Document Control

Last updated: March 6, 2019

What Does Document Control Mean?

Document control refers to the practice and profession of enforcing document management standards within a given workplace or other definable scope. It is a form of quality control that involves building and enforcing a set of control processes and practices that collectively govern the creation, review, modification, issuance, distribution, and accessibility of documents within a particular setting.

Document control practices ensure that all of the data concerning any given element of the workplace is accurate and in agreement with each other. Furthermore, document control systems enforce standards of reliability for documentation. These include determining what sources of information may be used as references, how often information must be updated, and through what process those updates must be performed.

Safeopedia Explains Document Control

The practices that encompass document control systems form an important aspect of occupational health and safety. These include confirming that necessary safety-sensitive information is distributed appropriately within the workplace, and as a corollary, ensuring that out-of-date or otherwise incorrect information about safety-sensitive subjects is removed and replaced. Compliance with government and industry safety standards requires references to a wide variety of safety documentation that is updated at a varied and often inconsistent pace.

Organizations often require the collection of safety-related documentation—such as injury records, safety certifications, and chemical information—as part of the safety practices necessary to remain compliant with relevant occupational safety standards. Furthermore, workplaces often face a practical need to keep additional documentation related to safety practices, such as the implementation of a specific hazard control, so that if necessary, they can provide evidence that they have met their legal obligation to provide a safe workplace.

Document control is defined as a standardized practice within the ISO 9001 Quality Management System standard. While document control practices do occur according to standardized criteria, as of ISO 9001:2015, the specific manner in which a document control plan is implemented can vary significantly. For instance, document control plans that involve the transfer of dangerous goods may impose chain-of-custody requirements so that it’s possible to know where those goods were and who had them at any given time. However, in many situations, provenance is not a safety-relevant issue, and implementation of a chain-of-custody requirement would thus be redundant.

Specific document control standards exist within different industries. For instance, the U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturing industry follows the Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines, which are focused on reducing risks associated with the drug manufacturing process.


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