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Departmental Safety Policy

A printable copy of this document is here.

Statement of Policy on Health, Safety and Welfare

The Department of Physics is committed to achieving the highest standards of education and research in a setting that protects the health and safety of all its users and those associated with it, including permanent and temporary staff, researchers, students, visitors, contractors and members of the public.

To fulfil this commitment, we will implement the health, safety and welfare policies of the University of Cambridge and supplement them with departmental policies and guidance as necessary. We will treat legal requirements as the minimum standard to comply with, and work towards achieving best practice in health and safety management of risks arising from physical, chemical, biological, radiation, fire, premises and other significant hazards.

The Head of Department (HoD) has overall responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of all staff, students and others using, or working on behalf of, the Department. The HoD will be supported in this role by the senior management team, the Cavendish Board, Heads of Groups and divisions, academic supervisors, line managers, teaching staff and the Departmental Safety Officer (DSO).

The Department expects the full commitment of its staff, students, visitors and others to putting this policy into practice.

This policy supplements the University statement of policy on general health and safety, here.

Organisation for Safety

Staff, students and visitors (researchers and students) are responsible for:

  • Taking reasonable care of their own health and safety (H&S), and that of others who may be affected by their actions and omissions 
  • Obtaining suitable training and information as needed to carry out their research or other work safely 
  • Using only competent contractors and consultants, in compliance with University policies on procurement of services and goods 
  • Ensuring they start any work liable to create significant risk, only after hazards are identified, risks are evaluated and adequately controlled 
  • Following the University and departmental guidance on H&S, as published on the departmental (and University Safety Office) Health, Safety and Environment webpages, or as agreed with the DSO 
  • Co-operating with departmental managers and systems to ensure H&S risks are suitably managed 
  • Reporting injury accidents, damage to property or the environment, and close calls (‘near misses’) to their manager/supervisor and the DSO as soon as practicable after an event
  • Actively reporting hazards they spot as well as any opportunities for improvement they identify to their immediate manager/supervisor, the DSO or the Departmental Safety Committee representatives 

Please note: It is against the law to “intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety or welfare”. Examples include:  over-riding interlocks on equipment, removing insulating covers from electrical apparatus, removing earth wires, using extinguishers as door stops.

The HoD may withdraw some or all Departmental facilities to staff and visitors who fail to comply fully with Departmental and University safety policy, guidance and rules.

Persons with a supervisory role, including Principal Investigators and Line Managers, are responsible for:

  • Ensuring so far as is reasonably practicable, that the work area their staff and/or students use is without significant risks to safety or health, and any remaining risks are adequately controlled
  • Assessing the risks of new and existing activities, use of equipment, apparatus or systems liable to affect health and safety, before any items are introduced or changes are made, and before members of their group/division engage in work away from the department either at reputable institutions or hazardous areas
  • Ensuring risk assessments consider the experience and knowledge of individuals concerned, particularly undergraduate or graduate students and work placement pupils, as well as the person’s special needs relating to mobility, pregnancy, and reasonable adjustments 
  • Implementing the risk control measures identified through risk assessment 
  • Keeping suitable records relating to H&S risk assessment and safe operating procedures to assist the effective training of new members, and to provide evidence in case of audit or accident 
  • Ensuring the competence of staff, students, contractors and others under their jurisdiction
  • Communicating information required for safe working to everyone in their division/group; disseminating information provided by the DSO or University Safety Office to those who should be notified; taking account of the English language skills of people in the lab and providing translation/interpreting and additional supervision if these skills are poor 
  • Ascertaining that visiting researchers, students and other workers are given sufficient information, equipment and supervision to ensure their and others’ safety in the department, and that visitors’ work is subject to risk assessment and the same controls as department members 
  • Ensuring work carried out by contractors and suppliers engaged by the Group or division complies with legal, University and Departmental requirements, and contractors and suppliers are given necessary information to ensure they can work without detriment to the safety of department users or their own safety 
  • Reporting all incidents (including injuries, property or environmental damage, and close calls) to the DSO. Carrying out an initial investigation of all incidents to prevent a recurrence or escalation to a serious incident in future 
  • Regularly reviewing safety and health arrangements in their division or group, with the support of the DSO where needed
  • Reporting any significant risks or opportunities for improvement to the DSO or Safety Committee
  • Setting a good personal example of co-operating with departmental, University and legal requirements, and ensuring their staff and students do the same 
  • Using departmental and University H&S guidance, and support from the DSO to fulfil their responsibilities

Heads of Research Groups and support divisions are responsible for:

  • The responsibilities assigned to ‘Persons with a supervisory role ...’ above, in addition to the duties below 
  • Ensuring the Group is represented on the Departmental Health Safety and Environment Committee 
  • Ensuring PIs and other staff, students and visitors in the Group fulfil their H&S responsibilities 
  • Considering and managing risks to people under their jurisdiction who work away from the Department (in the UK or abroad)
  • Providing the resources (time, money and personnel) required for safe working in their Group 
  • Periodically reviewing the H&S arrangements in the area under their management. 

The Head of Department is responsible for ensuring that:

  • The department has a Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW) Policy, which sets out the Departmental arrangements for:
    • assessment and control of all significant risks
    • provision of competent health and safety assistance including nominating suitable individuals for key H&S responsibilities
    • training
    • incident investigation
    • monitoring and review through inspection and auditing
    • consulting staff on safety issues, through a departmental Health, Safety and Environment Committee 
  • Suitable persons are nominated as DSO, Fire Safety Manager, Laser Safety Officer, Radiation Protection Supervisor, Biological Safety Officer, Chemical Safety Officer, High Energy Materials specialist, gases and cryogens specialist and electrical specialist, and an up to date list of persons providing this health and safety support is on the H&S webpages for Physics  
  • The buildings, equipment and facilities are maintained in a safe condition and systems are in place to remedy defects and deal with changes in research/technology effectively   
  • Regular inspection and auditing of the premises and safety management of the department take place, the findings are reported to the HoD and the Safety Committee, and lead to improvement actions that are implemented
  • Day to day implementation of this Policy is delegated to the Heads of Groups, their senior staff, and other departmental staff including the Departmental Administrator, Laboratory Superintendent and Departmental Safety Officer, and they are all aware of and committed to fulfilling the spirit of this Policy 
  • There is a suitable Emergency Action Plan in place to set up the framework for dealing with significant emergencies in the Department, that responsibilities are identified, and suitable drills and tests of the system are carried out at regular intervals 
  • The departmental HSW Policy and systems are regularly reviewed and revised as necessary to reflect changes in University policy and guidance, legal developments, the findings of audits and inspections, or incident investigations 

The Deputy Head of Department (Resources) is responsible for ensuring that:

  • Appropriate resources (time, money and personnel) are available to allow the implementation of this policy
  • The H&S duties of the HoD are fulfilled in case of absence from the Department during a major emergency 

The Deputy Head of Department (Education) is responsible for ensuring that:

  • The health, safety and welfare of students are safeguarded during their stay at the department
  • The H&S duties of the HoD are fulfilled in case of absence from the Department during a major emergency

 Departmental Safety and Environment Committee 

The Department has a committee for consulting staff on the arrangements for health, safety and environmental management. This also provides staff with a forum for raising related concerns which are inadequately addressed by other means.

The Safety Committee (for short) has additional responsibility and rights to influence and direct the improvement of health, safety and environmental in the department, through formulating and adopting policies and arrangements for better risk control.

This committee’s membership and terms of reference are detailed on the Physics intranet H&S pages (here).

The Departmental Safety Officer is responsible for:

  • Promoting effective management of health and safety in the Department
  • Ensuring compliance with statutory requirements relating to health, safety and the environment
  • Facilitating the prevention of accidents and incidents
  • Act as a central Departmental focus for safety related matters
  • Contribute to cross-University consultation and discussion on health and safety
  • Support the HoD, Heads of Groups, PIs and others in fulfilling their responsibilities through advice, guidance, training, assistance with risk assessment
  • Conducting inspection of audit on safety matters and reporting to those responsible for implementing improvements, as well as to the HoD
  • Liaising with enforcement authorities (including the HSE and Environment Agency) on behalf of the HoD
  • Co-ordinating the work of the nominated officers in the department responsible for dealing with specific risks, and supporting them as appropriate
  • Reporting incidents (injuries, property or environmental damage and close calls) to the University Safety Office and ensuring incidents are investigated appropriately 
  • Ensuring the Department’s senior managers, including the HoD, are aware of significant risks and that there are suitable measures in place to control such risks adequately

Arrangements for Health and Safety

The Departmental arrangements for health and safety management are detailed on the safety pages on its website: Department members are required read and follow the guidance relevant to their work and obtain advice from the DSO in case of any issues. Please notify the DSO of any improvements needed to the published arrangements.

The members of the Department will be notified of changes to this guidance affecting their work.

Groups are responsible for keeping documents relating to their own work, for example, risk assessments for current research, and for communicating these to new members.


Professor MA Parker

Head of Department            

February 2017