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Health and Safety Services

Health and safety policy for the School of Psychology

Professor Mike Oaksford, Head of the School of Psychology, regards health and safety as a core management function and this code is issued with his authority. The code is for the information and guidance of all staff and students who work in the School of Psychology. Reference should also be made to the "College Statement of Safety Policy".

Members of the School are normally expected to consult the School Safety Co-ordinator on matters of safety, but information and advice on general or specific safety problems may also be sought directly from the College Safety Office

Departmental Safety Co-ordinator: Harish Patel
Safety Co-ordinator for 32 Torrington Square: TBC
Safety Co-ordinators for the Henry Welcome Building: Susan Nicholas; Leslie Tucker

The College Health & 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.

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 Management of Health and Safety Regulations requires all work activities to be subject to a suitable and sufficient Risk Assessment. No work outside the scope of this document may be carried out without such a risk assessment. The School Safety Coordinator 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. Supervisors of undergraduates and recent graduates are cautioned particularly against overestimating the practical skills and experience of their students.

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. Students should not undertake tasks beyond their own expertise, without supervision by an individual known to have the required experience or expertise.

Guidance on Conducting Social Research - Guidance on projects involving the interviewing of subjects and conduct of home visits can be found at:

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 School. 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 and take them well away (100 metres) from buildings. Fire instructions for students and visitors can be downloaded from the Safety Office webpage and issued to new students.

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 and dental facilities provided by the University of London Central Institutions Health Service (20 Gower Street, WC1, Tel: 0207 636 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 that the department 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 Departmental 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 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 School safety coordinator or the College Safety Officer. All DSE "users" are required to work through the interactive training package available via the following link: or refer to the College’s Display Screen Guidelines at:

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.

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 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.

Homeworking - The Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues employs staff who are required to work at home. Managers have a responsibility for the safety at work of these employees just as if they were based in the College. Birkbeck has a policy on Homeworking that must be implemented for this group of staff. See

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 Buildings Officer immediately.

Solitary or Unsupervised Working - No person may work alone in a laboratory or workshop without the prior approval of the School Safety Officer. Undergraduates may only work in laboratories when the member of staff responsible for the class is present or on call within the School. Guidance for reducing the potential for violence to staff in various circumstances is available from the College Safety Office.

Workshop Safety: As with all work equipment, workshop equipment must be used in accordance with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (1997). Advice on these regulations is available from the College Safety Office. Personal Protective Equipment such as eye protection must be worn in grinding and drilling operations. Millers, lathes and drills may only be used by those who have had proficiency clearance by the Departmental Superintendent.

C.O.S.H.H. Regulations - All work using Substances Hazardous to Health must be covered by an up-to date assessment form prepared by a relevant members of the technical or academic staff. Where appropriate, staff should also complete an Annual Follow-up Health Surveillance Questionnaire. Advice on all aspects of COSHH is available from the College Safety Office.

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.

Review - These safety arrangements and any associated codes of practice will be reviewed and updated annually or more often if necessary.

Last updated February 2013

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