Health, Safety and Wellbeing

Frequently Asked Questions

Dear Colleague,

Thank you for visiting the FAQ’s which are intended as a guide for finding out more information on a specific area under OHS. The list is not exhaustive and is focused on the most commonly and frequently asked questions that SEF Quality, Safety and Health respond to.

The UoS website is also available for further information and advice. In addition the Health and Safety Executive website (   contains OHS advice for employers in both private and public sectors and is a very good source of information and advice.

Fire Safety

  • I’ve needed to use a fire extinguisher to assist my escape from a building, who should I report this to?
    • If the fire alarm has been activated, the Security team is already aware of the fire and will be attending your location imminently, please report it to the officer
    • Students – report the use to your Residential Advisors / Building Manager who will arrange a replacement
    • University/SEF Staff – report the fire to their Service Manager to log the incident and arrange a replacement


  • Where can I get new fire fighting equipment from?
    • SEF manage a contract with a fire fighting equipment supplier to cover all fire fighting equipment replacement and servicing.  All replacements should be purchased through the contract.  Contact the Service Centre on 7777 or to arrange a replacement


  • Who pays for new fire fighting equipment?
    • The university pays for all fire fighting equipment, however if a person is found to have inappropriately used an extinguisher (e.g. in a non-fire situation), the individual could be billed for the misuse of life saving equipment.


 Accidents & First Aid

  • I’ve had an accident, who should I report it to?
    • If you require first aid, dial 3333 from an internal phone to speak to Security. They will then dispatch a first aider to your location and coordinate ambulance attendance where required
    • If you do not require first aid, ensure that your health and Safety coordinator / line manager is made aware of the accident as they will need to report and investigate


  • I need medical help, what do I do?
    • Dial 3333 from an internal telephone as above
    • The medical centre is available for walk-in patients


  • How do I get more supplies for the first aid box in my area?
    • Ensure the First Aider is aware the box needs restocking.
    • The First Aider should contact the Service Centre on Ext 7777 letting them know the items they need


  • Who’s responsible for restocking our first aid box?
    • The First aider covering the area is responsible for keeping the first aid box stocked and reporting when items need replacing
    • SEF is responsible for restocking communal first aid boxes, upon receipt of a work order
    • The University is responsible for restocking room specific first aid boxes, e.g. boxes installed in local high risk areas.


  • How are the first aid supplies paid for?
    • SEF pay for replenishments to communal first aid boxes
    • The University pay for replenishments to non-communal first aid boxes


  • How many first aider staff do we need our area?
    • First aid provision is defined by conducting a risk assessment of the area, taking into consideration the size of the area, number of people using the area, activities being performed, hours people are working, holidays and contingencies.  If you are concerned about the levels of cover, contact your Health and Safety Coordinator (for University staff and students) or a QSHE Advisor (for SEF staff)



  • What is the minimum temperature our rooms should be at?
    • The law does not state a minimum temperature, but recommends that 16°C for office activities is the minimum temperature, and 13°C is the minimum if vigorous activity is being performed in the area
    • Any concerns about the heating supply in your building should be reported to the Service manager of the building


  • What is the maximum temperature our rooms should be at?
    • There is no recommended maximum temperature. Factors other than air temperature, i.e. radiant temperature; humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.
    • If you think the room is too hot, the temperature can be controlled by:
      • Using air conditioning if available
      • Opening windows and doors, allowing airflow through the room
      • Using blinds to block sunlight on the windows
      • Turning off computers and other heat sources when not in use
  • If it’s a hot day, it is recommended that people:
    • Stay hydrated
    • Avoid spending long periods in direct sunlight
    • Wear hats / sunscreen when outside
    • Plan ahead; turn on air conditioning / close blinds etc before the room becomes uncomfortably hot.


  • Where can I smoke on Campus?
    • Smoking is not permitted in any campus building
    • There are designated smoking areas on campus which have been designed to reduce inconvenience to others i.e. fumes not entering buildings through windows.  Smokers are requested to be considerate to other campus users, and dispose of cigarette butts in designated bins.


  • When I’m working, what breaks am I entitled to?
    • If you are working more than 6 hours, you are entitled to an uninterrupted 20 minute break
    • Shift work has specific regulations, for specific advice contact a QSHE Advisor


  • I am disabled or have a temporary mobility impairment and need to park on Campus, who do I need to speak with to arrange a space?
    • Students should contact Student Support
    • Following agreement from your line manager, University and SEF Staff should contact the SEF Transport Manager at


Electrical Safety

  • What needs to be PAT (Portable Appliance Test) tested?
    • It is recommended that all portable electrical items used on Campus have a valid PAT test completed and a pass sticker attached


  • How do I get an item PAT tested?
    • Residential Students – please contact your Residential Building Manager who will coordinate PAT testing
    • Faculties – an ongoing programme exists, please contact your Service Manager who will coordinate PAT testing
    • SEF staff – an ongoing programme exists, please contact the Service Centre who will coordinate PAT testing


Building safety

  • I think I’ve uncovered some Asbestos, what should I do?
    • SEF Engineers – follow the guidelines given during Asbestos training provided by the QSHE Team. Notify Security by ringing 3333 explaining your location and any relevant details. Then notify your supervisor who will have access to the MiCad Asbestos system. Finally notify the QSHE team once the immediate situation is under control.
    • University Staff and Students – Contact Security identifying the problem.  Leave all items in the area and remove yourself from the area, preventing others from entering.  Security will then coordinate attendance from the relevant trained engineers. It is recommended that you wash exposed skin and change clothes (launder) at the next available opportunity


  • Things are broken in my building and I think they may cause someone harm, where do I report them?
    • Repairs are reported to the Service Centre, this can be done through the Residential Building / Academic Service managers, or individually to the Service Centre by contacting 7777 or emailing
    • If you report a repair, please inform the Residential Building / Academic Service managers as they will monitor resolution of the issue


Activity Safety

  • Does Health and Safety Legislation apply to volunteers or students?
    • Yes, The Health and Safety Act 1974, covers the general duties of employers to protect all persons from risks to their health connected to or arising from their work activities, in this instance, the University carries a duty to all people using the campus.


  • What tasks require PPE to be used when completing?
    • Each work related task should be risk assessed.  This risk assessment should identify appropriate PPE to enable completing the activity safely.


  • Where do I get PPE from?
    • University Staff and Students – PPE is made available to you by your faculty
    • SEF Staff – PPE is available in your work locations. If more supplies are needed, please contact your line manager


  • My PPE has become broken, what should I do?
    • Report the defective PPE to your line manager / health and safety coordinator and follow the local procedures to obtain a replacement.


  • Who pays for my PPE?
    • PPE is paid for by the organisation providing it to you.  Employed individuals or students are not expected to pay for PPE needed to complete their tasks safely.


Health surveillance

  • Do I need occupational health surveillance?
    • Certain activities being performed on campus may be risk assessed as requiring the users to receive periodic health monitoring.  If you are engaged in these activities, the risk assessment should be available for you to read and your line manager should discuss the provision and access to health surveillance
    • If new activities are being planned and advice is needed on whether health surveillance is required, contact a QSHE Advisor for guidance.



Should I use a mobile phone when driving a car on campus?

The roads throughout campus are classed as public roads and should be treated in the same way as all other public roadways, following the Highway Code and all other signage. As such the use of mobile phones whilst driving is strongly discouraged and is against the law, resulting in fines and points.


Can the enforcing authority visit at any time?

Yes, bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive; Environmental Health and Fire Brigade can visit at any time day or night. On production of a warrant or identity card, you should answer any questions as openly and honestly as you can. If such bodies visit your area please immediately contact your line manager and the SEF QSHE Department.


Must I attend health and safety induction?

Yes, regardless of job title or function everyone is obliged to attend health and safety induction. Local area health and safety induction must be provided and records kept.


What information must we provide to visitors i.e. contractors?

You must provide health and safety information on potential hazards (which may affect them) in the workplace to anyone who visits your premises i.e. agency staff; temps; visitors; contractors etc. Good examples of this would be fire safety arrangements; first aid arrangements etc. If you share a premise or premises with another employer then both sets of employers must share such information which ensures that the respective parties are aware of the potential hazards and risks/controls being undertaken on those premises.


Risk Assessment

What is meant by generic health and safety risk assessments?

Generic risk assessments are those which are produced once for a specific activity (i.e. floor cleaning) or type of workplace, which once completed can be used in other services and areas where the hazard and risks are exactly the same.

The generic risk assessment is the starting point for all health and safety risk assessments and can only be carried out by those who have been trained.   From the generic risk assessment process (which should be completed by teams i.e. the person carrying out the task or activity; the line manager (if possible)) it is likely that hazards such as display screen equipment; manual handling etc will be identified.

As such, specific health and safety risk assessments are required for;-

  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
  • Manual Handling of loads and clients
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Display Screen Equipment
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment

As with generic health and safety risk assessments, specific health and safety risk assessments should only be carried out by trained personnel.

How do I do a risk assessment?

To undertake a risk assessment you need to understand what, in your department or area, might cause harm to people and decide whether you are doing enough to prevent that harm. Once you have decided that, you need to identify and prioritise putting in place appropriate and sensible control measures.

Start by:

  • identifying what can harm people in your workplace
  • identifying who might be harmed and how
  • evaluating the risks and deciding on the appropriate controls, taking into consideration the controls you already have in place
  • recording your risk assessment

What should I include in my risk assessment?

Your risk assessment should include consideration of what in your area/department might cause harm and how, and the people who might be affected. It should take into account any controls which are already in place and identify what, if any, further controls are required.

You should be able to show from your assessment that:

  • a proper check was made
  • all people who might be affected were considered
  • all significant risks have been assessed
  • the precautions are reasonable
  • the remaining risk is low

You do not need to include insignificant risks. You do not need to include risks from everyday life unless your work activities increase the risk.


When do I need to do a risk assessment?

You should carry out an assessment before you begin any work which presents a risk of injury or ill health.


Who should my risk assessment cover?

Your risk assessment should cover all groups of people who might be harmed. 

  • Think about workers affected because of risks associated with the particular jobs they do, such as setting, production and breakdown/repair and maintenance. Contractors and shift-workers may not be familiar with what you do and the controls you have in place
  • Think about new and young workers[14] and migrant workers[15]. They may be inexperienced, and/or lack maturity/ experience to recognise risks. They may not be familiar with your workplace culture - what is and what isn’t acceptable
  • Think about workers with poor literacy skills and both migrant and indigenous workers. If staff can't read, write or add up, this can affect their ability to understand and follow guidance and instructions
  • Think about new or expectant mothers[16] and young people[17] who may be more prone to health-related risks (physical, biological or chemical risks)
  • Think about people with disabilities[18] whose disability may mean that reasonable adjustments are needed to enable them to do the work and minimise risks.

Additionally, think about any other groups, such as members of the public and groups of people who share your workplace.


What do I need to record?

You need to record:

  • the significant findings - what the risks are, what you are already doing to control them and what further action is needed
  • details of any particular groups of employees who you have identified as being especially at risk

Remember that any paperwork that is produced should help with communicating and managing the risks in your business.


What does 'reasonably practicable' mean?

This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.


What is a hierarchy of control?

Risks should be reduced to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority.  This is what is meant by a hierarchy of control.   The list below sets out the order to follow when planning to reduce risks you have identified in your workplace.  Consider the headings in the order shown, do not simply jump to the easiest control measure to implement.

  1. Elimination - Redesign the job or substitute a substance so that the hazard is removed or eliminated.
  2. Substitution - Replace the material or process with a less hazardous one.
  3. Engineering controls - for example use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where you cannot avoid working at height, install or use additional machinery to control risks from dust or fume or separate the hazard from operators by methods such as enclosing or guarding dangerous items of machinery/equipment. Give priority to measures which protect collectively over individual measures.
  4. Administrative Controls - These are all about identifying and implementing the procedures you need to work safely. For example: reducing the time workers are exposed to hazards (eg by job rotation); prohibiting use of mobile phones in hazardous areas; increasing safety signage, and performing risk assessments.
  5. Personal protective clothes and equipment - Only after all the previous measures have been tried and found ineffective in controlling risks to a reasonably practicable level, must personal protective equipment (PPE) be used. For example, where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall (should one occur). If chosen, PPE should be selected and fitted by the person who uses it. Workers must be trained in the function and limitation of each item of PPE.


Is risk assessment a legal requirement?

Yes, if you are an employer or self-employed. It is a legal requirement for every employer and self-employed person to make an assessment of the health and safety risks arising out of their work. The purpose of the assessment is to identify the actions needed to control health and safety risks. Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999


Who do I involve in a risk assessment?

You must consult your staff or their representatives in the risk assessment process. They will have useful information about how work is done, which will help you understand the actual risks.


How do I prioritise the actions from my risk assessment?

You may find that there are a number of issues which need action, so you need to decide on your priorities for that action. In thinking through your priorities, think about the biggest or most serious risks first.

Having identified the priorities, you need to decide on the controls which you will put into place. In doing so, think about the following:

  • long-term solutions to those risks with the worst potential consequences
  • long-term solutions to those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health
  • whether there are improvements that can be implemented quickly, even as a temporary solution until more reliable controls are in place

Remember: The greater the risk, the more robust and reliable the control measures will need to be.


What are significant risks?

Significant risks are those that are not trivial in nature and are capable of creating a real risk to health and safety, which any reasonable person would appreciate and would take steps to guard against.

What can be considered as 'insignificant' will vary from site to site and activity to activity, depending on specific circumstances.


When should I review my risk assessment?

You should review your risk assessment:

  • if it is no longer valid
  • if there has been a significant change

Your workplace will change over time. You are likely to bring in new equipment, substances and procedures. There may be advances in technology. You may have an accident or a case of ill health. You should review your assessment if any of these events happen. Remember to amend your assessment as a result of your review.


What if one of my employees' circumstances change?

You will need to review your risk assessment to check whether you need to make any changes in the measures you take to control risk. This is particularly important when, for example, people return to work following surgery etc, as new or expectant mothers or if an employee develops a disability.


What responsibilities do my employees have?

Employees also have responsibilities under health and safety law to:

  • take care of the health and safety of themselves and others
  • co-operate with you to help you comply with health and safety legislation
  • follow any instructions and training you give regarding the measures you have in place to control health and safety risks
  • let you know of work situations that present a serious and imminent risk
  • let you know of any other failings they identify in your health and safety arrangements


What if the work I do varies a lot, or moves from one site to another?

Assess the risks you can reasonably expect to find. When you take on work or go to a new site, cover any new or different risks with a specific assessment.


What if I share my workplace with other employers?

If you share a workplace with another employer, or self-employed person, you will both need to:

  • tell each other about the specific risks in your business that may affect the other employer
  • cooperate and coordinate with each other to control the health and safety risks


What is a hazard?

A hazard is anything that may cause harm, eg chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, noise etc.


What is risk?

Risk is the chance, high or low, of somebody being harmed by the hazard and how serious the harm could be.

Using a matrix can be helpful for prioritising your actions to control a risk. It is suitable for many assessments but in particular to more complex situations. However, it does require expertise and experience to judge the likelihood of harm accurately. Getting this wrong could result in applying unnecessary control measures or failing to take important ones.


What is the difference between a risk assessment and a method statement?

A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of the aspects of your work which could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have enough precautions or whether you should do more.

A safety method statement is not required by law. It describes in a logical sequence exactly how a job is to be carried out in a safe manner and without risks to health. It includes all the risks identified in the risk assessment and the measures needed to control those risks. This allows the job to be properly planned and resourced.

Safety method statements are most often found in the construction sector. They are particularly helpful for:

  • higher-risk, complex or unusual work (eg steel and formwork erection, demolition or the use of hazardous substances)
  • providing information to employees about how the work should be done and the precautions to be taken
  • providing the principal contractor with information to develop the health and safety plan for the construction phase of a project

Whether safety method statements are used or not, it is essential to make sure that risks are controlled.