Modifying an In-Use Form Template

Form templates in ZERO are a great way to collect information across your entire organization. Templates can be used to deploy forms, surveys, audits, and checklists (either as needed or via scheduled assignments). Furthermore, you can create templates for incidents to collect any other information that your organization collects above and beyond the standard OSHA reporting requirements.

So, what happens when you discover that your in-use template is no longer working 100% the way you need it to? For example, a question might need to be added (or removed), or other edits need to be made in order to fine tune your responses. Wouldn’t this cause a data discrepancy between the old submissions and new submissions?

The remainder of this article will explore this question.

At a high level, there are 2 approaches you can take when considering changes to a form template:

  1. Edit the existing template; Or 
    • For minor tweaks, clerical changes, or if you are adding new questions (or deleting questions) - it is generally safe to edit the existing template. This includes adding scoring to existing fields as well.
  2. Create a new template and sunset the old template
    • For larger changes to the template (i.e., material changes to phrasing of questions, or material changes to answer choices) - we recommend creating a new template and starting fresh.

1. Editing an Existing Template:


  • No changes to existing setup
  • Changes go into effect immediately
  • Easy to do and basically invisible to the end user (changes will automatically deploy to all who have access to the template. This includes both “ad hoc” and scheduled access to the template).
  • Provided the alterations are minor, the template dataset will continue to compile over time so you can easily establish and review trends since the start.


  • Impacts to all historical submissions, analytics, and reports. Any changes made to the template will immediately update all historical data to the latest version of the template.
  • Adding or removing multiple fields will weaken the over time effectiveness of the template as the information from legacy and current submissions is not necessarily congruent. 

2. Create a new template and sunset existing template:


  • Clean separation of question template and results.
  • Historical data for the old template that is being sunset is preserved in its original form for data integrity.


  • Additional set-up work is required. You’ll need to create the new template (note: you can use the “copy” function to streamline this process) and also create any schedules as well. You’ll also need to “pause” or archive the old template/schedule.
  • Disconnected data sets (each template and schedule will have its own separate data set).

Editing a Template - Items to Consider:

General Rule of Thumb: 

Any change you make to a form template will immediately take effect across ALL of your submission data for that template - both historical submissions and new submissions.

  1. Template fields can be edited for minor content changes at any time. Examples:
    1. If you change the verbiage of a question for grammar or clarity purposes (provided the responses are the same), your dataset for that question and overall results will remain consistent between old and new responses for that Template. Here’s how to edit a field in any Template.  
    2. If you change the meaning of the question, historical answers may not make sense in the context of the new question design.
  2. Fields can be added or removed on an in-use template at any time. Examples:
    1. If a question is added to the template, it will be added to all existing submissions as well as future submissions. 
    2. If a field is removed, the field will be removed from all existing submissions as well as future submissions.
  3. Editing a field response for an active question is not suggested. This will compromise both the existing dataset for that question and the subsequent responses moving forward. For example, if the initial field was intending a positive response as the accurate state for the question, altering the question or response set to elicit a negative response would impact the historical data as well as future responses. 
    1. If major changes are required to a field (or series of fields) to better hone the overall results of the template, it might be best to retire the existing active Template, “Copy Template” from “Manage Templates”, edit, and redeploy on a schedule that makes sense for your operation- at the beginning of a quarter, fiscal year, or calendar year for example. All existing data from the legacy template will remain for future reference.

ZERO Suggestions:

  • If the edit is for grammar, wording, or punctuation in any field, make the change.
  • If the edit is to reorder a few existing questions, make the change.
  • If the edit is to add scoring to a question, make the change.
  • If the edit is to add/remove a question (or questions), make the change, but just know that all of your historical data will be updated to reflect that change.
  • If the edit is a wider reworking of a template (especially if existing questions/responses are being materially changed), it would be best to copy the template and start fresh.