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Lab Rules, Induction, Competence, Supervision

It should be clear in areas where practical/experimental research is being carried on responsibilities for that area and what the rules are for working in the space. All team members must be inducted in what the expectations are for working in that facility.

Where persons may be unfamiliar with the hazards, or have a lack of knowledge, experience (competence) in items of equipment, machinery or procedures, it is vital that training is carried out so that persons are not put at risk and so that they know what to do under 'normal', 'abnormal' or emergency situations. Any risk control methods must be clearly understood by all those working in the research space and be written down.

For high hazard areas, there should be greater information, instruction, training and supervision. There are likely to be engineering controls, warning systems, alarms, detectors, defined procedures, emergency arrangements and potentially rules around what personal protective equipment may need to be worn (and when/where this applies). There are likely to be specific persons in control and a high level of monitoring and supervision, particularly until persons are deemed competent. Record keeping and formal written documentation defining how risk management is achieved should be evident and where there are emergency instructions, these should be available in the research space for students and staff to refer to. Working out of hours or lone working may need to be duly considered within the risk assessment to determine whether this can be managed sufficiently, or whether additional controls, such as the introduction of a 'buddy system' should be considered.

As a Research Supervisor is it important that such rules are in place and that persons under your control or those entering the research space follow the rules established for the area and that:

  • team members are inducted into the laboratory or workshop;
  • safety devices and controls are used;
  • the risk assessment is suitable and its findings are acted upon;
  • that consideration is paid to others that may also need to enter the area, such as cleaners, contractors, Security staff or emergency services to ensure that they are not put at risk;
  • support is provided to the research students when questions are raised;
  • sufficient supervision is put into place;
  • good housekeeping is maintained;
  • rules are established for working out of 'normal' hours;
  • incidents, accidents and near misses are reported;
  • lessons are learnt following an incident and that measures are put into place to prevent a recurrence;
  • positive health and safety behaviour is encouraged - Research Supervisors should lead by example.

Refer to Laboratories, Workshops & Associated Stores for further information

Working in more than one department

Where you have a student conducting research in another Department it is critical that you establish how responsibilities will be shared so that the student is adequately supported. This is particularly relevant if they are conducting an element of their practical research in an area outside of your control. As per any practical based research, it is vital that the risks are clearly understood and controls are put into place to sufficiently manage the risks. However under these circumstances, a sharing of knowledge and experience may be necessary by both Research Supervisors and student to ensure that the controls are feasible and adequate, taking into consideration the environment, the facilities, the research, any materials needed, waste streams and any technical resources are available to support the student, etc. The research should not proceed until sufficient assurance can be gained including their level of supervisory support whilst working in the other department.

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