Guidelines on storing paper files covering the location used, ensuring you meet health and safety requirements and the appropriate storage equipment for each format.
Storing paper records
Files should be kept in good order, in a secure location. Those containing confidential or personal data such as staff and student files must be stored in lockable units, and should not be left on desks overnight or in view of visitors.
Only records which are required frequently should be stored in the office. Those which need to be retained for legal or other reasons should be stored off-site with the Records Office off-site, while those which have outlived their usefulness should be destroyed. However, records which are less than one year old will not be stored off-site.
You should not use third-party storage providers, or on-site 'record rooms' or 'record stores': your records should be either in the office, or off-site with us.
Meeting Health and Safety requirements
Storage of files in offices should follow safety best practice. In particular:
- There should be enough space to access files without difficulty
- Box and lever arch files should be stored standing on shelves, not stacked on floors
- Shelves should not be mounted on walls directly above workstations
- Boxes and files should never overhang shelves
- Records should not be stored on the top of shelving units, as they will be too close to lighting, and exposed to water damage from fire sprinklers, as well as making storage units unstable
- Storage boxes, where used, should not be stacked more than four high, should not be stored in corridors, and should not block or restrict access to doors, lifts, stairways or office areas.
Storage equipment used in the office must provide appropriate protection for records based on the format and volume of the records, how frequently they are used, how quickly they need to be accessed, and security requirements.
The main types of filing equipment are:
- Vertical filing cabinets - these are adequate for small filing systems, but are less suitable for large runs of records, and records that require frequent access. Access is slow, since drawers have to be opened, and this can have a significant impact where there is a high volume of filing activity. The cabinets require large amounts of space and drawer space is often not used to full capacity.
- Bookshelves - these are suitable for books, or files that are stored upright, such as box files and lever arch files.
- Lateral filing units - these have long drawers for storing files laterally and use space more efficiently than their vertical counterparts. Alternatively, static units without drawers can be used, where files are stored in hanging pockets or cradles. Where prompt filing and retrieval are required open units will be the most efficient. If file access is to be restricted, units with lockable doors or shutters can be used.
- Mobile shelving - this may be suitable where a large volume of records needs to be stored near at hand, as it reduces the number of access aisles required. It is the most expensive type of shelving, and is very heavy. The floor must have sufficient structural capacity to support these shelves.
Unless awaiting destruction or transfer, records should not be stored in archive boxes. They should not be stored in office areas for long periods, and should never exceed 10kg in weight.