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Health and Safety Services

Health and safety policy for the Library


Safety Co-ordinator
Safety Group
Risk assessment
Emergency number
Panic buttons
Fire instructions - Malet Street Library
Health service
Accidents and first aid
Electrical safety
Display screen equipment
Step ladders
Annual inspection
Review of the Safety Policy

Health and safety policy for Library & Media Services


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

• Heads of Section are responsible for the promotion of safety awareness, maintenance of safe working and the instruction and training of their staff.

• All matters concerning health and safety should be directed to the Safety Coordinators of the sections in the first instance. The Safety Coordinator for Library and Media Services is: Philip Payne, Library, Malet St, ext 6250

• This policy is made under the authority of the Director of Library & Media Services  and has his/her full support.

• All Library and Media Services staff have a responsibility for safety and are expected to implement the procedures, practices and guidance set out in the policy. Line managers are responsible for ensuring that members of staff receive safety training and are aware of safety issues. Safety problems and potential risks should be raised with the Safety Coordinator or a member of the Safety Group (see below). The Group comprises members from each site and includes at least one  member of the Training Group which plans training and development events for staff. Library and Media Services staff will be alerted to safety issues via staff meetings, Grapevine (weekly newsletter) or all Library & Media Services staff emails.

• This policy covers the public areas of Library and Media Services as well as the staff areas.

Safety Group: Library & Media Services also has a small Safety Group which meets at least annually and more often if necessary, particularly during periods of building work. The remit of the Group is:

• to discuss safety issues

• to develop (where appropriate) and review risk assessments

• to organise, review and act upon annual safety inspections

• to monitor whether remedial action has been taken following cases of accident and ill health

• to contribute to the setting of safety objectives for the Department 

• to develop a safety plan for the year ahead

• to review the effectiveness of the safety plan

• to review and revise the Library & Media Services safety policy

Current members of the Group are:  Chiara Barontini, Emma Blakey,  Martin Draper, Sue Godsell, , Graeme Holdaway, John Mason, Florence McNally and Philip Payne.

Legal responsibilities of staff:
All Birkbeck employees have a legal responsibility under Section 7 of the Health and 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 their employer with regard to health and safety. All persons on Birkbeck premises have a duty under Section 8 of the above Act not to interfere with or to misuse anything provided in the interests of health and safety.

Risk assessment: Library & Media Services is essentially an "office" type environment. 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 Safety Coordinator and members of the Safety Group 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.

Emergency number 555 - The Birkbeck emergency number can be dialled from any Birkbeck telephone to summon help or report emergencies to a duty attendant who will call emergency services if appropriate or send a member of staff.

Panic buttons - There are panic buttons at the Library admissions/ issue counter and Library help desk at Malet Street. These alert the attendants at Reception at the  site.

General procedure in case of fire: Instructions concerning procedure in the case of fire are prominently displayed at strategic points around Birkbeck. Staff should familiarise themselves with these procedures (given below) and also with the escape routes in all other areas of Birkbeck they visit. On hearing the fire alarm Birkbeck staff will direct any students, staff 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.

If you discover a fire immediately operate the nearest fire alarm call point. There are a large number around the Library. Make sure that you are already acquainted with their location. The Duty Attendant will immediately call the fire brigade when the Alarm sounds.

When able to do so safely, you can offer information to the Duty Attendant - location, cause of fire, doors/alarms not functioning etc.. Only after you have raised the alarm should you consider attacking the fire with an appropriate extinguisher but only if you are confident that you know what you are doing. Never take personal risks!!

All alarms are to be treated as genuine emergencies and steps taken to evacuate immediately.

After evacuation, Library & Media Services staff based at Malet Street should gather at the side of  the Senate House Library car park, adjacent to the Council Room, but well way from the Malet Street Building. Staff based at Egmont House should gather on Judd Street  (Tavistock Place side) well away from Egmont House. 

Specific Procedures for evacuating the Malet Street Library:
All library staff [including shelvers] will be trained in library evacuation procedures

In the event of a fire alarm sounding:

1. A tannoy announcement will be made to encourage users to evacuate the Library by the nearest fire exit.

2. Library staff working on the Issue Desk on the Ground Floor will assist in clearing the entrance/lobby area of existing occupants and direct persons, coming down to the Ground Floor from the upper Library floors, to the exits.

3. Library staff working on the Issue Desk on the Ground Floor will assist in clearing the entrance/lobby area of existing occupants and direct persons coming down from the Library via the new entrance stairs to the exits.

4. Library staff, including shelvers, present on other floors will assist in evacuation of Floors 1, 2, 3, and 4.

5. No-one should put themselves at risk if library users refuse to leave the Library.  Library staff should simply report such situations to the Duty Attendant at Malet Street main reception and later - try to identify these persons to the Health and Safety Officer or Library managers. Identified offenders may have their library privileges withdrawn.

6. Library staff should report the location of anyone they know has refused to leave or is trapped in the Library to the Duty Attendant.

7. Should a member of Library staff come across a wheelchair user they should offer them every assistance - this will usually only mean checking that their presence has been reported to main reception via 555 and information on the actual level of risk has been received before remaining with them in a refuge area until the all clear is given.  If evacuation is ever necessary via evacuation lifts and/or evacuation chairs this will be advised and assistance provided.

8. On leaving the building, all library staff should gather in the Senate House car park adjacent to the Council Room.

Disabled Evacuation procedures at Malet Street Library:

* 1.      Wheelchair users will be given PEEPS (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans) in order that they know where to go in the event of an evacuation and how to summon assistance and advise others of measures to be taken for their evacuation - if that should prove necessary.

* 2.      Telephones are installed in the refuge areas (lobbies off the Library floor exits) in order that wheelchair users can summon assistance/obtain information for themselves if necessary.  However, should a member of Library staff come across a wheelchair user they should offer them every assistance - this will usually only mean remaining with them until the all clear is given.

* 3.      The internal lift in the Library must not be used in an emergency. Any students with mobility problems that are unable to evacuate via the stairways* should be instructed to proceed to the refuge areas behind the fire exit doors at each end of levels 2-4 and wait there for assistance from the emergency services or trained College staff. Such persons on level 1 should be directed to the landing of either staircase A (main stairs) or staircase C (central stairs) and wait there for assistance from the emergency services or trained College staff.

* 4.      A member of staff should then carry a message to main reception to the Duty Attendant as to the presence of any person waiting in a refuge area. These all have location names posted in them e.g. - Library Exit, Stair A -Level 2. If there are two members of staff, one can (i.e. 'can' not 'must') wait with the student/user while the other takes the message.

* 5.      If there is no one to wait with the disabled person then he/she should have the situation explained to them - that they are in a place of relative safety (surrounded by fire doors), that the fire brigade or trained College staff will be with them in a very few minutes to evacuate them and that you are going to go directly to the main reception and tell the Duty Attendant to arrange this. The disabled person will then have to be left alone in the refuge area while you carry the message. This is a standard procedure and there is no practical alternative at this time.

* 6.      If a Library user has a disability that could delay their recognition of or response to the fire alarm, the College Health and Safety Officer should be informed. He will then arrange to meet with them to discuss a personal emergency evacuation plan that will include explaining all of the above to them.

* this is likely only to be wheelchair users. Other persons with restricted mobility e.g. heavily pregnant women, the elderly/frail or persons on crutches etc should be kept at the side of a staircase landing until any dense crowd has passed then make their way down. Meanwhile a message should be sent ahead to the Duty Attendant regarding their situation and location.

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, 020 7636 7628).

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.

Lists of Qualified First Aiders and first Aid boxes are kept within the main offices of the section and at the reception desks of the main buildings.

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.

Electrical Safety: The College has a Portable Electrical Appliance testing policy at .  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 Lead AV Technician of Media Services 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 Director of Planning and Estates . 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 their 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, staff should contact the Library & Media Services safety coordinator or the College Safety Officer. Current assessors are Emma Blakey, Outi Jokharju,and Alison Bernard.

All DSE "users" are required to attend a training session in the "best practice" use of DSE equipment, or to undertake the training at Please refer to the College's Display Screen Guidelines, copies of which are obtainable from the PA to the College Secretary.

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 will be required to attend a session on risk assessment and safe lifting delivered by the College Safety Officer. Staff who suspect they might be pregnant should inform the Librarian immediately, so their duties can be adjusted.

Stepladder safety:

Use of Stepladders

Where stepladders are used by a/v staff for or by contractors for installation of ceiling equipment, there should always be someone at the base of the steps to hold them steady.

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  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.

Dust: Dust masks are available for staff who need them for working in stores or other dusty areas. They can be obtained from the Library & Media Services Administrative Officer.

Events.  Where the Media Services team are involved in public events, at least 30 minutes should be allowed before the public arrive for setting  up the equipment and to ensure that all cabling is either in rubber conduits or taped down.  A full risk assessment should be undertaken for all large events taking place off the College’s own premises.   

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, Ext 6218.

Review: This safety policy statement and any associated codes of practice will be updated annually or more often if necessary. Safety is a standing item at all general staff meetings in the Department .

Robert Atkinson, Director of Library & Media Services

February 2013

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