Safety responsibilities

Every person working in the Department of Biology has a responsibility to others and themselves, making sure that their work is conducted in a manner which presents no hazard to others as well as themselves. Your responsibility might be in completing a COSHH assessment, in instructing others, in monitoring the work of others or simply in working sensibly and properly in a safe manner. It is the responsibility of each worker to consider the appropriateness or otherwise of the safety training and safety equipment they have been given. Should any person be in doubt as to the safety of any aspect of work assigned to them, they should consult their supervisor or the DSA for advice.

The University, your employer has overall responsibility for your safety while you are carrying out your work but the responsibility is delegated to individuals and committees as stated in the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).

Please don't hesitate to ask for more advice and guidance. It is the responsibility of everyone to think about the safety of their work before they start it! There is a mass of safety information available on the web these days hence there is no excuse for not finding out about the hazards associated with any work as you plan it.

The University Health and Safety Committee

This committee discusses all aspects of non-laboratory safety.

The University Director of Health & Safety

The University Safety Advisor advises University committees and individuals about all aspects of safety on campus.

The Head of Department (HoD)

The HoD is ultimately responsible for the safety of everyone working in their department but their responsibility is usually delegated to other staff.

The Biology Safety Committee

This Committee is open to all members of the Department and meets once a term, usually Monday Week 6 of each term. It discusses all aspects of safety policy and its implementation in the Biology Department and in groups associated with the Department. It has an advisory role to the DSA and the HoD. The Secretary is elected from the membership. The minutes of the Committee are posted on the departmental safety notice board (Teaching Laboratory Corridor) and are also distributed electronically via the departmental 'Bulletin'.

It is a policy of the Committee that all aspects of safety be open for discussion and in principle all information relating to safety matters is freely available for consultation by any member of the department (subject to some limitations where personal information about named individuals must remain confidential).

The Committee has the power to commit resources for safety provision (via recommendations to the Biology Resources Board Committee).

The Departmental Safety Advisor (DSA)

Appointed by the HoD, the DSA has to decide on the departmental safety policy, in consultation with the Head of Department and the Biology Safety Committee. Although not responsible for management of safety in the department, the DSA must ensure that the policy is effectively implemented. The Safety Advisor by definition has a advisory role, yet is not expected to possess specialist knowledge on all aspects of work.

The Director of Infrastructure and Facilities, Biology

This post is responsible for most aspects of the implementation of safety policy, especially administration.

The Academic Supervisor

  • Everyone has some responsibility for their own safety and that of others. Since Academic Supervisors are regarded as experts for matters relating to their own work, including teaching and research activities, they must assume responsibility for all aspects of the safety management of this work. This includes all work they are supervising, whether this work is being conducted by research fellows, visiting researchers, post-docs, graduate students, research assistants, undergraduates, technicians or others.
  • The Department aims to facilitate safe working practices for all your activities. Although the process will inevitably involve some paperwork, this is often necessary to demonstrate that a work activity can be carried out safely. However, you will be pleased to know that every effort will be made to make the process effective, yet as painless as possible.
  • The Biology Safety web pages are the primary source of safety advice for the Department of Biology, and should be consulted for detailed information on University and departmental policy and procedures relating to your activities.
  • Key responsibilities
    • ensure that the safety of all work is considered before any work begins, which includes the preparation of appropriate risk assessments for all significant hazards
    • provide or arrange appropriate safety training for those carrying out the work to ensure competence of their workers
    • ensure the proper provision safety equipment, including any personal protective equipment requirements as identified by risk assessment
    • monitor the work to ensure that work is being conducted according to safe working practices and procedures relevant to their work
    • provide any necessary safety information to the Departmental Safety Advisor
    • issue warning to individuals who are not working safely and if necessary immediately stop any unsafe work

Postdoctoral workers

The Department of Biology recognises that postdocs must have some freedom to plan their own work and that most will do so safely and responsibly. The safety management of the Department aims to facilitate safe work - we want to help you find ways of carrying out the work safely. However, we rely on the academic in charge of your lab to act on our behalf in terms of managing your safety. We assume that you will discuss your plans with your academic colleague and that they will have agreed with you that the work can be conducted safely in their laboratory. So where you suggest bringing significant new hazards into the laboratory you will have to carry out a risk assessment which your academic colleague should agree and sign. Hence the freedom that you may be given must be matched by some responsibility.

As part of your career development maybe you should learn about safety and safety management. It is regarded as part of your professional competence that you not only have the expertise to recognise all the hazards associated with any work you plan but that you also know the appropriate ways of working safely with those hazards, that you know what equipment and facilities are needed to work safely with those hazards and that you are familiar with all UK and EU law regarding those hazards. I am sure you would get a better reference for your next job from your current boss if you had shown yourself to be competent, professional and responsible for safety issues during your time here. It is a real contribution you can make to the group here. Your "supervisor's" responsibility is:

  • They will be expected to identify all the hazards associated with any work planned in your laboratory
  • They will be expected to ensure that the facilities are suitable for the safe conduct of the work (as judged by regulatory agencies)
  • They will be expected to ensure that appropriate equipment is provided to all work to be conducted safely
  • They will be expected to monitor work to ensure that people in your lab are working safety
  • They will be expected to identify and organise any safety training that may be required
  • They will be expected to initiate and maintain appropriate risk assessments
  • They should have read the CVCP document on the responsibility of academic staff in terms of supervision.

The Biology and University Safety Advisors are there to give advice and to judge your ability to comply with current requirements but it is not their job to do any thinking on behalf of the academic concerned.

You may be asked to carry out specific tasks where the Department has generic safety guidelines and they can be found on the menus of the main page.

Postgraduate PhD students

The Department of Biology recognises that PhD must have some freedom to plan their own work and that most will do so safely and responsibly. The safety management of the Department aims to facilitate safe work - we want to help you find ways of carrying out the work safely. However, we rely on the academic supervisor to act on our behalf in terms of managing your safety. You must discuss your plans with your academic supervisor before you plan any work. The supervisor will have conducted a risk assessment for your work before you began but inevitably there will be modifications to your plans during the period of your PhD. So where you or your supervisor suggest bringing significant new hazards into the laboratory you and your supervisor will have to carry out a risk assessment relating to those hazards.

As part of your career development maybe you should learn about safety and safety management. All new PhD students have to attend a safety course at the start of their first year (or in the autumn of the following year if they arrive late). Learning to do risk assessments is part of that course. It is regarded as part of your professional competence that you not only have the expertise to recognise all the hazards associated with any work you plan but that you also know the appropriate ways of working safely with those hazards, that you know what equipment and facilities are needed to work safely with those hazards and that you are familiar with all UK and EU law regarding those hazards. I am sure you would get a better reference for your next job from your current boss if you had shown yourself to be competent, professional and responsible for safety issues during your time here. It is a real contribution you can make to the group here. Your "supervisor's" responsibility is:

  • They will be expected to identify all the hazards associated with any work planned in your laboratory
  • They will be expected to ensure that the facilities are suitable for the safe conduct of the work (as judged by regulatory agencies)
  • They will be expected to ensure that appropriate equipment is provided to all work to be conducted safely
  • They will be expected to monitor work to ensure that people in your lab are working safety
  • They will be expected to identify and organise any safety training that may be required
  • They will be expected to initiate and maintain appropriate risk assessments
  • They should have read the CVCP document on the responsibility of academic staff in terms of supervision.

The Biology and University Safety Advisors are there to give advice and to judge your ability to comply with current requirements but it is not their job to do any thinking on behalf of the academic concerned.

You may be asked to carry out specific tasks where the Department has generic safety guidelines and they can be found on the menus of the main page.

Postgraduate MRes students

The Department of Biology recognises that MRes must have a little freedom to plan their own work and that most will do so safely and responsibly. The safety management of the Department aims to facilitate safe work - we want to help you find ways of carrying out the work safely. However, we rely on the academic supervising your project or in charge of the practical class to manage your safety.

When doing a project, you must discuss your plans with your academic supervisor before you conduct any work. You should assist your academic supervisor in conducting a risk assessment for the work being planned.

As part of your career development maybe you should learn about safety and safety management. It is regarded as part of your professional competence that you not only have the expertise to recognise all the hazards associated with any work you plan but that you also know the appropriate ways of working safely with those hazards, that you know what equipment and facilities are needed to work safely with those hazards and that you are familiar with all UK and EU law regarding those hazards. I am sure you would get a better reference for your next job from your current boss if you had shown yourself to be competent, professional and responsible for safety issues during your time here. It is a real contribution you can make to the group here. Your "supervisor's" responsibility is:

  • They will be expected to identify all the hazards associated with any work planned in your laboratory
  • They will be expected to ensure that the facilities are suitable for the safe conduct of the work (as judged by regulatory agencies)
  • They will be expected to ensure that appropriate equipment is provided to all work to be conducted safely
  • They will be expected to monitor work to ensure that people in your lab are working safety
  • They will be expected to identify and organise any safety training that may be required
  • They will be expected to initiate and maintain appropriate risk assessments
  • They should have read the CVCP document on the responsibility of academic staff in terms of supervision.

The Biology and University Safety Advisors are there to give advice and to judge your ability to comply with current requirements but it is not their job to do any thinking on behalf of the academic concerned.

You may be asked to carry out specific tasks where the Department has generic safety guidelines and they can be found on the menus of the main page.

Undergraduate students

The Department of Biology recognises that undergraduate students are developing skills that will be used throughout their work life. Health and Safety Management is part of every workplace in the UK hence getting you to think about your own safety and the safety of others is part of your training.

When you start the course you will be given a brief introduction to safety but it is in the individual modules that you will learn how to work safely while conducting biological investigations. All modules will have been planned to ensure that you can complete the module safely. However we cannot remove all risks from practical work because you are a somewhat unpredictable creature. We try to think of all the kinds of things that could go wrong if someone was foolish or careless but we lack the imagination to cover all possibilities. However you will be able to complete any task safely if you:

  • read the safety advice
  • listen to instructions
  • follow the instructions you are given
  • think about what is needed to carry out work safely
  • ask if you are unsure how to carry out any task

Year 1

In the first year you will be closely supervised but please do try to think about safety because we can never supervise everything you do. Part of our task is to get you to become confident and competent investigators, capable of independent work; by the time you graduate hence we must allow you some scope for independence even in year 1.

Year 2

By year 2 you will be planning some practical work in groups and that means that you will be developing more independence. You should be thinking more about the hazards (things that could cause injury) and how you could plan your work to reduce the risk of injury from any hazard. For example, you will know from experience by year 2 that a chemical can be used safely or unsafely and that there are agreed ways of working with all chemicals likely to be encountered in Biology research such that they can be used with no danger of harm. The ability to identify hazards and the ability to think of ways of working safely with them should become skills that you pick up.

Year 3

Your third year project is a piece of work that shows your ability to work independently and you will have to assume more responsibility for working safely. To that end encourage project directors to work with their students to plan that only safe practices are used. You have to agree a simple risk assessment of the planned work before you can start work. You will work with less supervision that in year 2 - that is part of the training. You must have a little freedom to plan your own work and in return we expect you to be more responsible for your own safety. When doing a project, you must discuss your plans with your academic supervisor before you conduct any work and a supervisor will be greatly impressed if you initiate discussions about what hazards you may encounter and how you will manage them. Such initiative even gains marks in the project assessment so it is worth it!

As part of your career development maybe you should learn about both safety and safety management. It is regarded as part of your professional competence that you not only have the expertise to recognise all the hazards associated with any work you plan but that you also know the appropriate ways of working safely with those hazards, that you know what equipment and facilities are needed to work safely with those hazards and that you are familiar with all UK and EU law regarding those hazards. I am sure you would get a better reference for your next job from your current boss if you had shown yourself to be competent, professional and responsible for safety issues during your time here. It is a real contribution you can make to the group here. Your "supervisor's" responsibility is:

  • They will be expected to identify all the hazards associated with any work planned in your laboratory
  • They will be expected to ensure that the facilities are suitable for the safe conduct of the work (as judged by regulatory agencies)
  • They will be expected to ensure that appropriate equipment is provided to all work to be conducted safely
  • They will be expected to monitor work to ensure that people in your lab are working safety
  • They will be expected to identify and organise any safety training that may be required
  • They will be expected to initiate and maintain appropriate risk assessments
  • They should have read the CVCP document on the responsibility of academic staff in terms of supervision

The Biology and University Safety Advisors are there to give advice and to judge your ability to comply with current requirements but it is not their job to do any thinking on behalf of the academic concerned.

You may be asked to carry out specific tasks where the department has generic safety guidelines and they can be found on the menus of the main page.

Technical staff

You will be bringing certain technical skills into the Department hence one can assume that you will be carrying out work at the bench or in a work environment where you will work with hazards. Depending on your experience and background, you will be given certain responsibility for safety management - maybe only for yourself but maybe also for others.

The work that you will be doing will have been assessed in terms of the hazards associated with the work and protocols will be available for any work that is regarded as hazardous. You can ask the person responsible for your work to see such safety assessments and protocols. If necessary you will be given training to help you work safely. You will be provided with appropriate safety equipment.

If you are asked to carry out any task that you are not confident that you can carry out safely - either through lack of training, lack of equipment or lack of appropriate facilities - you should refuse to do the task, explain your reasons and ask for appropriate remedial action. It will be awkward but it is sensible. The person asking you to do the work is responsible for making sure that you feel OK about the safety of any work and but sometimes their experience and enthusiasm to get on with the task hides from them your quite reasonable doubts. If you raise some concern but feel that you have not had a sympathetic hearing, consult with the Biology Safety Advisor (dn6) to seek a second opinion.

You may be asked to carry out specific tasks where the Department has generic safety guidelines and they can be found on the main page.

Teaching Laboratory Manager

Academic supervisors are responsible for the overall safety of both undergraduate practical sessions and undergraduate projects. However, the Chief Technician in Teaching shall be responsible for the monitoring and implementation of general safety policy in the teaching laboratories (i.e. all aspects of the activities of those laboratories which are not specifically linked to any one practical or project).

Mechanical Workshop Manager

Responsible for the safety of all aspects of the work being conducted in the Mechanical Workshop.

Electrical Workshop Manager

Responsible for the safety of all aspects of the work being conducted in the Electrical Workshop.

Stores Manager

Responsible for all aspects of the safety policy as applied to Biology Stores.

The Trade Unions or Professional Bodies

Many Trade Unions on campus have an enviable record in helping to maintain the excellent safety record of the University. Some have professional safety advisers available for consultation and they can be a very useful source of safety advice. Your local representative can advise you on obtaining advice.

Safety Monitors

Safety Monitors assist Area Managers / Academic Supervisors in the maintenance of a safe working environment for all individuals in the area they cover. However, the Area Managers / Academic Supervisors continue to accept full responsibility for all aspects of safety management in their area.  See this link for more information