The business of running a library has always involved repetitive tasks that expose employees’ backs necks, hands, and arms to injury. While technological advances have helped reduce many of the contributing risk factors, the evolution of new forms of media has increased the modern-day library’s selection and inventory, which in turn has made the job increasingly repetitive. While books are still a major part of a library’s inventory, new media such as videos, CDs, and DVDs have been added to the inventory that is available for check out.
Most modern libraries have evolved significantly from the days when books were tracked with index cards behind the book’s front cover. Books and media are now assigned barcodes which can be easily scanned with fixed or hand-held scanners, significantly reducing handling during checkout.
While handling during check-in and check-out has been significantly reduced with the introduction of scanning, books and media still need to be sorted, transported, and stored. Books handled efficiently can mean less time wasted and a decrease in risk of injuries.
The following are considerations to improve the flow of books in the library and decrease exposures to injuries:
- Reduce frequent bending, lifting, and twisting as much as possible. Count how many times a book is handled and how many times an employee has to bend as the book is processed through the library during both check-in and check-out. Seek ways to reduce that number by half.
- Encourage good body mechanics. Train employees to kneel or squat with a straight back when placing or removing books from carts or shelves. Remind them of the importance of holding the books closer to their body.
- Push carts rather than pull. Encourage employees to push carts rather than pull. Employees should stand at one end of the cart and push while keeping the wrists straight. Carts should never be overloaded. It is better to make an extra trip to avoid using extra forceful exertions.
- Avoid pinch grips. Through continuous training, teach employees to grasp books using a two-handed power grip versus a pinch-grip. The two-handed power grip evenly distributes the weight of the book between each hand by utilizing the larger muscles.