Where there are identified risks connected with any research or the environment in which the research is taking place it should be clear to all of those involved (and to others that could be affected by the research) what the rules are for working in the space, completing the work required or working with those actually engaged in the research. All persons should also be inducted in what the expectations are from the outset.
Where persons could be unfamiliar with the risks, or have a lack of knowledge, experience (competence) in the working methods or procedures, or any equipment needed, 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' or emergency situations. Any risk control methods must be clearly understood and documented.
The greater the risks, the more information, instruction, training and supervision should be provided. There may need 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 if working in a higher hazard area or if engaged in a high hazard activity. There may need 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 if this is relevant to the area of research. 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. An example of what could be considered for a typical research scenario involving students working on their own is provided, Safety Consideration example.
As a Research Supervisor is it important that suitable measures are in place for persons under your control with greater attention and effort paid to those engaged in research of higher risk.
Rules may need to be established for working out of 'normal' hours if research is of high risk or the work needs to take place in an area of high risk.
All those engaged in research must be aware of the need to report incidents, accidents and near misses. It is important that as a Research Supervisor 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!
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 research in an area outside of your control. As for any work activity, it is vital that any significant hazards are identified 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 they will work in, its facilities, the research, any materials needed, and perhaps even any technical resources 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.
Now Test Your Knowledge with our short quiz.