Patrick Grant: the University's health and safety review

Why do we need to review health and safety?                                     

We should aspire for our health and safety performance to reflect the University’s position as a world leader in research and teaching. Above all, we want all staff and students to feel confident about the safety of their working environment, and to recognize how excellence in health and safety helps to provide a better working environment for everyone. At the same time, we must comply with health and safety legislation, which is frequently changing and making greater demands on us all.

The review is about identifying the changes we need to make to ensure our students, staff and visitors to the University are safer. It also provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved in suggesting how we can improve H&S across this complex and multi-faceted institution. Broadly, the review is considering two areas: safety culture, and H&S management (which includes leadership and governance). The Review Group is working with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and experts from outside the University to make sure we have the best external expertise and advice.

What might a new system for health and safety management mean?

The review will establish what the key elements of any new H&S management system should be, but broadly we anticipate that the review will recommend clearer roles and responsibilities for H&S at all levels of the University, a commitment to provide the knowledge, skills and training that people involved in H&S need, fewer hierarchical levels of H&S governance, and more transparent leadership. Any new system should also strive for greater simplicity, reduced administration, and better use of simpler IT systems. Better information management and systems will also help us measure our performance as a whole, and hopefully show our improvement.

What is the Safety Climate Survey?

The Safety Climate Survey is the main part of the safety culture work stream. The survey aims to find out what you think about health and safety at work, your ideas for improvements, and what training and support you want. It is a way to uncover and then share good practice but also to admit our failings and where we should be doing better. The survey is a way to gather advice from the people actually studying and working in workshops, laboratories, on field trips, and in all our different buildings.

Why does a safety culture matter?

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that organisations with a strong safety culture have fewer workplace incidents. The University has comprehensive health and safety policies and procedures but our safety culture probably plays just as big a role in determining whether or not our day-to-day managing of risks and hazards is as effective as it could be. That is why we need to try understand our safety culture using a recognized, validated approach, tailored for our University, and then to recommend where and how our safety culture might strengthened. There may be some great ideas for quick improvements, as well as the need for much longer term initiatives.

How you can get involved

I encourage you to take part in the Safety Climate Survey, which is running from now until 28 February. Your department is providing you with the information you need to access the survey online, which will only take 10-15 minutes.  We have made sure that you can complete the survey in confidence: your answers are anonymised and we will only know which division, department, unit or faculty has generated the response.  If you don’t have access to a computer (or other device) at work, you can complete a paper version that you can also submit confidentially – ask your line manager or supervisor for help with this.

The Review Group very much hopes you will see the benefit of sharing your experiences to help improve things for all of us, and we want to gather as many opinions and ideas as possible. What you tell us will help determine where we need to seek further input and where to concentrate subsequent phases of the review.

What happens next?

We will also be holding workshops with staff in a variety of roles in a cross-section of departments, inviting them to discuss the survey findings, and to share their good practice and ideas for the changes we should make. Combining all these findings, we will work with the Health and Safety Executive to develop a targeted action plan and recommendations.

More questions?

You can find out more about the Health and Safety Review and the Safety Climate Survey on the Safety Office website and if you have any questions, please email them to

I look forward to sharing updates on the progress of the review with you during 2020.