is ready to be discarded must be shredded, never tossed in the recycling or trash bin whole. This eliminates confusion about what should and shouldn’t be shredded. Don’t forget to have address labels, receipts, and reports shredded; anything that contains personal or confidential information.
  5. Communicate your document disposal policy to employees on a regular basis. Print a copy for each of your employees, review it in staff training sessions or schedule regular reviews of the policy so change doesn’t get ahead of you.
  6. Partner with a local, reputable mobile shredding company that is compliant with all privacy and destruction laws. A professional shredding company will supply shred collection containers that are securely locked. They will shred your documents on-site so that you can witness the destruction and can provide you with a Certificate of Destruction as proof that you are compliant with data privacy laws by having your expired documents, hard drives, and other electronic media shredded beyond recognition or reconstruction.

If you have realized that your company might be that slowly-boiling frog, then you are already on the path to avoiding disaster.

Wiggins Shredding can help you fulfill the requirements of your document destruction policy. We offer secure, compliant document shredding services in Pennsylvania and the Tri-State area of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. Simply give us a call at 610-692-TEAR(8327) or complete the form on this page to talk with one of our experts. We’re ready to help!

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