Click here to generate a text only version of this page
Click here to go to the Birkbeck, University of London home page
Click here for help with using the Birkbeck web site
Health and Safety Services

Health and safety policy covering: Finance; Registry, Human Resources; External Relations; ITS, Planning; Master & Secretariat areas.

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

Directors/Heads of Section/Department
are responsible for the promotion of safety awareness, maintenance of safe working and the instruction and training of staff and students.

All matters concerning health & safety should be directed to the Safety Coordinators of the sections in the first instance. The Safety Coordinators are :

Finance Department - Lucy Fernandez
- Aisha Plentie
Human Resources - Paul Mills
External Relations - Imogen Dickinson
ITS - Dave Willcox
Master & Secretariat areas; BCSU & bar areas - Tom McCartney
Planning Business Processes - Kirsty Scanlan

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.

Risk Assessment - The sections are all essentially "office" type environments 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 Departmental Safety Coordinators can provide advice on Risk Assessment.

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.

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. It is not sufficient for a supervisor to assume that an act or manoeuvre is so manifestly dangerous that no-one would attempt it.

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

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.

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 sections. Staff 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 staff will direct any students and visitors 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.

Health Service - Staff and students of the College may be entitled to make use of the medical facilities provided by the University of London Central Institutions Health Service (20 Gower Street, WC1, Tel: 636 7628).

Accident and First Aid 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.

First Aid boxes are kept within departmental offices and at the reception desks of the main buildings.

A list of first-aiders can be found on the web at:

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.

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.

Use of Stepladders
Stepladders and stepstools must always be used to access materials on high shelves. Furniture should never be used as a substitute. Only '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 joins 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.

Transport of Cash - Large amounts of cash must always be transported by a team of at least two persons. The purpose of this being to discourage attempts at theft by numbers alone. However, no resistance should be offered to persons who threaten violence in any way. Where and when possible, transport routes and times should be varied. Guidance for reducing the potential for violence to staff in various circumstances is available from the College Safety Office.

Electrical Safety - The College has a Portable Electrical Appliance testing policy at that 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 the area safety coordinator who will arrange for the item to be visually inspected and electrically tested  as necessary.

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 written consent has been obtained from the College Estates Officer. Never leave a room heater running unattended other than for brief periods and certainly never overnight.

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:

Working in Server Room 110c
The lack of windows and the noise from the machines in this room - while not at a level to induce hearing loss - makes this area a somewhat unpleasant environment and staff are recommended to minimise the time they spend working in this room.  It is estimated that ITS staff only spend an average of 15 minutes in here at a time and therefore this can be taken as a good guide on the period after which staff should move outside for a short respite.  Persons working in the room must not leave cables trailing across circulation paths where they become trip hazards or at higher levels where they can be walked into.

Cable Installation etc
When cable installation work is being carried out by members of the section or contactors engaged by the section particular care must be taken to avoid electric shock and collision with other users of the College. To avoid the former always use a cable search device to check the route of electric wires situated within walls if drilling is necessary. To avoid the latter - follow the rules for stepladders below plus keep areas free from trip hazards - cordon off working areas if necessary or have a colleague direct other persons away from the work.

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 College Estates Officer immediately.

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

College 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.

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

Last updated February 2013

top of page

Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: