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Guidance notes on drafting a School or Unit safety notice

  1. Introduction
  2. Who Should Write the School/Unit Safety Policy
  3. Structure of the School/Unit Safety Policy
  4. Measuring Health and Safety Performance
  5. University Health and Safety Publications

1. Introduction

This booklet contains practical advice on the preparation of a School/Unit Safety Policy to be issued by Heads to their staff and post-graduate research workers.

A written Safety Policy is the first step towards the self-regulation envisaged by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974, and is the starting point for the University's Health and Safety Management System. This system is in line with the recommendations of the Education Services Advisory Committee (ESAC) in its publication entitled "Health and Safety Management in Higher and Further Education : Guidance on Inspection, Monitoring and Auditing".

The University has had its own Safety Policy for some years. It takes the form of a booklet which summarises the University Court's approach to health and safety. Under this policy, Heads of Schools/Units are responsible to the University Court for all aspects of health and safety in the work of their School/Unit and, in particular, it is their duty to ensure the existence of an effective written policy for securing health and safety within the School/Unit.

The School/Unit Safety Policy should contain supplementary information relating to the specific activities of the School/Unit so that, when read in conjunction with the University Safety Policy, the two together form an effective means of securing health and safety within the School/Unit. The policy should establish legal requirements as the minimum acceptable level of performance and include details of the arrangements which have been implemented in compliance with these requirements. The statement of general policy should be signed by the Head of the School/Unit and bear the date of issue. It should be kept under review and regularly updated to take account of changing conditions.

2. Who Should Write the School/Unit Safety Policy

The value of a School/Unit Safety Policy Statement lies not so much in the written statement, which must be produced in order to comply with the law, but in the thinking and planning that must take place before a reasonable statement can be written. While much of the drafting will normally be carried out by senior staff in consultation with the Head, School/Unit Safety Committee and Trade Union Safety Representatives should also be consulted.

In most Schools operating from a single building, the entire document would normally be drawn up locally. However, if the School operates from several locations, or if there are separate specialised units within the School, then it makes sense to ask the head of each unit to contribute to the Policy, especially any specialised guidance or information.

3. Structure of the School/Unit safety policy

Statement of General Policy

When preparing the health and safety policy begin by defining the objectives and setting out general aims including a description of the routes of communication for dealing with health and safety matters in the School/Unit. This part should also point out that the Head is responsible for the maintenance of healthy and safe conditions, in the School/Unit, for all staff and other people who may be affected.

Undertake, for example, to:

  • provide appropriate resources for effective implementation of the policy
  • plan systematically
  • revise and develop the policy at an appropriate frequency
  • secure the competence of all staff by means of instruction, information and training

Note: The statement of general policy should be signed and dated by the Head of the School/Unit.


Set out peoples responsibilities for health and safety. Include the names of persons who have a particular safety function, such as School/Unit Safety Co-ordinator, Radiation Protection Supervisor, Laser Supervisor, or Biological Safety Officer, and state the duties delegated to each post. In the special case of School/Units which have accommodation in separate buildings, it is recommended that a Safety Co-ordinator be appointed for each building. The local means of raising health and safety problems and the membership of any School/Unit Safety Committee could also be included here. A Safety Committee should have a membership representative of all types of staff and of postgraduate students.


It may be found convenient to organise the rest of the document into sections on the following lines:-

  • Local Arrangements:

    Example of items which could be covered are -

Risk Assessments                                                                  The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 requires employers to carry out systematic general examination of the work activity and to record the significant findings of that risk assessment. All hazards present should be identified and assessed as to the likelihood that harm will occur and its severity. Written assessments made under these and other relevant Regulations e.g. COSHH, should be included in the Departmental Safety Policy.
Fire Drill procedures, position of fire exits, unusual fire risks, etc.
First Aid Names of First Aiders, locations of first aid boxes.
Accidents Arrangements for reporting and investigating accidents.
Out-of-Hours     Entry Evening and weekend work rules.
Electricity Fitting of plugs, repairs of equipment, regular inspection and testing of portable electrical equipment, etc.
Personal Protective Equipment Policy on the issue and use of eye protection, equipment face protection, gloves, laboratory coats, foot-wear, respiratory protection, etc.
Hazardous substances Arrangements for dealing with the requirements of the COSHH Regulations
Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Arrangements for dealing with the requirements of the Display Screen Equipment Regulations
Manual Handling Operations Arrangements for dealing with the requirements of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations.
Work equipment Arrangements for dealing with the requirements of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations.
Waste Arrangements for disposing of non-domestic wastes
Others Arrangements for dealing with any other hazard arising from work of School/Unit e.g. lasers, radioactive substances.
  • Provision of Information, Instruction, Training and Supervision:

    The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 requires employers to provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of all their employees.

    The University's Health and Safety Policy statement, with its integral Codes of Practice on health and safety topics, provides information. The current practice on distribution is to provide a copy of the statement to all new employees of the University.

    some courses provided centrally by the University, such as the Radiation Protection Course, give a certain a mount of instruction and training.

    Note: Most of the instruction and nearly all of the training and supervision must be provided by individual Schools/Units. Some Schools/Units will therefore need to provide additional information on hazards peculiar to their work activities.

    Information and instruction on the safe use of equipment and materials is essential but not sufficient. Training involves a further period of progressive instruction and supervised experience until competence is judged to justify unsupervised work. The process of training and supervision can be obtained over a period only within the School/Unit. This process applies to all staff and students.

    The degree of supervision and the time for which it is necessary depends on the risks of the work involved and on the experience of those who require the training.

    Trainee technicians and first year postgraduates will need to be supervised for most work activities and closely supervised for extended periods for some activities. Where severe risks are present this may involve long periods of direct visual supervision; with time, individuals can be seen as having sufficient competence to carry out work with minimal or no supervision unless it involves new or uncertain hazards.

    Postgraduate students whose supervisors are away from the University for more than about a week, for any reason, should always be directed by agreement to an appropriately informed member of staff for advice on health and safety matters during the absence of the supervisor.

    Training in research should include training in its health and safety implications with a general progress towards competence in that area. The final product should be an awareness in the postgraduate researchers of the need to consider health and safety as an integral part of their work.

    In most situations it will be advisable to keep a record of the instruction and training which has been given to each person. Experience in this and other Universities has shown that after accidents, which require to be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive, it is important to be able to prove that suitable and adequate information, instruction, training and supervision have been provided. It is not necessary to compile an elaborate record.

    Note: Heads of Schools/Units must make clear to all concerned the School/Unit policy on these matters.

  • New Equipment, Materials and Procedures:

    Equipment or materials which are brought into a Department for the first time may introduce unfamiliar hazards. There should be a system for recognising this to ensure that any necessary new or revised systems of work are prepared. The arrangements for dealing with the COSHH Regulations should automatically take care of this problem as far as new hazardous substances are concerned.

4. Measuring health and safety performance

It is necessary to check, by inspection/audit, that the policies and arrangements for health and safety are being followed and that they are effective. The possible need to revise the arrangements from time to time must be recognised.

The frequency and levels of self-inspection, carried out by Schools/Units, should be tailored to the size and complexity of the School/Unit and the nature of the activities performed there. However, the gap between inspections should never be more than a year.

Schools/Units should have a system for carrying out their own checks on health and safety performance as an addition to periodic safety audits. One aid in such a system is a checklist of items, which should be covered in the assessment of the effectiveness of health and safety arrangements. A basic checklist and instructions for completing the inspection is available from the Safety Adviser. Schools/Units should tailor the list to the Department's specific activities. The resultant checklist should be reviewed regularly and developed in the light of experience and changes in legislation and standards.

Note: While the School/Unit checklist should be used as the basis for the self-inspection it should not be a constraint on those carrying out the inspection nor prevent them from identifying other potential problems.

In conducting the inspection an attempt should be made to discover the root causes of any unsatisfactory conditions found and, where possible, positive recommendations should be made in a report for addressing the underlying problems as well as their symptoms.


Environmental Health and Safety Services contact details

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Scotland, United Kingdom

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