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Risk Assessment (other Academic Departments)

This slideshow explains where the concept of risk assessment comes from and why risk assessment is so important to everything that we do.

Slide 1 - Risk assessment should prevent incidents, accidents and near misses occurring at the University. As a Research Supervisor, you are in a position that places responsibility to ensure that health and safety is being considered in all aspects of the work under your control.

It is recognised that alot of the research that the University conducts actually involves very little risk; working at a computer may be the most significant hazard for some and for those that need support in this area guidance on how to work with a computer is available for staff and students. But in some cases, you may have to consider other risk factors - someone who works on their own may be at risk because the activity that they are doing could introduce harm, or because the environment where and/or time when they are working could make them more vulnerable. For this, it would be necessary for you as a Research Supervisor to question actually whether it is necessary for that person to work on their own as an initial starting point and if it is, then to analyse whether measures should be put into place to safeguard that person, then ensure that these steps are taken. Other examples include work involving contact with the public (or animals), carrying out fieldwork or visits taking place outside of the University, perhaps even overseas, work involving some use of chemicals and certain projects that stray into other research areas (crossing into the biological, chemical, medical, engineering, environmental or other area for example). Despite the latter sounding a bit extreme, it has been known for research to do this!! So, if you have a research student that wishes to stray into these areas, it doesn't mean that they cannot do this, it may just mean that additional considerations and potentially approvals need to be made beforehand. If this does ever apply, the Science and Engineering Risk Assessment webpages should help to point you in the right direction. Where necessary you can also seek the additional advice of an Advisor from the Health and Safety Department.

As well as a host of health and safety legislation, there may be sector guidance, national or international standards, codes of conduct, ethical considerations, accreditation standards and University Policies and Procedures that need to be complied with. Ensure that you verify what these are as part of the planning process before conducting your research or putting forward or supporting a research bid. A range of University Topic Guidance is available to support you as a Research Supervisor and those you are supervising.

In terms of health and safety legislation, although there are many pieces of statute, (some of which is shown in Slide 2), the common denominator is that all require some form of risk assessment. Well planned research should identify hazards, evaluate risks and should introduce controls to bring the risks down to an acceptable level. Where the risks are considered ‘significant’ there must be documentation that verifies what is required to be put ito place, how the work will be conducted, by who and where, and suitable records should be maintained as appropriate. Your Department may have their own preferred method for recording this where this applies. Departmental, Local Rules or standard procedures already in place should initially be checked to verify if these are already sufficient before generating any new documentation. If they are, then simply reference to these whilst ensuring that you and/or the students are following the necessary precautions would be appropriate. If not, then it would be expected for written information to be prepared and agreed by you as Research Supervisor.

Risk management plays a vital role in the workplace so it is important that students establish sound practices whilst at the University. It should not just be considered as a method for preventing incidents. Good risk management should also consider financial and business risks covering business continuity and emergency planning. Making sure those that could be affected by the research are informed of the risks (and ensuring that the risks are adequately controlled) should not only keep people safe, but should help the University meet its own expectations (slide 3). Similarly eliminating poor safety behaviour is vital if the University is to ensure a positive health and safety culture. Staff at any level should be prepared to tackle this to raise standards.

Slide 4 summarises the key points for consideration when planning a research activity.

To provide an example, typical risk management measures that would be expected to be considered by a Researcher when planning to meet a member of the public for interview purposes is provided, see Safety Consideration example. As Research Supervisor, it is important that this work is carried out appropriately before the work takes place, that you are comfortable with the measures to be put into place and that the risk management approach is carried through.

Separate information has also been put together for those that need to supervise students conducting research off campus or out in the field. Please follow this link if you are supervising students engaged in this type of research.

Please continue through the training to Establishing rules, Induction, Competence, Supervision once you have finished reading this page.