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University safety policy: Notice

On the advice of the Committee for Safety, the Council and the General Board have approved minor amendments of the University's safety policy, which sets out a statement of policy with respect to the health and safety at work of the University's employees in accordance with section 2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. This policy, which covers all institutions in the University (except the University Press, for which the Press Syndicate is the body responsible under the Act), applies to all persons working in the University, including students. The statement in its amended form is published below for the information of the University.

1. It is the policy of the University to ensure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of all its staff and students.

2. The Council and the General Board are the bodies having overall responsibility for the implementation of the health and safety policy of the University. The Finance Committee is responsible under the Council for the care, management, and maintenance of all University sites, buildings, and grounds. The executive officers of these bodies are the Vice-Chancellor, the Registrary, the Secretary General of the Faculties, and the Treasurer.

3. Within each Department the Head of the Department is responsible for health and safety. In Faculties not organized in Departments, the responsibility lies with the Chairman of the Faculty Board, and in other institutions it is a matter for the Head of the institution. In discharging their responsibility Heads of Departments must ensure that:

(a) a statement of safety policy, safety procedures, and rules is formulated relating to hazards in the Department;

(b) where appropriate, a Departmental safety committee is set up;

(c) the duties relating to safety within the Department are understood by all persons in the Department;

(d) teaching and research within the Department are conducted safely and the necessary training and information are provided to ensure safe systems of work;

(e) appropriate risk assessments are carried out for the various aspects of the work of the Department, and where necessary control measures established;

(f) the equipment in the Department is kept in a safe condition and proper steps are taken to remedy defects occurring in the services and the fabric of the Department;

(g) regular safety inspections are made in the Department, at least one inspection during a period no longer than one year;

(h) all accidents and incidents are reported in accordance with reporting procedures;

(i) accidents and incidents are adequately investigated to minimize the chance of recurrence;

(j) all staff and students understand the Department's arrangements for fire precautions;

(k) the Department co-operates with the University in the provision of appropriate first aid and safety training.

4. The Head of a Department may delegate, in writing, tasks to Departmental staff; in many cases the primary responsibility of a Head of Department will be to see that a proper and effective system of delegation is established. The holders of posts such as Departmental Safety Officer, Radiation Protection Supervisor, and Biological Safety Officer must be given authority, time, facilities, and resources to enable them to fulfil their duties. The principal responsibility for safety in respect of hazards connected with the teaching of students should normally lie with a University teaching officer, and not with a member of the assistant staff; exceptions to this rule should be made only in very exceptional circumstances, and should be well documented.

5. Each employee of the University and each student working in the University has a responsibility to care for his or her own safety and for the safety of others. All persons working in the University should direct their minds to the importance of safety. By example and training, staff and students alike should be encouraged to adopt an approach to their work which incorporates good safety practice. All those having a supervisory role in the University, at whatever level, are expected, so far as is reasonably practicable, to identify the hazards associated with any premises, plant, or substance for which they bear responsibility, to carry out risk assessments, and either to remove any hazards identified or by means of appropriate control measures to reduce the level of risk associated with them. All persons who may be affected by such hazards must be made aware of the risk assessment and the control measures introduced to reduce the risk.

6. The Committee for Safety, a recognized representative body with a constitution prescribed by Ordinance (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 148) is responsible for the investigation of accidents and for advising on all matters concerning safety in the University. In particular, advice and guidance will be provided to all Departments on safety procedures and on matters referred to the Committee by Departmental safety committees.

7. The Committee for Safety is served by six sub-committees; the Sub-committee for Ionizing and Non-Ionizing Radiation, the Sub-committee for Biological Hazards (including safety in animal houses), the Sub-committee for Safety Education and Training, the Sub-committee for First Aid Arrangements, the Sub-committee for Chemical Hazards, and the Sub-committee for Environmental Issues. Each Sub-committee is responsible for advising the Committee for Safety on matters within its area of concern.

8. The University Safety Adviser, the Deputy Safety Adviser, the Assistant Safety Adviser, the Radiation Protection Officer, the Environmental Officer, and the Security Adviser, in conjunction with the University Consultant Occupational Physician, the Senior Occupational Health Nurse, and the University Fire Officer, have a duty to provide advice and guidance on health and safety at work, and to concern themselves with all matters relating to health and safety within the University. In accordance with the requirements of the Ionizing Radiation Regulations (1985) the University will appoint appropriate person(s) as Radiation Protection Adviser(s) to the University. These person(s) may also hold the office of University Radiation Officer. The University Safety Adviser acts as Secretary of the Committee for Safety, through which he or she acts, and is responsible to the Council and the General Board.

9. The Director of Estate Management is responsible for assisting the Finance Committee in its responsibility for the construction of new buildings, the alteration of existing buildings, and the care and maintenance of all University sites, buildings, and grounds. In the exercise of these responsibilities the Director must have regard to the requirements of safety.

10. The responsibility for the safe operation in University premises of research units managed by a Research Council or other research organization lies with the appointed Director of the unit, subject to any agreement to the contrary. Such units are expected to follow University safety procedures to the extent that these are appropriate and to ensure that there is co-ordination and co-operation between the unit(s) and the University.

11. Visitors working in a Department do so with the permission of the Head of the Department or an authorized Deputy, and are required to follow Departmental safety procedures. A visitor is any person who is not a member of staff or a student of that Department. For reasons of security, as well as health and safety, there must be restricted access for casual visitors to Departments, particularly scientific Departments.

12. The Committee for Safety publish and maintain a Manual on Safety for all Departments, which contains essential information on the responsibilities and duties for safety, health and welfare at work arrangements, safety rules, notes of guidance, and codes of practice for safe working in the University. The advice and guidance contained in the Manual will reflect the relevant safety legislation.

A handbook known as the Little Green Safety Book is also published for general distribution in the University. It is issued to all new employees on appointment and to all students on matriculation.

13. It is recognized that the hazards in different Departments in the University vary widely both in degree and in kind, and that the precautions to be taken will vary likewise. Common sense and a sense of responsibility are of fundamental importance in matters of safety, and it will frequently be necessary for reasonable reliance to be placed on the behaviour of others. The appropriate committees in Schools, Faculties, and Departments are reminded that when proposals are discussed for the alteration of buildings or the purchase of major items of equipment, or when significant changes are made in the workplace, the safety aspects must be considered generally, and particular attention must be paid to the allocation of space and the provision of adequate services. Thus, for example, in discharging his responsibility for safety, the Director of Estate Management is entitled to rely on Departments giving prompt notice of apparent defects in the fabric of their buildings, and those concerned with the safety of students are entitled to rely on the level of knowledge and experience to be expected from students at their particular stage of development.

14. For the information of employees of the University and students working in the University, the following sections summarize the principal legal implications of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

15. The purpose of the Act is to secure the health, safety, and welfare of persons at work, and to protect other persons against risks to health and safety arising out of or in connexion with the activities of persons at work. To this end, the Act places the following duties on every employer:

(i) to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety, and welfare of his or her employees;

(ii) to conduct his or her undertaking so that as far as is reasonably practicable persons not in his or her employment are not exposed to risks to their health or safety;

(iii) to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the safety of premises under his or her control for persons not his or her employees to whom the premises are made available as a place of work or as a place where they may use plant or substances provided for their use there;

(iv) to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable in respect of any substance or article for use at work that the substance or article is safe and without risks to health when properly used.

The Act places the following duties on every employee:

(i) to take reasonable care for his or her own health and safety and that of other persons who may be affected by his or her acts or omissions at work;

(ii) to co-operate with the employer so as to enable the latter to comply with any duty or requirement of health and safety legislation.

The Act places the duty on all persons (and it is this duty that applies to students) that they shall not intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety, or welfare.

16. The scheme of enforcement of the Act is twofold; on the one hand there is a system of improvement and prohibition notices which may be served on employers and which can be used if necessary to secure the immediate termination of any dangerous activity, and on the other hand there is a scheme of criminal sanctions for breach of duty which applies equally to employers, employees, and other persons.

In the case of a corporate body (such as the University) those exercising the functions of management can also be convicted if found guilty of neglect, as if they were employers. The maximum penalty on summary conviction is a fine of £20,000 and/or six months' imprisonment; the maximum penalty on conviction on indictment is an unlimited fine.

Proceedings may not be instituted except by an Inspector of the Health and Safety Executive or by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is not possible to insure against criminal liability arising under the Act.

17. The Act in no way alters the extent of civil liability for negligence, and the policy of the Act is to impose inescapable personal liabilities through the criminal law without modifying the civil law in any way.

18. The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the designated officers referred to in section 8 are given at the back of the University Telephone Directory.

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Cambridge University Reporter 5728, 11th February 1998
Copyright © 1998 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.