Departmental safety advisory committees

All departments must provide a forum for the discussion of health and safety matters and the University expects all major science, clinical and arts departments, as well as major museums and libraries to achieve this by setting up a functioning departmental safety advisory committee.  The forum must provide for input from all levels of employee and from student representatives.

There is a legal duty for heads of departments to consult with both the recognised trades union safety representatives and with non-trades union representatives on local matters.  Major matters of health and safety policy will be discussed at corporate level by the Consultative Committee for Health and Safety, with the responsibility for advising University Council resting with the Health and Safety Management Committee.

It is stressed that the nature of departmental safety advisory committees is advisory and their deliberations do not remove the day to day responsibility for health and safety from the head of department. Departmental safety advisory committees should be used as both discussion forums and reporting forums.

Guidance on the role and function of department safety advisory committees is as follows:

1.  Discussion of safety at departmental level is essential.  The size and complexity of a department is likely to dictate whether the consultation is formal within a departmental safety committee, or takes place within some other departmental discussion forum.  Whatever the arrangements are, it is important that there is an opportunity for an input from all staff within the department.  All large laboratory based science and clinical departments should have departmental safety advisory committees, which are separate from any other forum.  This also applies to major arts departments, museums and libraries.

2.  There should be input from postgraduate members, which is seen as essential in science and clinical departments.  Undergraduate representatives should also be given the opportunity to participate, where appropriate.

3.  Where trades union safety representatives have been appointed in departments, the law requires that they should be consulted on matters relating to safety in the department.           

Where departmental safety advisory committees are formed, trades union representatives within the department (safety or other) should be invited to be members.  The trades union representatives have asked that the invitations to their members to participate should be issued through their senior safety representatives.

4.  The frequency of meetings should be dependent on the volume of business to discuss.  For major science departments, termly meetings are seen as reasonable, whilst smaller, non‑science departments choosing to utilise departmental discussion forums might meet at least on an annual basis.        

5.  Departmental safety advisory committees are expected to review the implementation of new University health and safety policies and to review accident/incident reports forwarded to the Safety Office.  Other matters for discussion should include the results of departmental inspections and prior consideration of the introduction of new and significant risks.

6.  The head of department or his/her appointed deputy (departmental safety officer in this instance) is expected to chair the meetings of the departmental safety advisory committee.

7.  The agenda and papers should be forwarded to the University Safety Office, who must also receive minutes of the committees or discussion forums.  Copies of the minutes will be available on request to trades union safety representatives through the University Safety Office.           

8.  Where a head of department has not acted in accordance with the advice of his/her departmental safety officer or on a recommendation from a trade union safety representative, this matter should be explained at the departmental safety advisory committee.

THIS STATEMENT FORMS PART OF THE UNIVERSITY SAFETY POLICY.  UNIVERSITY GUIDANCE NOTE S6/86 IS WITHDRAWN.  PLEASE AMEND THE INDEX.

February 2001