Assessment of Risk Assessments (23 September 2021)

The Health and Safety team have been urgently reviewing the University risk assessments. We pointed out to Management last week (w/c 13 September 2021) that currently the risk assessments do not assess the actual risk, nor mitigate for the risks, which is what they should be doing by law. The process has been transformed from an individual assessment of the risk to every member of staff, to which employees are entitled, into a process of allowing some individuals to obtain mitigations if they can convince managers that they have poor enough health.

There is no mention of the following in the risk assessments:

  • travel to work (i.e. risk of viral infection leading to clinical harm if using public transport or there is increased contact with others)
  • risk to others at home or in the wider community
  • the nature of spaces that an individual might use. Some rooms (shared offices; teaching spaces with inadequate ventilation etc.) are riskier than others
  • the risk from staff or students not wearing face coverings inside (or indeed from unvaccinated and untested people)
  • the nature of activities being undertaken: some, like singing, physical exertion, large numbers in lectures, long seminars or workshops are riskier than others.
  • no timescale for mitigations and no mention of who is responsible for putting the controls in place and checking that they are working
  • inadequate emphasis on the main controls such as working from home when possible (as recommended by SAGE), improved ventilation, face coverings, distancing and tracing contacts of those who test positive
  • staff and students with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments are not mentioned at all
  • staff and student wellbeing is not mentioned, which should include anxiety about safety on return to campus, stress due to changes in work patterns, activities, and the work environment.
  • The risks are underplayed with forms often stating only that transmission is ‘possible’ rather than ‘likely’ although we are still in the middle of a pandemic with young people particularly affected and the effect of transmission as, at most, ‘serious’ (2nd out of 4 levels) when the disease can kill.
  • Individual risk assessment forms do not have space to identify risks or possible mitigations. Instead they ask for intrusive personal data on health and suggest a referral to Occupational Health.  In some cases this may be helpful to provide supplementary information but the responsibility for assessment remains with those on the ground and with the employer.

Most concerning, however, is the fact that there is no guidance to staff and students about how to report a potential risk on campus; when that risk will be assessed; whether the University will report back to staff about the risk; and what to do in the meantime if you have a class scheduled in a room which is taken out of action.