Author: Public Record Office Victoria

Accidents happen. We all know that, but how do we go about providing a safe work environment in an Archive housing close to 100 linear kilometres of records – an estimated 15 million individual records in various shapes and sizes – covering 12,000 square metres of repository floor space over two floors?


It’s simple: lots of hard work, relevant information, sound processes and committed staff – and PROV has all of these.

Since 2006 there has been a renewed commitment from PROV’s Executive to support a safe work environment. We have undertaken two major ergonomic assessments, in 2006 and again in 2012, in which over 150 recommendations were made. To assist in the retrieval process, we have installed new shelving, and purchased numerous hydraulic lifters and over 100 spring-loaded ladders of all sizes, We’ve improved our storage management by ensuring we follow the recommended manual retrieval processes (what we at PROV also call “picking”), as defined by WorkSafe.

The provision of effective and timely training and advice is critical. Every year manual handling training is provided, and staff must receive manual handling before they can commence work within the PROV repository. OH&S risk assessments are regularly undertaken, and equipment and fittings are regularly inspected to ensure they are operating as required. We have developed or are developing standard operating practice (SOP) and safe work practice (SWP) documentation for all manual handling activities.

Sometimes the best OH&S measure is simply to make sure that the safer thing to do is also the easier thing to do. Repository staff walk several kilometres each day whilst picking items – so what do they do when confronted with an item that is too heavy or awkward to move alone? The problem is solved before it is created – codes for heavier items let staff know exactly what they’re going to find at the end of their walk. Code VH2E, for example, means that a volume is heavy, will require two people and equipment to retrieve.

Accidents will happen regardless of how much work we do. As a result of a recent minor accident, WorkSafe undertook an inspection of our repository and could not attribute any blame to our system, processes, equipment or training. In fact they complimented PROV on our safety management within the repository.

PROV has recently hosted a project undertaken by another Government department in which manual handling was provided to their staff. Their staff where so impressed by the high level of training their departments Chief Training Officer attended PROV to learn from our training and how it could be incorporated into theirs.

We at PROV are proud of our OH&S record and the work we do to ensure our staff can do their jobs safely.

For further information, please contact Merrick Morris, Senior Manager Collection Services at merrick.morris@prov.vic.gov.au or on (03) 9348 5683.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples.