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Health and Safety Services

Health & Safety statement and arrangements for the School of Social Science, History & Philosophy including:

The departments of Social Policy & Education; Psychosocial Studies; Applied Linguistics & Communication; Geography, Environment & Developmental Studies; History, Classics & Archaeology; Philosophy; Politics.

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

2. The Executive Dean of the School, Professor Miriam Zukas,
is committed to and responsible for 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, Jill Entwistle.

3. Staff Meetings
- As required by Governors, safety will be a standing item at all School and departmental staff meetings - see Birkbeck Safety Policy, section 3.4(6).

4. All matters concerning health & safety within the Faculty should be directed to the area safety coordinators in the first instance.  Paula Fortune acts as safety coordinator for 30 Russell Sq .  Sarah Banks acts as safety coordinator for 25/26 Russell Square.  Jana Kakosova  acts as safety coordinator for 27/28 Russell Sq. Tina Rouse acts as safety coordinator for Geography. Irene Breckon acts as safety coordinator for Politics.  Robert Brown acts as safety coordinator for Philosophy.

5. College Safety Officer and Fire 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 'field' activities of the departments of history and geography, the departments covered by this document are essentially "office" type environments and its 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 area safety coordinators or the College Safety Officer can provide advice on Risk Assessment.

8. Fieldwork -  Relevant members of the School will be aware that a number of students in UK universities have been injured while undertaking field work projects.

8a. Archaeological Fieldwork - Suitable and sufficient risk assessments must be carried out for all archaeological field work projects. Copies of the manual for health and safety in Field Archaeology published by the Federation of Archeological Managers and Employers (FAME, formerly SCAUM),  are available from the College Safety Officer as is further guidance on risk assessment and student projects overseas.  All students participating in fieldwork must be issued with copies of the project risk assessment and code of practice for each project.  All staff and students participating in fieldwork are required to be familiar with the project risk assessment and code of practice and adhere to them.

8b. Geographical Fieldwork - All members of parties undertaking field work will be issued with Risk Assessment statements based on the College's standard Fieldwork Risk Assessment Form. All instructions or recommendations contained in these risk assessments must be followed.

9. 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.

10. 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 or manoeuvre is so manifestly dangerous that no-one would attempt it.

In return students are required 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.

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 other institutions and 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 buildings of Birkbeck College is subject to the fire
procedures in 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 all occupants are aware of the alarm and that they should be leaving the building.  Zone fire marshals receive additional training.  The College Safety Officer maintains a list of zone fire marshals.

13. Fire Risk Assessment - The Fire Risk Assessments for the buildings in Gower Street, Tavistock Square and Russell Square impose certain restrictions on how the buildings may 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.

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

15. 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. 

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

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

20. 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. Sarah Banks, Nina Dartford, Shirley Collins, Simmi Pahwa, Kevin Smith and Andrew Silverman act as DSE Assessors.  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:

21. 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 be required to attend a session on risk assessment and safe lifting delivered by the College Safety Officer.

22. 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' 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 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.

23. 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.

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

25. Last updated January 2013

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