On this page
- 1.0 Purpose
- 2.0 Background
- 3.0 Procedure
- 4.0 Responsibilities
- 5.0 Additional Contact Information
- Annex 1- Frequently asked questions – Electronic notes
To provide the inspectorate with guidelines on how to take and store notes electronically. The objective of this guideline is to protect the integrity of the electronic notes, which may be required to support future CFIA inspection and enforcement activities and/or to defend the decisions made by the CFIA if they are challenged, either informally or by legal proceedings.
With the Agency moving towards digitization, inspectors will have the ability to take notes, pictures, scans and videos electronically during inspections.
Notes are taken to provide a record of the inspector's actions and observations. The notes may be subsequently used for purposes, such as:
- to refresh the author's memory
- to establish a history of compliance
- defend CFIA decisions in legal proceedings
- to respond to Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests
While there are existing guidelines and training for paper note taking, there are limited guidelines/policy and training for electronic note taking within the CFIA. Operations Branch and Human Resources Branch are currently updating the existing note taking course for inspectors to include electronic note taking.
3.1 Inspectors will clearly record their actions and observations made during inspections, including dates, places, times, individuals present, and other pertinent information.
3.2 As per Agency program policies, once the inspection is completed, inspectors are to ensure all relevant pictures/videos and notes are saved on their tablet and/or into an electronic database such as the Electronic Inspection Worksheet (EIW), the Records Documents and Information Management System (RDIMS), the Multi-Commodity Activities Program (MCAP), etc.
- Take the Inspectors Note Taking course, and follow guidelines on note taking (Note Taking Course Module 3 and Module 4: Note Taking Guidelines)
- All electronic information (i.e., picture(s), video(s), scans, notes, etc.) pertaining to the inspection must be up-loaded into an Agency approved electronic database.
- When there is more than one inspector present at an inspection, each inspector is to independently record and upload his/her own notes of the event into the electronic database. There is no restriction on the number of electronic notes that can be taken, for example, by using the notes text field in the Electronic Inspection worksheet (EIW). The lead Inspector is responsible for verifying that the inspectors who entered information into the electronic database have reviewed their information and agree to its accuracy. Once all the information has been entered and verified, the lead Inspector or Supervisor is responsible for closing the case in order to "lock" the information from further editing.
- Error: Mistakes to the original notes can be amended by deleting the word/making the required correction immediately. Once the document has been closed or completed, however, any further changes/amendments are deemed as "revisions" to the original document. All "revisions" must be cross-referenced to the original notes/submission to protect the integrity of the notes. Amendments and notes are to be uploaded into an Agency approved electronic database.
5.0 Additional Contact Information
For any questions related to these guidelines, please contact Integrated Asset Management, Operations Branch or refer to Annex-1 - Frequently asked questions.
Annex 1 - Frequently asked questions – Electronic notes
Q1: What are notes
A1: Notes are a recording of your actions and observations. They are used for reporting purposes and to refresh your memory. As a documented record, notes can assist in establishing a history of compliance.
Electronic notes, digital notebook, paper notes and paper notebooks are not your personal property; they belong to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Notes, memos and correspondence (including everything in your notebooks) are subject to disclosure in any legal proceedings. All records held by the CFIA are subject to the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Act and to the Privacy Act (PA).
You must protect the personal and confidential information found in your notes and use your notes for CFIA–mandated operational purposes only.
Q2: How is sensitive information protected by the system? What do I need to do to help keep it secure
A2: There are several ways that sensitive information is protected.
- Physical security - The device must be in your possession at all times or it must be locked in an approved container. For Protected B data, this means the device must be kept under lock and key.
- Data security - Microsoft BitLocker Full Disk Encryption is part of the Microsoft Operating System. It protects the data on the device. As long as the device is password protected and locked when not in use, the data is encrypted. If the device is lost or stolen, the data is not retrievable. You should regularly check to ensure that the encryption feature is turned on (this is the default setting). To verify that encryption is enabled, go to Control Panel and double-click BitLocker Drive Encryption.
- Network security - The connection to the CFIA network is through the Virtual Private Network (VPN), an encrypted tunnel over a public network. This means that the transmission of the data to and from the network is encrypted.
- Password protection - To access the device, you must have a username and a password, which authenticates you as a user.
Q3: What is the security level for pictures that are taken on the device and uploaded to an Agency approved electronic database? There may be financial information of the regulated party, for example, in the picture.
A3: All the information, including pictures, scans, etc., uploaded into an Agency approved electronic database, such as the Electronic Inspection Worksheet (EIW) or the Electronic Service Delivery Platform (ESDP), is classified at the Protected B level. For further information on classification level documents, refer to the following link: classification levels
Q4: How must inspector notes be stored when not in use
A4: As a "Protected B" document, inspector paper notebooks must be stored in a container with a keyed lock in an operations zone or in a locked office. File folders must also be marked as "Protected B".
Electronic notes, including pictures, scans, etc., must be uploaded into the EIW or the ESDP after each inspection.
Q5: How long must inspector notes be saved
A5: As per the CFIA's Records Disposition Authority, inspector notes should be saved for 10 years after the date of the last entry, regardless of format:
- inspector notebooks, which should be kept in a locked cabinet;
- electronic notes uploaded into an Agency approved electronic database (e.g. EIW, ESDP, etc.; and
- notes uploaded into CFIA database such as RDIMS.
There are exceptions to the 10 year rule. All information relating to an investigation of an individual or company for a contravention should be kept for as long as needed. For example, inspector notebooks may provide information pertaining to CFIA's Litigation Hold List. Should records contain litigation issues, they should be kept until such a time that the court case has been resolved, the records have reached the end of their retention period, and their disposal has been authorized.
Electronic notes uploaded into the Agency approved electronic database will be retained as per CFIA's Records Disposition Authority 2003/015.
Q6: What is the "date of last entry"
A6: The "date of last entry" is the date on which the last inspection was recorded in the inspector notes. This may occur when:
- the inspector notebook is full/completed.
- an inspector has terminated his/her employment with the Agency or moved on to another position within the Agency.
- the inspector completed his/her last upload of notes into an Agency approved electronic database.
Q7: What do I use to take electronic notes on my device?
A7: You can use the Microsoft OneNote application found on your device. A computer program for free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration, it gathers users' notes (handwritten or typed), drawings, screen clippings and audio commentaries. Notes can be shared with other OneNote users over the Internet or a network.
Q8: What are some best practises for note taking
A8: The following are a few note taking best practices:
- To increase visibility: For paper notes, take your notes in ink, preferably blue ink. For electronic notes, make your notes in solid black text using standard font.
- When starting a new case: For paper notes, start a new page when making an entry, so that all the information on any one page will relate to the same inspection. For electronic notes, start a new inspection case when making an entry about a new case, so that all the information will relate to the same inspection.
- When you make an error: For paper notes, if you make a mistake, do not erase it. Cross it out with a single line and initial, marking the time and date. For electronic notes, mistakes to the original notes can be corrected by deleting the word/making the required correction immediately. Once the document has been closed or completed, however, any further changes/amendments are now deemed as "revision" from the original document.
- Revision: If you later recall a detail you should have included in your original notes, prepare a fresh notation in your paper notebook or submit a revised version of the notes into the Agency electronic database. Any "revisions" must be cross-referenced to the original notes/submission. This protects the integrity of the notes by clearly identifying any subsequent changes to the original notes.
- More than one Inspector at an inspection: When there is more than one inspection staff present at an inspection, each inspection staff is to independently record and upload his/her own notes of the event into the electronic database. There is no restriction on the number of electronic notes that can be taken, for example, by using the notes text field in the Electronic Inspection worksheet (EIW). The lead Inspector is responsible for verifying that the inspectors who entered information into the electronic database have reviewed their information and agree to its accuracy. Once all the information has been entered and verified, the lead Inspector or Supervisor is responsible for closing the case in order to "lock" the information from further editing.
Q9: How do I upload my electronic notes into the CFIA database
A9: Once you have completed your inspection notes, they can be uploaded directly into RDIMS.
Importing Documents into RDIMS
You can import a document or documents into RDIMS through the Import Files command.
- Ensure that you are in RDIMS. On the File menu, click Import Files.
- In the Open dialogue box, locate and select the document(s) you wish to import into RDIMS.
- Click Open.
- When the Electronic Document form appears, complete the profile.
- You can use the Apply to all option if you are importing several documents that have the same metadata.
- Click Save. It is recommended that you delete the source documents (the original record containing the details).
Using Drag and Drop
Any document can be dragged and dropped from the network drive into RDIMS.
- Expand My Computer. Expand any network drive.
- Find the appropriate path. The contents of the directory will appear on the right side of the screen.
- Drag and drop the files you wish to move to the RDIMS library named CFIA-ACIA.
- The RDIMS document profile form will appear. Fill out the fields and click Save.
OneNote documents in RDIMS cannot be amended after they are uploaded and will appear as "Read-Only" documents to those with permission to view them, regardless of access level or if original author.
Upload into the Electronic Inspection Worksheet (EIW) – Files (pictures, videos, notes, etc.) can be uploaded to the EIW via the 'Notes' field. Refer to EIW User Manual (internal access only) and Appendix H: Recording inspection Information of the Standard Inspection Procedures (internal access only).
- 1. Users create an appropriately titled note, and by clicking the Attach button at the bottom of the note, they are given the option to browse Windows Explorer and select the files(s) they wish to upload.
In the current EIW, RDIMS documents cannot be uploaded. Files must be saved locally on the computer or on a shared drive.
- 2. Select the file(s) you wish to upload and click Open.
Clicking the Done button saves the note and associated attachment in the EIW.
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