Risk Assessments

The School has a duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and other legislation to undertake assessments of its work activities in order to identify significant risks, and determine what measures are required to manage these risks. The School's procedure on risk assessment can be found here. There is a risk assessment template which can be used.

For risk assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to the government guidance on Working Safely.

Some risk assessments, such as fire, legionella, etc, will be undertaken on a School-wide basis and coordinated by the Estates Division. Others will need to be undertaken on a local basis, such as 'manual handling' or 'display screen equipment' assessments.

Departmental managers in academic departments and heads of division in central administration are charged with ensuring that risk assessments are undertaken in the areas for which they are responsible. The Health and Safety Team arrange training courses for those carrying out or participating in risk assessments: these can be booked via the Training System.

Any occupational health and safety risk assessment should follow the process set out below:

  1. Identify significant hazards, i.e. factors with potential to cause harm, arising from a work activity
  2. Identify who can be harmed and how
  3. Assess the risk, i.e. the likelihood of the harm being realised
  4. Decide what measures need to be taken to eliminate, reduce or control the risk to an acceptable level
  5. Implement the control measures and make sure all those involved in or affected by the work activity are aware of what must be done to control the risk. This includes, where appropriate, contractors, students etc
  6. Keep the assessment under review to ensure that the control measures are working as planned

When deciding what must be done to control a particular risk, assessors must have regard to what is called the 'hierarchy of risk control' or the principles of prevention, which in practice means the following:

  • Trying to avoid giving rise to the risk in the first place by avoiding the activity or doing the work in a different way
  • Combating the risk at source, e.g. repairing defective flooring rather than posting warning notices
  • Adapting the work to the requirements of the individual rather than making the individual adapt to suit the work, e.g. position work equipment so that it can be accessed without awkward stretching
  • Utilising technical progress, e.g. where possible introduce mechanical aids that remove the need for excessive lifting, carrying
  • Giving priority to measures that protect the whole workplace, eg remove processes that give rise to dust rather than issue dust masks
  • Protective clothing should be considered the last resort, where the risk cannot be controlled by any other means

The risk assessment should be reviewed at regular intervals, or when circumstances change that may cause the original assessment to be invalid, such as changes in personnel, work patterns, or work equipment.

Further guidance and sample templates are available on the Health and Safety Executive's website.


Special considerations

When assessing who can be harmed by a particular work activity, special consideration must be given to individuals that fall into the following categories:

  1. Female workers of child-bearing age
  2. Pregnant or nursing mothers
  3. Young persons under the age of 18

Assessing the risks to female workers of child-bearing age

Because in many cases an individual may not know they are pregnant until the pregnancy has advanced a number of weeks, general risk assessments for activities must take account of any hazards such as exposure to radiation, vibration, tetrogenic chemicals or microbiological hazards, or excessive physical exertion, that could have an adverse impact on an individual's ability to conceive or affect the development of the foetus. It is unlikely that work activities undertaken by the School will result in exposure to any of these hazards. However, managers need to be aware of the requirements of the management regulations and should contact the health and safety team if they have any queries.

Pregnant or nursing mothers

When an employee notifies her manager that she is pregnant, has recently given birth or is a nursing mother, the manager must review all risk assessments relating to work or tasks undertaken by the employee, to ensure that the mother or child is not placed at risk. 

Pregnant members of staff are encouraged to read the Tips for Expectant Mothers (PDF) and to talk to their line managers if they have any concerns. The Health and Safety team will not carry out assessments for expectant mothers as a matter of routine, but will see them if problems cannot be resolved locally.

Assessing the risks to young persons

Where a person under the age of 18 is employed or undertaking work experience, a risk assessment needs to be undertaken in order to identify any risks to their health or safety that may arise as a consequence of their immaturity, lack of experience or absence of awareness of risks.  In office and low risk environments the manager or staff member supervising the trainee can use the model risk assessment form (Word). But if the work involves working at heights, use of machinery or tools or chemicals the Supervisor must contact the Health and Safety team to arrange  for a risk assessment to be undertaken.

A copy of the risk assessment should be given to the person's parent or guardian.