Safety Roles and Duties

This Section provides guidance on some of the key safety functions that may exist or be required within Schools, University Services or other management units.   Not all of the roles will be required in every unit as the nature of the work, the hazards and the management requirements will vary.   Heads of Unit should consider the need to appoint one or more members of staff to the support roles indicated and may well identify other tasks where appointment of other specialist safety coordinators may be beneficial to management of the unit.  Some example model duties are given within in the Appendices.

Heads of Management Unit, Line Managers and Research Group Leaders

Heads of College, Heads of School, Heads of Service and those in similar managerial positions are responsible to their line manager and ultimately to the University Court for the management of health and safety matters within their area of control, so far as these matters are under their control. This means that a Head of School will have a responsibility for the activities of the staff and students associated with the School but is NOT expected to be responsible for matters that fall to other units such as Estates.

As a general principle, the responsibility for management of the activities carried on within a unit in a safe manner should be delegated by the Head of Unit via the normal line management chain as an integral part of the management function.  By this principle, anyone within a unit who manages staff, organises work or controls resources in a supervisory role will be responsible for doing so in a safe and effective manner in their area.  The fundamental principle is that staff have responsibility only to the extent that they have control and where safety issues arise that are beyond a manager’s control, these should be raised via the line management system or to Estates where they affect the building or the wider campus.

Specialist functions

Heads of Unit will normally wish to appoint individual staff members to act in a coordinating, supporting and administrative role to assist in carrying out some of the functions associated with safety management within the unit.  Such staff may have particular expertise in the subject area, or (particularly with office areas) they may simply act as an administrative focus for certain aspects of the work within the unit. Some examples of specific safety roles are given below.

Where a safety role forms a substantial part of an individual's duties, this should be incorporated into the individual's job description so that it is recognised as a required task. This can be done as part of the P&DR process or by independent revision of a job decription.  Due account should be taken of existing responsibilities and workloads. Wherever possible, it is desirable to incorporate the safety role permanently into the functions of a particular post so that the role is built into the functions of the unit.

Safety Coordinators

Heads of Unit will normally wish to appoint one or more Safety Coordinators to assist them in setting up and operating the systems needed to ensure the safe running of the unit.  In some units the range of risks will be straightforward and a single general Safety Coordinator may be all that is required.  In other units, where there are diverse and specialised risks, additional specialist Safety Coordinators may be needed to develop safety management systems for these risk areas.  For example, the appointment of Chemical and Biological Safety Co-ordinators may be essential in units where work involving these types of hazards is undertaken.  In other areas staff focussing on mechanical, electrical or other physical risks may be more appropriate. In some cases a waste management specialist may be useful. In smaller units with low risk (such as offices) the duties may be retained by the local manager or could be assigned to an appropriate administrative post holder.

Although a dedicated post may be desirable in some larger units, in most cases the Safety Coordinator role will be undertaken by someone  who has other primary duties within the unit.  It is important that the safety functions of this individual are seen as a key part of the unit’s safety arrangement and as part of the individual’s job.  For these reasons, we recommend that the Safety Coordinator role be formally recognised and, ideally, included within the staff member’s job description.   Example duties of a Safety Coordinator are provided within the Appendix.

Fire Safety Coordinator and Depute

Although routine maintenance testing of fire alarm systems is carried out by Estates, there are other fire safety activities that need to be managed by those who occupy out buildings. This includes day-to-day monitoring of fire safety, staff training, scheduling and conducting fire drills. To allow effective management of these things, the University requires appointment of suitable staff to undertake local Fire Safety Coordinator (FSC) and Fire Warden (FW) roles.  (The FSC role is similar to the previous Area Fire Officer (AFO) role, but no longer includes weekly alarm testing in most on-campus buildings although this may still be required by specific agreement or on off-campus sites.)

Appointment of a Fire Safety Coordinator and Depute is normally for each University-managed building.  Where buildings are occupied by more than one unit, Heads of Unit should liaise with one another to make these appointments.  It may be sensible to appoint several Deputes who can represent the different occupancies or different parts of the building.

It is the responsibility of the Head of Unit to make these appointments and notify them to SEPS, both initially and on any staff changes. The University Fire Safety Advisors based within SEPS provide training and support to FSCs and will liaise with them on a routine basis on matters of fire safety management.  FSC duties are set out in more detail in Appendix 2 and include day-to day monitoring of escape routes and equipment, co-ordination of staff fire training and scheduling of fire drills.

Fire Wardens

In some of the larger or more complex buildings fire evacuation is more easily arranged with the support of a team of staff who are familiar with the building.  In these premises SEPS may seek the appointment of Fire Warden teams from amongst the staff who occupy the building. These individuals will provide assistance and support to the FSC and, where available will assist in fire drills and unplanned evacuations. Although safe evacuation does not rely on the presence of Fire Wardens, Heads of Unit should try to ensure that an adequate number of staff are trained in this role to provide a presence during normal opening hours, where this is reasonably practicable. Fire Warden training is provided by SEPS and Warden duties are indicated within Appendix 2.

First Aiders

The University is legally required to make suitable provision for providing first aid to staff and as part of its duty of care seeks to support students in a similar way.  In all buildings this will require the provision of first aid equipment and delegation of the task of keeping the equipment stocked to one or more named individuals.  In low risk areas this would provide a suitable baseline provision supported by call out of a qualified first aider via Security, if required. Such a level of provision may be suitable within a small office or low risk teaching environment. 

In more heavily occupied areas, and particularly where more hazardous work is carried out, more immediate access to qualified First Aiders may be desireable.  A realistic assessment of the need for First Aiders within a building should be made by each Head of Unit (assisted by the local safety committee or Safety Coordinator.  The avaiability of Security first aid support, including a SafeZone based first aider paging system can be taken into account. SEPS can provide input to this process.

Consideration should also be given to first aid needs when staff work away from the unit’s base, perhaps in other premises or in remote or overseas locations.

Radiation Protection Supervisors

The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999; Regulation 17 (4)  requires that one or more suitable persons must be appointed (in writing) as the local Radiation Protection Supervisor and their names noted in the local rules.  This is an example of a statutory appointment.

The duties of local Radiation Protection Supervisor are:-

  • Identification and registration of radiation workers
  • Distribution, collection and administration of dosimeters
  • Local training for radiation workers
  • Supervision of ‘Controlled’ and ‘Supervised’ radiation areas
  • Administration of classified radiation workers – annual medicals and dose reports
  • Record keeping – ordering, usage and disposal records
  • Local Rules and Prior Risk Assessments
  • Investigation of incidents