Health & Safety Law and Duties

The main responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of workers and for reducing risks to others affected by work activities (including members of the public) rests on employers (Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974). 

The University

Those general duties placed on the University, through the Health and Safety at Work Act, are expanded further by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. These Regulations include the requirement for employers, the University and its Colleges and Departments, to:

  • Assess the work-related risks faced by employees, and by people not in their employment (students, visitors, contractors).
  • Have effective arrangements in place for planning, organising, controlling, monitoring and reviewing preventive and protective measures.
  • Appoint competent persons to help carry out the measures needed to comply with health and safety law.
  • Provide employees with comprehensible and relevant information on the risks they face and the preventive and protective measures that control the risks.

Where a ' body corporate' (the University) commits a health and safety criminal offence, and the offence was committed with the consent or connivance of, or was attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the 'body corporate', that person (as well as the body corporate) is liable to be proceeded against and punished (Section 37, Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974).

The Vice-Chancellor

The Vice-Chancellor is the most Senior Manager at the University and therefore has a significant legal obligation to implement legislation and appropriate health and safety controls at the University.

The Vice-Chancellor, as Chief Executive Officer of the University, has overall responsibility (to the University Council) for the promotion, administration and implementation of the University's Health and Safety Policy and is assisted by the Executive and the Health and Safety Task Group.

The Dean of College / Head of Department

Deans of Colleges and Heads of Departments are considered as Senior Managers of the University and therefore have legal obligations to implement legislation within their own College / Department.

Deans of Colleges / Heads of Departments must prepare a specific College / Departmental health and safety policy which complement the University's Health and Safety Policy.  They must ensure this policy is communicated to all staff and that there are organisations and arrangements in place to implement it.

All Staff, Students and Others

Each member of staff has a legal duty (under Section 7 of the 1974 Act) to cooperate with his / her employer in all matters pertaining to health and safety and to report health and safety concerns. Similarly, students, contractors and members of the public have a legal duty (under Section 8 of the 1974 Act) to not put others at risk by their actions and to not interfere with anything provided in the interests of health and safety.

Punishments and Investigations

If something did happen the consequences on you, your colleagues and the University will vary dependent upon the nature and seriousness of the incident and whether any injuries were sustained or damage occurred.  Other factors that will also be taken into account are: if it could have been more serious; if there was publicity; staff / student concern or the incident was reportable to the HSE.

Health and Safety Services must report certain incidents and injuries to the HSE. Therefore, all accidents and incidents must be reported as soon as possible to Health and Safety Services so this legal reporting obligation can be met.

HSE Involvement

If the HSE has taken an interest in, or is formally investigating an incident, contact with the HSE will normally be through Health and Safety Services and, where appropriate, University Solicitors. Health and Safety Services will explain what is happening, what may occur and will ensure the University is cooperating fully with the Inspectors.

Any member of staff, student or member of the public may be interviewed by the HSE Inspector(s); this can be as a 'witness' to an event (you need not have seen the event to be a witness as you may be a 'witness' to how systems were implemented), what control systems were in place and how safety was / is being managed etc. From this interview a witness statement will be agreed and signed by the interviewee. 

However, if the Inspector(s) think a person may be implicated in the incident they may interview the person and anybody else under 'caution' as a suspect - as per the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

An interview 'under caution' is similar to a Police interview, where the interviewee will be read their rights and the interview, in most cases, is taped etc. In such circumstances the University will provide, if required, a Solicitor. Such interviews are rare though, and usually only occur following serious incidents and where a person is thought to be directly implicated in the cause of the incident.

Obstructing an HSE Inspector or an investigation in any way whatsoever is a criminal offence.

The HSE will decide, sometimes in liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service, whether to prosecute or whether other sanctions are appropriate eg an Improvement Notice, a Prohibition Notice, a formal caution or warning.  They may even withdraw all together if they are satisfied with your controls and actions.

Police Involvement

Where the incident is serious enough (mainly deaths, violence or road traffic) the Police will often take the lead in an investigation, working closely with the HSE if the incident is work or University related. Formal contact and liaison with the Police will normally be through the Registrar's Office, however the Police will often contact and interview witnesses and suspects without notifying you or the University. In such circumstances, the University will provide a Solicitor for those members of staff being interviewed or investigated.

Press and Public Enquiries

All dealings with members of the Press and Public should be directed through the Director of Corporate Communications and Marketing and / or his staff. 

HSE Reportable Accidents and Incidents

Most accidents and incidents reported to the HSE will be investigated further by Health and Safety Services. This may be in the form of a site inspection and interviewing witnesses, or, through a desk top assessment of relevant paperwork. Where appropriate, a report will be produced on such incidents and this will be provided to the HSE upon request.

All Accidents and Incidents

All accidents and incidents must be investigated by your College / Department to identify any improvements that can be made to prevent similar incidents from happening again. We must all learn from incidents, and to do that we must understand what went wrong and why - true causation is often found beyond the obvious and may be an indicator of a wider issue. Where an HSE Investigation is imminent the College / Departmental Investigation will be held in abeyance until otherwise directed by Health and Safety Services.

A copy of your College / Departmental accident / incident investigation report must be forwarded to Health and Safety Services for all accidents / incidents.

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