Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 1 – Occupational Health and Safety


Welcome to the first edition of Information Enterprises Australia’s newsletter “Information Overload”. Our monthly newsletter will bring you news from the records management and library fields, if there are any topics that you would like to see us cover, please email your suggestions to and we will endeavour to cover them in the next issue.  Please feel free to forward this newsletter in entirety to your colleagues, and if they would like to receive the newsletter please send an email to  We hope you enjoy reading and look forward to receiving your comments and feedback.

In this issue…
We will be looking at the problems associated with Occupational Health & Safety in the workplace including;
• Inductions for all contractors;
• Who would have thought it – Why public library staff were harassed;
• Is work a pain in the neck?
• Frequently asked questions.

On the 3rd September, IEA ran the first of a new series of Inductions entitled “Information, Education & Awareness” to a group of contract employees.  The program covered a wide variety of issues that are commonly raised including office ergonomics, manual handling, how to handle suspicious mail, and what happens when accidents and incidents occur.

Information Enterprises Australia has an ongoing Duty of Care to all its contractors to ensure that when they begin work in a new environment that they know which questions they should ask of you as their host employer if they have not received the information from you already.  For example, where are the evacuation muster points? Who is the health & safety representative? Are there any hazards I should be aware of? As you know the first day on a new job is when accidents and incidents are most likely to occur as all new starters are being bombarded with information and are simply not aware of all the nuances of a new organisation.  

Who would have thought it?
The September issue of the Australian Library & Information Associations Magazine Incite, highlighted a very interesting and not to mention disturbing occupational health & safety issue in public libraries.

The Tuggeranong Library in the ACT, were playing host to a display which depicted what life is like for children held in detention centres and featured artwork by local ACT students.  However, when library staff were harassed and threatened and another member of staff had a piece of the display thrown at her, the display was removed in the interest of safety and health of the library staff.

Merilee Pigram from the ACT Library Service said that the decision to remove the display was not easy to make, as the library encouraged discussion and supported different viewpoints.  She said the eventual decision was made on OH&S grounds, namely that all employees have a basic right to work in a safe environment. 

Because of the publicity generated as a result, the display is now in demand and will be used in a variety of forums.  You can read the full story on page 8 of the magazine.
Is work a pain in the neck?

What about the hand, wrist, arm and shoulder? If you are in the habit of sitting in front of a keyboard for most of your working day, staring at a computer monitor that looks suspiciously like the tv’s our parents used to say would give us square eyes, then the answer is most likely yes.

Repetitive Strain Injury, RSI, Occupational Overuse Syndrome, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome these are all terms that can simply mean pain, and lots of it. How many of you take the time away from the keyboard to flex your hands and fingers, relax and roll your shoulders every fifteen minutes or so? Not many I bet.  But if you don’t you could be running the very distinct risk that you may develop problems that simply don’t go away after a good nights sleep, and by the time the pain reaches the stage where you feel obliged to go to the doctor, it may already be too late. 

The condition is a result of repeated physical movements, which damage tendons, nerves, muscles, and other soft body tissues. So what are the symptoms of RSI? The first warning signs are aches and pains, tingling and a feeling of warmth in the arms. If it is allowed to progress, recurrent pain, aching and tiredness in the hands, arms and upper body occur sooner in the day and last well into the evening. Eventually you will experience constant pain and weakness, which can be irreversible, and you will be forced either by your doctor or pure common sense to change your career or risk permanent damage.

So are you going to take a break from the keyboard now? What will be the cost to your company, your organisation, your family and your health if you don’t?


As a host employer, what are my OH&S responsibilities to contractors?
Exactly the same as the OH&S responsibilities you have to your own employees.  You have a Duty of Care to those people who are working on your premises to:
• Provide a safe workplace and safe systems of work;
• Identify potential hazards in your workplace;
• Provide mechanisms to address safety & health hazards;
• Provide ongoing safety & health training, information, instruction and supervision;
• Provide personal protective clothing & equipment (where necessary);
• Consult & cooperate with safety & health representatives & other employees regarding OH&S.

What is a hazard?
A hazard is anything that may cause injury or harm to a person. Common hazards include: Slips, trips & Falls; Electricity; Manual handling – over-exertion or repetitive movement; Extremes in temperature; Machinery or equipment – being hit, hitting objects or being caught in between eg., compactus; Hazardous substances including glue, toner & acids; Radiation; Microwaves; Biological agents such as anthrax and Psychological Stress.

Information Enterprises Australia Pty Ltd is a niche specialist consultancy group, employment agency and trainers in the records management and library fields, as well as being the owner and producer of the Australian Records Retention Manual.