Join us for a Q&A session with Jim Barratt, the President of Log Books Unlimited. Continue reading if you have any questions about logbooks; from ‘Do I even need a logbook at all?’, to ‘How to ensure that you are using the right one?’. What you find out may surprise you!
Jim Barratt - President LBU
Q. So, what is a logbook? I've heard the term before but I am really not sure what it is exactly.
A. Well, a logbook is a book where information is recorded for review and tracking. It often has to be hardcover. Logbooks are used in the workplace to keep track of events, actions, and measurements - and many other things. They can also be used for external auditing, so they have to be specific to each field and legislation. You can’t have one standard version for all industries; each logbook has to fit the requirements of its field, with the right columns, headings and overall formatting.
Q. This sounds rather involved! Why can’t I just print out some Excel forms and put them in a ringed binder?
A. You could, of course, do that. But if you ever need to use it for auditing or legal issues it will be inadmissible. Loose sheets, binders, and even wire bound books are just not secure enough. It is too easy to pull out papers, switch them up, and tamper with the book. Not using a hardcover book can cancel out the benefit of using a logbook in the first place.
Q. So hardcover books are tamper proof?
A.They virtually are. If you really had to tamper with a hardcover book, and you didn’t mind breaking the law, you could probably find a way. I am sure a criminal mastermind would figure out a way, but then you would have bigger problems on your hands. It is generally impossible to switch pages because they are set in such a manner that you’d have to open up the whole book, modify the binding and insert new paper; that would be visible right away. Any official use has to be hardcover.
Q. Going back to the previous question; do I have to get a special logbook for construction, and a completely different one for engineering, or maintenance? Seems to me that some industries could probably share logbooks. How specific do they need to be?
A. Of course there is some overlap between the industries regarding the contents of the logbooks, however, each industry has unique parameters that need to be tracked correctly. For example, in construction you have to track the weather and some other factors that are not relevant in other fields. In boiler engineer’s logbooks, on the other hand, you need to have fields for conductivity, some chemical elements, and water hardness. All these parameters can’t just be jammed into the same kinds of fields and layout.
Q. I looked at your engineering logbook and it doesn’t actually show all the things you mention.
A. Depending on the customer, a more, or less detailed design may be needed for a wide range of reasons. The books you are describing are actually our stock books; and those we make to be of universal use. However, especially for engineers, we make a lot of customized books; every order is different, with some particular parameter that needs to be tracked.
Q. How do you get all this specialized information for each industry? That must require a lot of expertise across so many fields!
A. Well, that’s our job, and that’s why we have been here for 45 years. We have been reading up on legislation in North America for the past four and a half decades, so we’ve learned a thing or two. Of course we always communicate with our customers and customize the book to fit their unique situation and needs. Sometimes our designs are highly customized, such as a chain through a book to keep it attached to a piece of equipment, strange sizes, extra partitions, and other things. Imagine an inspector seeing a hardcover book made to library quality specifications that has been custom printed for, and attached to a specific machine, and all entries are in ink. That will go a long way towards making the right impression.
Q. Comparing that to a self-printed Excel sheet in a three ringed binder, I am starting to get the picture. How long do you need to keep logbooks available?
A. That depends on the industry, but it is often three or more years. Now, that doesn’t sounds like a lot for a book, but consider that this is a book that is used daily by several people and might not be kept on a shelf. You may end up writing in it at an awkward time or place - so it needs to be sturdy enough to survive all that, sometimes up to a year of such abuse. Then it needs to stay together for a few years in case you need it. Imagine going to court with a half disintegrated book - that won't reflect too well on you.
Q. You must have produced a lot of different books in all those years. Any of them stand out, or were especially popular perhaps?
A. It all depends on the industry, some need higher volumes of books than others. I would say that our Fire Safety Log Books are very popular. We sell thousands of just that book every year. We started those a long time ago - and the most popular became the 291 Fire Protection Log Book. Now we’re on the 298A Fire Safety Log Book and it was last updated in 2014. We need to spread the word that there’s a new version! Fire safety is such an important topic and we really put alot into the book. Every year we go over the Fire Code and make sure everything stays updated and compliant. Obviously you can’t just jot things down in a notebook, not in matters of fire safety, so our book is designed just for this use.
We sell a lot of construction logbooks, engineers logbooks and some seasonal ones like elevator and ice rink logs. We have over 40 different books altogether.
Q. If anyone I know needs that fire safety logbook I will warn them that it is frequently updated. I think the big questions for a lot of businesses will be ‘Do I need a logbook’, ‘Can I use electronic logs’, ‘Can I use Excel sheets’?
A. That’s something we get a lot. Many regions require printed books and written logs. Electronic logs are definitely the thing of the future, but it isn’t here yet, and until it comes we still need to be compliant and safe from any legal issues. Any business has to keep records, and depending on your industry it may need to be a physical book. It is hard to summarize 45 years of experience in a short answer - so if you aren’t sure just call or email us. We will help you figure out if you need the library quality hardcover book, a spiral bound log, stapled booklet, or maybe you can get by with Excel sheets (although that’s unlikely!). The potential risk is pretty serious, and a quick consultation can save you a lot of headaches, possibly lawsuits.