Birkbeck, University of London Health and Safety Services

Health and safety statement and arrangements for the School of Arts including:

The departments of English & Humanities; European Cultures & languages; History of Art & Screen Media; Iberian & Latin American Studies; Media & Cultural Studies.

1. This safety statement should be read in conjunction with the
Birkbeck Safety Policy.

2. The Executive Dean of the School, Professor Hilary Fraser, is responsible for and committed to the promotion of safety awareness, maintenance of safe working and the instruction and training of staff and students as are the Assistant Deans/Heads of Department and the School Manager, Verity Hutton. 

3. Staff and Management Level Meetings - As required by Governors, safety is a standing item at staff and management level meetings within the School and departments - see Birkbeck Safety Policy, section 3.4(6).

4. All matters concerning health & safety within the School should be directed to the appropriate area safety coordinator in the first instance. The school has designated 3 safety coordinators.  For the Department of European Cultures and Language, the Department of Iberian and Latin American Studies and the department of Media and Culture the Safety Coordinator is:  Jemma Stewart.  For the Department of English, the Safety Coordinator is: Anne-Marie Taylor.  For the Department of History of Art and Screen Media the Safety Coordinator is: Clare Thomas

5. College Health & Safety Officer - The College Safety Officer offers help and advice on any safety issue to all staff and provides safety training on a number of topics. Contact Tom McCartney, Extn 6218.

6. Legal Responsibilities of Staff - All College employees have a legal responsibility under Section 7 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 to take reasonable care of themselves and all others who may be affected by their acts and omissions and to co-operate with the College with regard to health & safety. All persons on College premises have a duty under Section 8 of the above Act not to interfere with or to misuse anything provided by the College in the interests of health and safety.

7. Risk Assessment - With the exception of the A.V. workshop on the 4th floor, the School accommodation is essentially an "office" type environment and their normal activities are low risk and are addressed by this document. However, no work outside the scope of this document will be permitted to start unless it is covered by a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks involved in the work as required by the Management of Health and Safety At Work Regulations. The College Safety Officer or School Safety Coordinator can provide advice on Risk Assessment.

8. Excessive Occupational Stress - Birkbeck has a policy and guidance on the management of occupational stress. See:   Essentially managers are required to assess the factors within their area of responsibility that can cause excessive occupational stress - workloads, individual staff capability, etc and minimise the risk from these where any are found to be likely to lead to ill health.  Staff also have a duty to flag up to their line managers the existence of factors that may be causing excessive occupational stress.

9. Supervision of Students - Supervisors of students or trainees have a special responsibility to ensure that fully adequate instructions, even those perhaps seemingly obvious or elementary, are given to their charges to protect them from danger. The need for detailed instruction and close supervision of students is especially important in practical exercises, particularly field expeditions. It is not sufficient for a supervisor to assume that an act is so manifestly dangerous that no-one would attempt it.

In return the School requires its students to observe instructions given by staff and to take reasonable care to ensure that their acts or omissions do not result in injury to themselves or others.

10. Safety on Study visits - Health & safety issues have been known to arise on visits abroad to museums and art galleries etc.  Guidance on how to ensure safety during such events is given here:

11. Procedure in Case of Fire - Instructions concerning procedure in the case of fire are prominently displayed at strategic points around the areas of the College occupied by the School. Staff and students should familiarise themselves with these procedures and also with the escape routes in all other areas of the College they visit. On hearing the fire alarm academic staff in charge of a class will direct their students to the nearest exits. The Duty Attendant is in charge of implementing the College's emergency evacuation procedures and may issue instructions to and request assistance from other members of staff.

Teaching which takes place on the premises of other institutions or in other Birkbeck buildings is subject to the fire procedures of those institutions and buildings.  Staff must make themselves familiar with these and adhere to them.

12.  Fire marshals - All staff are required to act as basic fire marshals by evacuating promptly and directing students and visitors to the nearest exits plus assisting with crowd control outside buildings.  In addition, a number of zone fire marshals are designated in each building to sweep areas or floors to ensure no one is left inside.  Zone fire marshals receive additional training. 

The zone fire marshals for Gordon Square are: Martin Shipway (2nd floor); Akane Kawakami (3rd floor); Ben Wood, room 414; Jo Winning room 204; Luis Trinadade (Room 403); Zoltan Biedermann (Room 117). 

13. Fire Risk Assessment - The Fire Risk Assessments for the buildings in Gordon Square impose certain restrictions on how the buildings can be used.  Essentially, fire doors must not be misused and no item may be placed in staircases or corridors without the permission of the College Fire Officer.  Check before posting notices or siting furniture that it is safe and legal to do so.  Unauthorised items may be removed without notice,.

14. Emergency Number 555 (See also the Arrangements section of the College Safety Policy) - The College emergency number can be dialled from any College telephone to summon help or report emergencies to a duty attendant who will summon help as appropriate from the emergency services or a member of staff.

15. Accident and First Aid (See also the Arrangements section of the College Safety Policy) - In the case of serious accident or illness, an ambulance should be summoned by telephone immediately. The duty attendant should be informed promptly to await its arrival and direct the ambulance crew to the casualty.

16. A list of trained First Aiders is available at:   First Aid boxes are kept at the main receptions of buildings.

17. All accidents or incidents and near misses must be reported promptly using an accident report form available at:   The completed form should be sent to Birkbeck Health & Safety Services. Any person may report an accident/incident.

18. Staff who suffer from epilepsy, diabetes, or any other condition likely to require urgent attention, are advised, in their own interest, to inform the Head of Section, in order that assistance may be rendered promptly if necessary.

19. Electrical Safety - The College has a Portable Electrical Appliance testing policy at that the school/departments must comply with.  In addition, should staff suspect any item of mains powered electrical equipment of being defective because of age, appearance or damage it must be taken out of service and reported to a local safety coordinator who will arrange for the item to be visually inspected and electrically tested as necessary.

20. Room Heaters - Because of the associated fire-risk, the use of any type of electrical or bottled-gas room heater is strictly prohibited unless prior approval has been obtained from the College Estates Officer. Never leave a room heater running unattended other than for brief periods and certainly never overnight.

21. Display Screen Equipment (DSE) - The College is committed to implementing the requirements of the Display Screen Equipment Regulations and to that end arranges for all its DSE workstations to be assessed for ergonomic and other aspects of safety as required by the regulations and to be used in a safe manner. The College has a number of staff trained in DSE workstation assessment.  To obtain the name of a DSE assessor see the list here or contact the area safety coordinator or the College Safety Officer. All staff are required to work through the interactive training package available via the following link: and read the College’s Display Screen Guidelines at:

22. Lifting and moving loads - The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 define manual handling as meaning, any transporting, supporting, lifting, putting own, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving of a load by hand or bodily force. All staff whose work involves an element of manual handling should have suitable training arranged for them to be delivered by the College Safety Officer.

23. Use of Stepladders
Stepladders and step-stools must always be used to access materials on high shelves. Furniture should never be used as a substitute. Only 'Trade' or 'Light Trade' rated ladders and stepladders must be purchased and used. 'Domestic' rated ladders and stepladders are never to be used in a working environment.

All ladders and stepladders should be marked with an identity number, and be inspected as part of the annual safety audit. Inspections should ensure that:
1. There are no defective or missing treads.
2. Uprights are sound and the steps do not lean to any side.
3. Welded and/or bolted joints are sound.
4. Wheels where fitted are free moving and not leaning off line.

Do and don'ts advice for stepladder users
Do not use a makeshift stepladder.
Do not overreach from a stepladder - always move it.
When working inside a room - Do not place the stepladder where it may be struck by doors - lock the doors and put up an appropriate sign or position a colleague outside in order that the steps are not struck by opening doors.
When working in circulation areas or outside where the steps might be struck by vehicles or passers-by - Barriers must be erected and doors secured.
Do take steps out of service and report defects if noticed.
Do wear sound footwear.
Do return the stepladder to its storage place after use.
Do leave one hand free when ascending and descending. Health and Safety Executive guidance (GS31) on the safe use of ladders, step-ladders and trestles is available from the Safety Office.
Do always ensure that stepladders are placed on a level and stable surface.
Do have a colleague steady the bottom of tall sets of stepladders to ensure stability.

24. Asbestos - Asbestos and asbestos-containing products encapsulated or paint-sealed and left undisturbed and undamaged presents no hazard. The mineral becomes a health hazard only when its fibres become airborne and are ingested. Since positive identification of asbestos requires expert microscopy, the advice of the College Safety Officer should be sought before attempting work on any material suspected of containing the mineral. It is most important that broken tiles, damaged lagging, or any exposed surfaces suspected of containing asbestos should not be disturbed but should be reported to the Buildings Officer, Extn 6111, immediately.

25. Annual Inspection -Each year, by the start of the new academic session, a health and safety inspection of each section must be arranged by the section's safety coordinator in collaboration with trades union nominees and a report on the inspection written up and submitted to the College Health and Safety Officer.

26. Review - This safety policy statement and any associated codes of practice will be updated annually or more often if necessary.

27. Last updated January 2013

Printed from:
Date printed: 16/10/2018