Shelving, equipment and containers used for storing records are secure, accessible and protected from deterioration. (Principle 3)
Using appropriate shelving and equipment ensures that records are accessible, secure and protected. Containers for records, including boxes or envelopes, play a vital role in protecting records from deterioration, for example slowing down the rate of temperature and humidity changes and protecting items from light, dust and pollutants.
Records storage areas, facilities, shelving, containers and equipment should comply with workplace health and safety requirements.
5.1 Shelving and equipment
Shelving, racking, cabinets, other storage devices, and handling equipment should facilitate access to and ensure the survival of records for as long as they are required.
Suitable for the type of record stored
Containers of records should be stored on powder-coated metal shelving. Wooden shelves should be avoided.
Storing records on wooden pallets (‘palletising’) should be used as a temporary measure and only for short term records. As the pallets are made of wood, this is a food source for pests and vermin and creates issues in managing pests/vermin in storage areas. The pests and vermin are attracted to the wood and then move onto eating the boxes (and records). The other concern with ‘palletising’ records, is the weight of the load. The boxes stored on the lower levels of the pallet bear a heavy load and can be damaged as a result.
Shelving should be raised off the floor by 85-150mm as a flood/disaster precaution and be lockable if it is to hold security classified records or records containing sensitive information. Shelving should also be configured with the storage area to ensure that ventilation is not restricted.
In determining shelving or cabinets for a storage area or facility, it is important to consider the types of records which will be stored in order to ensure that suitable and appropriate shelving and cabinets are procured:
- magnetic media should only be stored on non-magnetised shelving
- bulky or large paper-based records, such as large volumes or registers, should be stored on shelving the same width as the record, to prevent records jutting out into aisles. Wider shelves provide support for larger sized records
- maps, plans and charts should be stored flat in cabinets designed for this type of format
- paper based records should be stored on powder-coated metal shelves or in powder-coated or enamel metal cabinets
- glass plates and gramophone discs should be stored vertically on static shelving (do not store on mobile shelving, as they can be dislodged by the movement of the compactus).
See the National Archives of Australia’s Format-specific preservation advice for more information on shelving requirements for different formats.
For further information on storing and protecting security classified records or records with sensitive information, see the NSW Government Information Classification, Labelling and Handling guidelines and the Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework.
Clean and in a good state of repair
All shelving, racking and cabinets should be clean and well maintained. See Section 6 Maintenance.
Strong enough to support potential weight of records
Storage areas and facilities must have sufficient floor loading capacity to safely support the weight of fully loaded shelving and racking and any other furnishings or equipment. If your organisation is setting up a storage facility, you should consult with a structural engineer who will be able to advise if the floor loading capacity is sufficient.
Additionally, the shelving itself must be strong enough to support potential weight of records and not breakage causing accidents that might damage people or the records. If an excessively heavy load is being borne, a second shelf immediately below that on which the records rest may assist in bearing the load. Shelves should be easily adjustable and held firmly in place by clips recommended by the manufacturer.
If the organisation is planning a storage area and requires additional guidance on its arrangement, the following should be considered:
- shelving should be 85-150mm off the floor
- extra shelves should be provided for sorting newly received records and returned retrievals so that aisles and corridors are free of material awaiting placement on or return to shelves
- 500mm between the top shelf and fire sprinkler heads to reduce the likelihood of staff accidentally activating sprinklers 
- 50mm between the top of the container on the shelf and the base of the shelf above to promote air circulation and ease of removal
- 450mm between walls and rows of shelving to allow air circulation
- records should not be stored against external walls, where the risk of dampness is greater
- there should be no ‘dead end’ aisles between the shelves so that people are not trapped in aisles, and
- very long rows of shelving should be avoided, e.g. 15 metre runs should be divided by a central aisle to enable easier access to the records and allow staff to exit quickly in an emergency. 
Aisle space should be calculated to allow for shelving or access equipment and for staff who may be working in the area.
Equipment such as ladders, stools, trolleys, fork lifts, or hydraulic lifts, should be provided in the records storage area or facility to promote the safe handling of records. Equipment which does not promote access, or which causes damage to the records should not be used. All pieces of mechanical apparatus, such as compactus, should have emergency stopping devices.
5.2 Record formats and containers
Containers (i.e. boxes and other types of housings) play a critical role in protecting records from light, dust, fluctuations in temperature and humidity, and unauthorised access.
Containers used for records should be:
- appropriate for the record format and retention
- appropriate for the weight and size of the record
- appropriate for the record’s security classification
- made from durable material capable of sustaining expected use
- in good condition, and
- the correct size and shape for the shelving configuration in use.
Containers include wrappings, envelopes, boxes or other enclosures.
Appropriate for the record’s format and retention
Identifying the retention period of the record assists in determining the appropriate:
- format on which to create the record, and
- item containers, including wrappings, envelopes, boxes or other enclosures to promote survival of the record for as long as it is required.
For example, strong clean containers and file covers are adequate for short term temporary paper records, but long term records should be stored in archival or permanent quality acid free file covers, folders or envelopes and/or acid free boxes. See General Retention and Disposal Authorities and the public office’s Functional Retention and Disposal Authority for retention periods of records.
If the wrong containers are used for records of long term value, they can detrimentally affect the records. For example, over time acidic wrappings will transmit acidity to the records causing them to break down. Packaging materials made from poly vinyl chloride (PVC) contains plasticisers which affect the resin binders in photocopier and laser printer toners and cause the toners to transfer from one surface to another.  Polypropylene, uncoated polyester (mylar) and polyethylene, therefore, are better choices for long term records as they will not cause this to happen.
More information on suitable item containers for formats is available from the National Archives of Australia’s Format-specific preservation advice.
In good condition
All containers should be of durable material, capable of sustaining expected use and the correct size and shape for the shelving on which they are stored.
One of the main ways records are stored is in boxes. Boxes should have well-fitting lids so that they can fully protect the contents.
Ready made boxes in a variety of sizes can be obtained from a range of suppliers. Adequate stocks of containers should be available for foreseeable needs.
Appropriate for the weight, size and format of the records they contain
Records should be boxed according to their size. If the container is too large the records may be damaged when being moved or in transit, and the records storage space may be used inefficiently. Records should not be forced into containers that are too small or too full.
5.3 Workplace health and safety
The NSW public sector is covered by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 which sets requirements for providing a safe and health workplace. These requirements are applicable to records storage areas and buildings.
Risk assessments should be undertaken to identify risks in records storage areas and facilities, and action taken to eliminate or minimise the risks to ensure that records storage areas and facilities comply with health and safety requirements.
Buildings and storage areas
In order to provide a safe and efficient workplace, buildings used to store records or storage areas within buildings should be kept free from obstacles which may cause injury or impede operations. Any structural obstacle that may cause inconvenience or accident should receive attention. For example, uneven floor, pillars, shelving that juts out, or other equipment and low light fittings need to be eliminated.
The design of the facility should provide an area for sorting new records received and returned retrievals so that aisles and corridors are not blocked by this or any other material.
Rules for records storage areas should include:
- taking immediate action to remove an obstacle when it is observed
- placing records immediately on shelves or other storage equipment so that piles of boxes do not obstruct passageways, and
- removing waste.
Regular cleaning and maintenance of storage facilities should reduce many of the health and safety problems in the workplace. See Section 6 Maintenance.
Shelving and equipment
Suitable shelving arrangements and sufficient equipment should be provided to ensure that staff can accomplish their work efficiently without taking safety risks or suffering from undue fatigue.
Staff should be shown the correct way to operate shelving and equipment, without compromising themselves or the safety of their colleagues. New staff should be fully briefed on safe practices and the use of equipment. In addition, warning notices should be displayed where necessary in storage areas.
Records storage containers should be small enough so that the weight each contains is minimised. Boxes recommended by NSW State Archives and Records and the National Archives of Australia are designed to minimise weight problems.
The burden of lifting should be considered when designing the configuration of the shelving and other storage equipment:
- materials handling equipment and/ or team lifting should be employed when heavier weights cannot be avoided, or when a high volume of records of any weight has to be moved
- the heaviest and most often moved objects should be around waist level for the average person
- records used less frequently should be placed at a height that is between the knees and shoulders of the average person
- light weight and rarely accessed material should be placed above shoulder height or below knee height of the average person
- containers should facilitate easy gripping
- staff should be trained in correct lifting procedures, and
- materials and equipment should be arranged so that awkward movements such as twisting of the back are not required.
The recommended records storage environment is clean, cool and pest free. However there may be occasions when staff are required to move or treat dusty or mould affected records. Individuals who suffer from upper respiratory allergies should not be requested to handle excessively dusty or mould-affected records. Staff should be provided with protective clothing that complies with health and safety regulations relevant to the task. Protective clothing may include:
- protective outer garments such as dustcoats or aprons
- masks, and/or
Only trained staff should undertake conservation treatments on records. Repairs to records should only be carried out under the supervision of a Conservator and in consultation with NSW State Archives and Records.
5.4 Keeping records about the shelving and packaging of records
It is important to keep records about the shelving and packaging of records. Examples of the types of documentation the organisation may have are:
- storage plan which contains information on appropriate item container and storage and handling equipment, for records of different types of formats, retention periods, and security requirements.
- records of inspections of shelving and handling equipment to ensure that they are being used appropriately
- records of monitoring that appropriate shelving and handling equipment is being used, clean and in good condition.
- certificates of occupancy specifying floor loading capacity
- structural engineer’s report confirming storage areas and facilities have sufficient floor loading capacity to support records and equipment when at full capacity
- shelving contractor’s report confirming that installed shelving does not exceed agreed floor loading limits
- WH&S risk assessment reports and safe working practice assessments
- records storage procedures cover the selection and appropriate use of containers
- records of monitoring that appropriate containers are being used to house records, and that damaged or dirty containers are being replaced
- assessment reports that appropropriate containers are being used to store security classified records.
 National Archives of Australia, Storing to the Standard, pp. 26 - 27
 Ling, Solid, Safe, Secure, p.39
 ISO 11799, Clause 5.6
 Ling, Solid, Safe, Secure, p.120