Records Management Standards and Procedures
B.C. Ministry of Forests [GIF 1K]
Chapter 3 - Records Classification

Section 3.2 - Records Classification System

Effective: March 31, 1995
Updated: September 15, 1997


Classification System

Standard classification systems are essential to the records management program because they: In ARCS and ORCS, records are classified with alpha-numeric labels that specify the record's subject and function. These labels are linked to codes and notes that provide detailed information about the records and specify how they are to be administered.

This section provides an overview of ARCS and ORCS, including an explanation of:
A. Records labelling components
B. Related classification and management elements

A. Records Labelling Components

The following alpha-numeric components are used in both ARCS and ORCS:

Primary Numbers
Secondary Numbers
Tertiary Numbers/Codes

To illustrate the structure and purpose of these components, the sample file number, NEW"420-03"NEW is explained in detail on the following pages. To illustrate where these components are found in ARCS and ORCS, a sample ARCS page is provided in appendix A.

Refer to the NEWBCIMSNEW Administrative Records Classification System manual for a detailed listing of ARCS numbers. Refer to the MOF Operational Records Classification System manual for a detailed listing of ORCS numbers.

Primary Numbers

Primary numbers form the basis for ARCS and ORCS. They represent a wide, general range of subject and function categories within which all records can be classified, regardless of their physical format. In ARCS, primary numbers are structured around six main subject/function categories:
1. Administration 4. Finance
2. Buildings and Property 5. Personnel
3. Equipment and Supplies 6. Electronic Data Processing

In ORCS, primary numbers are structured around 13 main subject/function categories:
10. Forest Services-General 17. Research
11. Engineering 18. Silviculture
12. Planning 19. Timber
13. Inventory 20. Revenue
14. Protection NEW22. Initiatives and Programs
15. Range 23. Regulatory ActivitiesNEW
16. Recreation

Each of these categories comprises a block of numbers in the primary group. For example, in ARCS the block of primary numbers 100-499 represents a range of general administrative functions and subjects, including executive and management activities, acts and legislation, committees and commissions, conferences, meetings, annual and general reports.

NEW In the example, the primary number "420" represents the subject/function "RECORDS MANAGEMENT--GENERAL." The primary is the first component to appear in the file number:

420 - 03NEW

Refer to appendix A, note 1, for an illustration of how primaries are listed in the ARCS manual.

Secondary Numbers

Secondary numbers represent subdivisions of the primary subject (as represented by the primary number) into specific record types or series.

NEWSecondary numbers consist of 2 digits preceded by a dash (-). In the example, the secondary number "-03" represents a subdivision of the main subject (as described above) into the sub-function/subject "ELF (Eliminate Legal Files)." The secondary is the second component to appear in the file number:

420 -03NEW

Refer to appendix A, note 2, for an illustration of how secondaries are listed in the ARCS manual.
The following types of secondary numbers are used in both ARCS and ORCS:

Reserved Secondary Numbers
The following secondary numbers are reserved:

-00 Policy and Procedures (ARCS)
Policy (ORCS)
-01 General (ARCS & ORCS)
-02 Procedures (ORCS)

Note that the secondary "-01" is reserved for general records that cannot be classified into the specified subject or case file secondaries because there are insufficient related records to warrant opening a separate file. NEWRecords classified "-01" cannot be coded (refer also to "Tertiary Numbers/Codes" heading).NEW
Subject Secondary Numbers
Subject secondaries represent files for more specific subjects within a primary subject. A subject file brings together records and information on one topic in order to facilitate information retrieval. Subject secondaries are assigned secondary numbers -02 to -19 in ARCS and -03 to -19 in ORCS.
Case File Secondary Numbers
A case file consists of many different files (series), each of which contains records pertaining to a specific time-limited entity, such as a person, event, project, transaction, product, organization, etc. The component records within a case file series are generally standardized. Case file series are usually assigned numbers -20 and above (e.g., -30, -40, -50, etc.)
Interim Secondary Numbers
When a secondary title not included in ARCS or ORCS is required, contact the Ministry Records Officer (MRO) to open an interim secondary title. Open a file under an interim secondary title by placing an asterisk (*) in front of the temporary number (e.g., *-06). The MRO will refer interim secondary numbers to Records Centre Services for scheduling. After approval, interim secondaries will be included in ARCS or ORCS.

Tertiary Numbers/Codes

Tertiary numbers are used to subdivide reserved, subject, and case file secondaries (see above). They are added to the primary and secondary number to form a complete file number. NEWTertiaries follow the secondary number and consist of 2 digits preceded by an oblique (/). In the example, the tertiary number "-94" represents the secondary subdivision category for the year 1994. The tertiary is the third component to appear in the file number:

420-03 -94NEW

Tertiaries are created by the user as required.

A code is an alphabetic or numeric symbol which helps to identify and locate a file within a series of case or subject files. Codes become an integral part of the file number and are included on the record itself, on master file lists, on file description labels, and on file number labels.

Codes facilitate the records retrieval process by providing specific subject/function information about a record. Established codes and new codes may be used.

Established Codes are standard identifiers used to label commonly used subject/function categories. Where established codes are available, they must be consistently used to ensure the integrity of the records classification system. Examples of established codes:

Standard Acronym Examples
ARCS Administrative Records Classification System
EMS Export Management System
HDBS Harvest Database System
HRS Harvest Revenue System
ORCS Operational Records Classification System
RMIS Records Management Information System
TEAC Timber Export Advisory Committee

Standard Abbreviation Examples
USA United States of America
NZ New Zealand

New Codes are used where no established code exists. New codes must be created according to the MOF standards outlined in the Standards section.

The code appears after the secondary number and is preceded by an oblique (/). NEWIn the example, the code "/MROC" represents "Ministry Records Officer Council" and indicates that the file contains records related to this subject/function. The code is the third component to appear in the file number.

202-20 /MROCNEW

Standard codes are listed in the ARCS manual, appendices A-H. Standard ministry organizational codes are listed in this section, appendix B.

Coded Series
Codes can be applied to subject and case file secondaries to create a series (i.e., a group of files related to a common subject/function). NEWGeneral files "-01" cannot be coded as these files contain a variety of subject matter.NEW The code follows the secondary and is preceded by an oblique (see the example under the preceding heading).

A coded case file series results when a case file secondary (see above) is coded to provide a more detailed identifier. The code can be made up of the name or title of the case (i.e., person, event, project, transaction, product, or organization) but usually consists of an abbreviated (numeric or alphabetic) code.

B. Other Records Classification and Management Elements

Linked to the alpha-numeric file labels described above are the following records classification and management elements:

Scope Note
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Flags
Explanatory Notes
Levels of Responsibility (OPR/non-OPR)
Records Retention and Disposition Schedules

These elements appear in ARCS/ORCS manuals to provide records management information related to each classification category (e.g., Personal Information Bank designations, retention schedules, notes to better define the classification category, etc.). To illustrate how this information is structured, a sample ARCS system manual page is provided in appendix A.

Scope Note

The scope note describes the functions, uses, and content of the records which are to be classified within a primary records classification. A scope note indicates the administrative or operational function to which the records relate.

Refer to appendix A, note 3, for an ARCS/ORCS scope note sample.

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Flags

NEWThe Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (s. 69 (3)) requires that all Personal Information Banks (PIB) and Public Use Records (PUR) be flagged within a records classification system.NEW

Refer to appendix A, note 4, for an ARCS PIB/PUR flag sample.

Explanatory Notes

Explanatory notes may be included in ARCS/ORCS manuals under specific scope notes. They are used to: An explanatory note may contain information about the method(s) of records arrangement or organization, finding aids and indexes, records usage, information sources, records which are specifically excluded from the primary classification and filed elsewhere, and sources in which the information is reported in summary form.

Refer to appendix A, note 5, for an ARCS/ORCS explanatory note sample.

Levels of Responsibility

Levels of responsibility notes are included in ARCS/ORCS manuals under each primary, or in some cases, under secondaries. They explain the retention and disposition requirements for records held both by offices having primary responsibility for them (OPRs) and by other offices that hold copies of the same records (non-OPRs).

Refer to appendix A, note 6, for ARCS/ORCS levels of responsibility note samples.

Records Retention and Disposition Schedules

Records retention and disposition schedules are included in the ARCS/ORCS manuals for each record category. They provide schedule information for the following phases of each record:

Active records are records that are referred to and required constantly for current use to conduct business. Active records need to be retained and maintained in the office space of the user. The schedule indicates the length of time records are to be retained in their active phase.

Semi-active records are records that are not required for current use and need not be maintained in expensive office space. Semi-active records still retain administrative, operational, fiscal, audit, or legal value, but may be stored in more economical offsite facilities until the semi-active phase lapses. The schedule indicates the length of time such records are to be retained in their semi-active phase.

Records are eligible for final disposition when they become inactive (i.e., when their active and semi-active retention periods have lapsed). The schedule indicates whether such records are to be destroyed or whether they are to be transferred to the custodianship of NEWBCIMSNEW for selective or full retention.

Refer to appendix A, note 7, for ARCS retention and disposition schedule samples.


The following MOF Records Classification Standards apply to all records created in the ministry.

General Requirements

All files must be assigned both primary and secondary classification numbers. Files can not be assigned a primary number only.

Special File Requirements

Employee Files, Pay Files, and Leave Files
Three files must be created in an office for each permanent employee:
Employee File: 1385-20/(code with employee name) - P.I.B.
Employee Pay File: 1410-20/(code with employee name) - P.I.B.
Employee Leave File: 1550-20/(code with employee name) - P.I.B.

Separate employee, pay, and leave files must be opened for short term and seasonal hires, but in these cases the records of several employees may be filed together and coded by project, time period, or program. If one of these employees becomes permanent, his/her records must be removed from the group/project files and an individual set of permanent employee files opened.

Individual employee files (1385-20), pay files (1410-20) and leave files (1550-20) are confidential and are to be stored in locked cabinets.

Travel Vouchers
Travel vouchers for individual employees are to be classified to Accounts Payable NEW1240-20/,NEW and coded by employee name. Travel files may be physically separated from other accounts payable files, but the location must be noted in the master file list.

Established File Codes

Ministry Organizational Codes
Refer to appendix B for listing.
ARCS Appendices
Refer to the Administrative Records Classification System manual for details of the following:

Appendix A - British Columbia Ministry Codes
Appendix B - Provinicial and Territorial Numbers
Appendix C - Federal Agency Codes
Appendix D - Local Government Codes
Appendix E - Education Institutional Codes
Appendix F - School District Codes
Appendix H - Table of Provincial Statutes

New File Codes

New file codes are created by using the first letter of each significant word in the case file title. Words considered not significant include articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and punctuation.

In addition, common words such as act, agreement, association, board, committee, company, conference, congress, corporation, limited, meeting, organization, report, seminar, society, statement, or symposium are not considered to be significant words if they appear at the end of a proper name or title. For example:

/BECA Board of Examiners for Certificate of Assayers
/ICIY Inter-ministerial Committee on International Youth Year
/IRMR Indian Reserve Mineral Resource Act

If a name or title has only three significant words, take the first letter of the first three significant words and the second letter of the third word. For example:

/EWCE East-West Centre
/IFMA International Facilities Management Board

If a name or title has only two significant words, take the first letter of the first two significant words and the second and third letters of the second word. For example:

/MMIN Mine Ministers' Conference
/PREG Park (Regional) Act

If a name or title has only one significant word, take all four letters from the beginning of that word. For example:

/COAL Coal Act
/EXEC Executive Committee
/RECL Reclamation Symposium

If a coded file is subdivided into more than one file with the same code, place a number at the end of the code. For example:

/MMIN1 Mine Ministers' Conference - Agendas and Minutes
/MMIN2 Mine Ministers' Conference - Submissions

Coded Case Files

All case files (secondaries -20 or higher in ARCS and ORCS) are to be coded.

Cases generating five or fewer records within a fiscal or calendar year may be grouped together in a coded case file. For example:

represents an accounts payable file for infrequent suppliers whose names begin with "A"

represents a pay file for short-term employees employed and paid in 1992

Case files generating five or fewer records within a fiscal year must be monitored. When the number of records per year pertaining to an individual or entity exceeds five, an individual case file must be created. Custodians must ensure that all records grouped in this way belong in the same case file series and have common retention and disposition schedules.


NEW NEW indicate most recent changes

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This page last updated: November 18, 1997.