Risk Assessment Policy and Responsibilities


Risk assessment is a pivotal concept in health and safety risk management.  However, it is often seen as a bureaucratic or a complex process.  Neither is true.  Risk assessment is a valuable tool in preventing and controlling risks in the workplace, helping with the planning of work, the development of safety procedures and reducing the number of accidents in the workplace.  It is also a statutory requirement, and failure to comply leaves the University vulnerable to enforcement action with obvious financial costs in terms of fines and increased insurance premiums, as well as other harm, such as the loss of reputation and the effect on business and research continuity.  This University policy sets out the legal context of risk assessments and clarifies the risk assessment process for those required to undertake them.

Key requirements of the policy are:

  • All significant hazards must be risk assessed.
  • Risk assessments must be reviewed regularly.
  • Schools/areas must maintain a risk register, including key safety risks within the unit and, where practicable, should maintain a list of current risk assessments.
  • Everyone must take responsibility for, and take an active role in, the risk assessment process, including managers, academic supervisors, technicians, researchers etc.


University of Glasgow is committed to achieving and maintaining a high standard of health and safety for all employees, students and anyone else who may be affected by the University's activities. This is to be accomplished by:

  • The identification of all significant workplace hazards.
  • The identification of anyone who may be exposed to the hazards and how they may be harmed.
  • The evaluation of the risks to which employees, students and others are exposed.
  • The selection and monitoring of realistic, and proportionate and practical preventative control measures to ensure safety in the workplace.
  • The recording and regular review of assessments.
  • Risk assessments must be carried out by competent people, such as those with the necessary training, experience, knowledge, skill etc.

Risk assessments must be recorded, (hard copy or electronically), and must be accessible and available for reference.  The significant findings, e.g., control measures and action required, must be brought to the attention of those who may be affected by the work.  Risk assessments must be reviewed regularly.  The review period depends on the hazards associated with the activity, the level of risk associated with them, the number of people affected, length of time the activity takes and how often the activity is done etc.


University of Glasgow is a large and complex organization conducting a wide range of activities.  This policy document sets out how the University will identify and manage risks associated with all significant hazards associated with the University’s activities that may affect the health, safety and welfare of staff, students and others.


The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 impose a duty on employers to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments of all significant hazards in the workplace, to identify the risks to employees and those who may be affected by, or have a connection with, any work activity.  Where the risk assessment made under these regulations identifies significant specific hazards, such as hazardous chemicals, biological agents etc, then a risk assessment on those specific hazards may also need to be undertaken, under the auspices of more specific relevant legislation.  The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 are a well-known example, but many other pieces of safety legislation also require risk assessment.  This is covered within other policies or guidance.


The responsibilities of members of staff are listed below:

Heads of Schools and Services

  • Ensure suitable and sufficient risk assessments are completed by competent people (*See Note below).
  • SEPS staff will monitor arrangements as part of the rolling programme of Health and Safety Management audits at the Unit level and will assist Schools and Services by:
  • Draw up prioritised action plans and implement findings of risk assessments.
  • Ensure senior managers are aware of, and are provided with, sufficient resources for the implementation of any action plans.
  • Consult with, and involve, staff, safety representatives and student representatives (where appropriate) during the risk assessment process.
  • Ensure the findings of risk assessment are communicated to employees and others as appropriate.
  • Ensure employees work in accordance with findings of risk assessments and that they are appropriately informed, instructed, trained and supervised.
  • Ensure risk assessments are recorded and are kept available for inspection for their areas of responsibility.
  • Ensure risk assessments are reviewed regularly, e.g., after a case of ill health, an accident or near miss, where processes or personnel change, where legislation changes, where the risk assessment is considered no longer valid and where the review date has been reached.
  • Ensure key risks have been identified and risk assessments undertaken for such bodies of work/activities undertaken within the School/Service.

*(Note., In practice the task of carrying out risk assessments is usually delegated to those who are most familiar with the activity, project or equipment being assessed or to those who create the risk.  They may be line managers, academic supervisors or individuals directly involved in the work.  They will be best placed to understand the nature of the work and ensure that on a day-to-day basis, risks are adequately controlled. There should also be consultation with Trade Union safety representatives where necessary. Heads of Schools and Services should identify, in their local health and safety policy, which individuals or groups of individuals are responsible for carrying out risk assessments and for reviewing them. Arrangements should also be made for an appropriate risk assessment register to be maintained locally and available for inspection upon request.

Safety and Environmental Protection Service

  • Assisting with the identification and implementation of safe systems of work, when required.
  • Providing information on legal requirements, relevant standards and on good working practice to help inform risk assessments.
  • Providing general information and training on risk assessment via SEPS published guidance and through general and risk-specific training.
  • Developing and reviewing risk assessment policy, key procedures and standards documents.
  • Sampling the suitability and sufficiency of risk assessments.
  • Conducting audits.
  • Providing activity-specific advice, support and training.

Employees, Researchers and Students

  • Assist managers with the risk assessment process and carry out risk assessments where appropriate.
  • Work in accordance with safety procedures, standards, instructions and training and findings of risk assessments.
  • Inform line managers of any difficulties or concerns with work practices, defective equipment, the working environment or findings of risk assessments.
  • Advise line managers of any change in circumstances which may affect their ability to work safely, or which may affect the findings of risk assessments.
  • Make themselves fully aware of their responsibilities.
  • Report to management any personal conditions which may put them at greater risk when carrying out work activities.
  • Report to a responsible person any problems relating to their work activities along with any shortcoming they believe exist in the arrangements made to protect them.

Signing off Risk Assessments

Risk assessments should be checked and signed off by managers, academic supervisors, principal investigators or senior technicians, as appropriate to the context of the work, to indicate that all significant hazards have been identified and that appropriate control measures will be used.  Although research students can usefully be involved in the preparation of risk assessments, the assessment must be verified and signed off by an authorised person as described above.  The Head of School / Service should indicate how assessments will be carried out within the relevant School etc, e.g., who is responsible for carrying out assessments and/or signing them off.  All risk assessments for work with Genetically Modified Organisms must additionally be approved by a University Genetic Modification Safety Committee and where relevant, notified to the enforcing authority and necessary permission obtained prior to work commencing.

Monitoring Risk Assessments

While the quality of the assessment is primarily the responsibility of those carrying out the assessment, those assessments which clearly do not address all the significant hazards, should be returned by the person checking the assessment for further consideration. Managers, academic supervisors, principal investigators or other designated safety personnel should check at least annually that they have copies of assessments for all relevant work.  They should monitor that risks are adequately controlled in practice and that written risk assessments are being carried out where necessary.  In essence, management must ensure that risk assessments are in place and are suitable and sufficient.  This could be done during routine safety inspections or audits, where spot checks could be made.  The manager, academic supervisor or principal investigator, should check that project risk assessments are in place before work starts.  This could be carried out during induction safety training for new staff and research students.


Risk Assessment
A careful examination of what in your work could cause harm to people, so you can weigh up whether you have taken adequate precautions or need to do more to prevent harm.

Something with the potential to cause harm, including ill health, injury, loss of product and/or damage to plant and property e.g., hazardous chemicals, biological material, trip hazards, manual handling etc.

Injury, ill-health to people or to the environment, including other adverse effects on the University or on the wider community.

Control Measures
Preventative and precautionary measures used to reduce or control risks arising from identified hazards.