Professor Patrick Grant: review of health and safety

Recommendations approved by Council
While we’ve all been dealing with the extraordinary challenges that COVID-19 has thrown at us over the last nearly two years, the University has also been pushing forward with a comprehensive review of Health and Safety.  This has involved an all-staff survey, focus groups and workshops across all divisions, numerous individual conversations, and an external review of our systems and processes by the government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Thank you to everyone who has taken part in this crucial discovery phase – not least the Review Group, which comprised staff of all types from across the collegiate University.

I am pleased to report that Council has now approved the Review’s recommendations for changes in the way we address the health and safety of all staff, students and visitors.

Action-orientated safety
The recommendations focus on improving key areas of leadership, engagement, competency, networking, reporting and systems. Their overarching goal is to help us evolve from a relatively passive, instruction-led safety culture into one that is action-orientated: all of us being confident and competent to take action to keep ourselves and others safe.

We have already started making some changes in the leadership and organisation of health and safety management that will improve visibility and clarify lines of responsibility, and I will share more details in due course. We have also started building a community of practice of our health and safety experts so we can share knowledge and advice more quickly and efficiently. Other changes require redeployment of existing resources and some new investments, for example in training, which will take a little more time to secure. All changes are taking place in consultation with representative bodies and groups – and their support and enthusiasm suggests a widespread appreciation for change and improvement.

What you can do now
As we look ahead to a time when the pandemic will disrupt our lives less, we can capitalise on the increased awareness of what health and safety means to us all.  The Health and Safety Executive’s assessment of our safety culture mandates us to change, away from instruction received from a relatively small number of health and safety experts and box ticking, and towards a teaching and research environment where everyone is supported to contribute with confidence to health and safety excellence. An active and positive safety culture will help to achieve our goal of being a leader in teaching and research, and will make the University a great place to work.

A safety culture change will take time but progress will be faster if students and staff are involved from the outset. I am working closely with divisions to plan how we will secure your engagement, ideas and help with the Review recommendations, and more details will emerge in the next few months. I will also hold an Open Forum on the Review recommendations in the next few months. In the meantime, please visit the Review webpage to see how you can take action now, and for more details about the Review recommendations.