Safety Hero: Loretta Bertagni of Douglas County Libraries

As public places structured around reading, writing, and learning, libraries rarely come to mind when we consider where safety needs to be a top priority. However, they often present unexpected challenges unique to the work environment found there. The problems might not be as broad or dangerous as those emerging from a water or fire district, and Loretta Bertagni, our newest safety hero from Douglas County Libraries (DCL), makes sure it stays that way.

For more than 11 years, Bertagni has called DCL home. She works as an HR Generalist performing a host of functions within the HR Department. Those functions include overseeing health & safety, workers’ compensation, and benefits administration, among other things. Before she took on this role, she worked as an HR professional performing health and safety functions for defense contractors that provided engineering, logistics, and manufacturing services.

“My experience with my previous employers provided me with diverse health and safety learning opportunities, and I brought these experiences with me to DCL,” Bertagni said.

With six full-time locations in operation seven days a week, Loretta has her work cut out for her. She is tasked with making sure every branch is compliant and adhering to the best practices she has laid out for them to follow.

“The biggest challenge is always trying to provide training and activities that all staff members are able to participate in and access,” Bertagni said.

Regardless, Bertagni dedicates herself to making sure these goals are met. HR Manager and nominator April Durham commented on just how Bertagni has made the district a better place to work.

“Loretta is religious about monthly safety or wellness topics. She is not reactive but proactive,” Durham said.

Durham spoke at length about Bertagni’s consistency. Bertagni always makes herself available wherever she is needed. With a staff spread out in many locations, it takes a dedicated yet calm person to understand how to mitigate all of the seemingly innocuous hazards a library faces.

“She is a soft-spoken person but has an effective way of connecting with librarians,” Durham said.

Some of Bertagni’s colleagues discussed Bertagni’s methods, tasks, and her ability to keep things in order. David Meyes, DCL’s facilities supervisor for the last two years, has been with the district for seven years. He oversees all of the branches and works closely with Loretta, implementing the policies she helps design.

“She is a very calm and relaxed person,” Meyer said of Bertagni. “She sees the potential for injuries and works with us to prepare. She is very proactive.”

Bertagni’s proactivity is a common theme echoed by her colleagues.

Robin Richards, the materials handling department head, who has been employed by DCL for 14 years at the Castle Rock Branch, spoke about Bertagni’s effectiveness.

“We have had a major decline in WC-related injuries and the extent of them since she was hired,” Richards said.

Bertagni plays a major role in employee education. She acts as a driving force behind holding meetings and trainings throughout the district. To implement her vision and policies, DCL has a learning and development department that has provided a supporting role to Bertagni to make sure the district is meeting all safety standards.

“We have been able to create online lessons that support our employee education through DCL University, our learning movement system,” Bertagni said.

In addition to this, Bertagni also performs in-person training through specific meetings or informally at department meetings. Either way, Bertagni always finds time to pass along knowledge to her staff and co-workers about the best way to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.

There is currently one health and safety-related training per month along with what is known as a “Tip and a Topic.” Bertagni has also authored many procedures, helped develop safety emergency protocols and an emergency planning guide, and holds regular fire safety drills.

“The topics range from ergonomic training to safety requirements associated with our automated handling equipment. We also link to national events, such as breast cancer or mental health awareness through our tips and topics as well as use external training on some topics such as injury prevention training,” Bertagni said.

Additionally, DCL holds Well-Being Challenges throughout the year. These challenges focus on a specific activity that all employees are asked to perform for approximately three weeks out of a given month. For example, February saw DCL participating in an exercise challenge, and July brought a hydration challenge. These challenges result in gift bag drawings at the end of each challenge to incentivize employees.

“Our goal is to keep health and safety something everyone thinks about on a daily basis, not just once a year,” Bertagni said.

For libraries, the most common injuries and issues involve slips, trips, and falls as well as body motion and lifting injuries. To address these issues, Bertagni has recently redesigned certain aspects of the six library branches to make them more ergonomic. This includes providing staff with stand-up desks and training on how to walk the tables within each branch, and personally analyzing employee workstations.

“From an ergonomics perspective, supervisors are always partnering with her,” Durham said. “She will reach out and come up with the best way to fix what they need.”

Bertagni dedicated a lot of time to preventing injuries that have occurred in the past by focusing her efforts where needed. She programs and tailors communications to managers at each of the branches with her recommendations for improvements. For the recent incidents that involved moving objects such as large tables around within the library, Bertagni put in place training that was required across all branches.

As training is a key part of DCL’s commitment to safety, under Bertagni’s direction, DCL ranked second on our quarterly list of most active districts in TargetSolutions by course completions. To achieve this ranking, DCL uses TargetSolutions’ available lessons to supplement their all-staff training.

“Our most recent was a compliance training for Sexual Harassment Awareness,” Bertagni said.

In addition to TargetSolutions, DCL also takes advantage of our Safety and Loss Prevention Grant Program. They were able to use it to purchase additional safety equipment back when they built three of their newest library branches.

“The grant is a great program,” Bertagni said.

Above all, the work at DCL has been simultaneously rewarding and challenging for Bertagni. That challenge is what keeps her motivated and engaged in the work she is doing. At the end of the day, her pursuit to keep DCL a safe place to work shows in her love of the job, her colleagues, and the library’s patrons.

“The people make it rewarding. Our staff members and patrons are the best,” Bertagni said.