Condition reporting program

Equipment design

Equipment must be designed so that there is minimal static load placed on the neck and shoulders and adjustable for different peoples height etc. Chair height, distance between the winders and the amount of reaching people need to perform to fit and remove films from the winders are all considerations. Adequate space for ancillary tasks such handling film during recanning or notetaking is another consideration in workplace design as is temporary storage so that film cans are not causing trip hazards for other staff.

Administrative controls

Task administration should be designed to reduce the amount of time that the dynamic loads are placed on arms and wrists. In designing the inspection job manual lifting also becomes a concern. Rostering the tasks and interleaving film examination with other duties are effective strategies to reduce the risk to staff.

Lighting

To reduce eye strain adequate lighting is important. Not only is the amount of light on the work surface important but also the spectral quality of the light can assist in the examination. Diffuse sources (e.g. fluorescent) make it harder to pick minor scratching than more specular sources (e.g. small halogen luminaires). Luminaires with readily adjustable arms so that the lighting angles can be arranged for maximum efficiency will also make the task quicker and more accurate.

Transmitted light — such as a lightbox — can be a source of eyestrain. This is apparent when examining a film frame with a great deal of flare light from the surrounding lightbox. Flare light — equivalent to 'noise’ in a signal sense — reduces the eye’s ability to resolve fine detail. People often resort to squinting or otherwise straining their eyes to look for the condition details. Using appropriate masking of the lightbox or alternative methods of examining fine detail, such as quality magnifiers (poor ones introduce serious optical defects that can again cause eyestrain), can reduce the risk.

Workplace ventilation

Until a film can or other form of enclosure is opened there is no accurate way of knowing the condition of the film, especially in respect to chemical deterioration and biological attack, such as mould. While decomposition gases and mould spores may present only a slight risk, the act of opening a can may cause the air inside the can to move towards the breathing zone of the staff member creating a high local concentration.

The workplace should include an area where the ventilation has been designed to remove air away from staff and the general workspace where film cans can be opened. If there is no other option then film cans can be opened cautiously out of doors.

If there is insufficient air movement and extraction in the workspace, decomposition gases and mould spores can build up in concentration. Eventually the situation may arise where staff become affected and contamination of other films can occur.

Training and consistency

Any film handling process — be it by hand or through a machine — increases the risk of damage to the film. Poor film handling skills can result in direct physical damage to the film or create a situation where chemical deterioration is encouraged. All staff involved in film handling must be trained in correct handling procedures and regularly have their skills reviewed.

If the condition reporting is to be of any use in the future in assessing the success of the collection management procedures, then there must be consistency in the technique and the condition assessment at each inspection by all staff involved. These skills are easily lost if they are not regularly practised, as may be the case in small or infrequently attended collections. Clearly written documentation, preferably well illustrated, of the standards and work practices should be prepared and readily available for the staff to use.

A standardised condition report form has been developed by AV archivists from the South East Asia Pacific region and is in use by many regional archives. It has been devised to document the original condition of a film when it arrives at an archive but can also be used to track films already in a collection. This particular form was developed with the generally low resources available to AV archives in the South East Asia Pacific region in mind.