Can 'Not Applicable' Fields on Forms be Left Blank?

H

Hoosierken

#1
In this case, I am talking about forms that are filled out by hand. Some of our forms cover a very wide array of customers and products. These forms will have many fields left blank during the process. Do these blanks have to be filled with the "NA" or is a blank field ok? This came up in a recent audit. I think I will have a lot of trouble convincing the production formans to get the floor personnel to make sure every line has something there.
 
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ScottK

Not out of the crisis
Staff member
Super Moderator
#2
Re: Fields on forms left bank?

ISO9001 doesn't require it. Although it's a good practice getting people to do it when it's not an explicit requirement by a standard you follow is tough. Very tough. Tough to the point that I don't bother with it in my current company - and we've never had an external auditor comment on it.

FDA GMPs do require it and at a prior job I used to have to do training twice a year to reinforce how to deal with blank spaces and corrections.
 
S

somerqc

#3
Re: Fields on forms left bank?

I have had this come up too.

I don't mind though because we have used it to find documents that may be unofficially obsolete (re: areas on form were for old products that are no longer produced). This allows us to update forms.

However, I have "convinced" my auditor that not all forms will be updated as an update is not needed and we are saving paperwork (and confusion) by having a multi-purpose form. He seems ok with this.

He is a reasonable auditor so I don't tend to use the "where is the shall" on him, but, he got my point without have to go to that extent.

John
 
D

ddunn

#4
Re: Fields on forms left bank?

I have had an auditor write a minor nonconformance due to blank fields on some forms. It is a good practice to enter “NA” in blank fields to indicate that the field is intentionally blank and not missing data.
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#5
Re: Fields on forms left bank?

In this case, I am talking about forms that are filled out by hand. Some of our forms cover a very wide array of customers and products. These forms will have many fields left blank during the process. Do these blanks have to be filled with the "NA" or is a blank field ok? This came up in a recent audit. I think I will have a lot of trouble convincing the production formans to get the floor personnel to make sure every line has something there.
If different information is required depending on product and/or customer, you can provide work instructions that tell what information must be provided in each instance, thus avoiding the blank fields issue.
 
J

Jimmy the Brit

#6
Re: Fields on forms left bank?

It is a good practice to enter “NA” in blank fields to indicate that the field is intentionally blank and not missing data.
I agree - the "problem" with blank spaces is that in theory something could be added after the form is finished/approved/filed, essentially falsifying the whole form. As I am so risk adverse (many say paranoid) I always insist on having an NA in all blanks fields, supervisors will not add the final sign off until this has happened, as, according to our procedures the form is not complete until every field is filled.

Where possible design the forms to avoid the whole issue - specific forms for specific tasks.

Jimmy
 

Marc

Hunkered Down for the Duration
Staff member
Admin
#7
Best Practice --> Enter NA

It is a good practice to enter “NA” in blank fields to indicate that the field is intentionally blank and not missing data.
I agree that this is the best practice.
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#8
Re: Fields on forms left bank?

I agree - the "problem" with blank spaces is that in theory something could be added after the form is finished/approved/filed, essentially falsifying the whole form. As I am so risk adverse (many say paranoid) I always insist on having an NA in all blanks fields, supervisors will not add the final sign off until this has happened, as, according to our procedures the form is not complete until every field is filled.

Where possible design the forms to avoid the whole issue - specific forms for specific tasks.

Jimmy
We should be able to assume that all of the fields on a controlled form are there for a purpose. If they're not, the form should be changed. If they are there for a purpose, they should be appropriately filled in, and "NA" shouldn't be necessary. As I suggested earlier, in the case of multipurpose forms where not all fields are applicable in all cases of use, there should be instructions which describe which fields are relevant for each instance of use. In other words, if forms are properly designed and maintained and users are trained, the use of "NA" is obviated.
 

Marc

Hunkered Down for the Duration
Staff member
Admin
#9
Re: Fields on forms left bank?

As I suggested earlier, in the case of multipurpose forms where not all fields are applicable in all cases of use, there should be instructions...
Or training...

...if forms are properly designed and maintained and users are trained, the use of "NA" is obviated.
Not necessarily. I have seen many companies where jobs are so different (especially low volume work) that forms often have fields which will be applicable to one customer / job, but not another, and where it is impractical or inefficient in one way or another (such as having 10 very similar forms) to have multiple forms to cover every possible aspect.

Whether or not the company allows the fields to remain 'blank' is often a function of the criticality of the product/process.

Like Jimmy the Brit, in my life I have found it is better to have the employee(s) put in an NA than to leave a field entirely blank. My early background was in military electronics and there were a lot of multi-purpose forms of all kinds. I was taught very early that if a field was not applicable I had to put in NA or N/A or something to show that I had not 'forgotten' the field for any reason. It was totally unacceptable for any field to be left blank on any form.

That said, in non-critical processes/products it's probably not a big deal.

Personally I wouldn't take the chance. I'd ensure every field was addressed in some manner to ensure there will be no question as to whether something was 'forgotten' or overlooked.

Just my :2cents:
 
S

somerqc

#10
What we have done for our multi-purpose forms is to colour code the appropriate areas (re: green for particular product group). Basically, we known by the general information whether that area needs to be completed based on the product type.

This has worked well so far; however, a different design may not work and lead to a great deal of confusion.

John
 
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