Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Act 1992 members of the Laboratory are required to prepare and maintain risk assessments. The primary aim of risk assessment is to ensure that potentially hazardous operations are carried out safely, but preparation of appropriate assessments also provides some legal protection to supervisors and the Laboratory if an operation within their research group leads to accident or injury.
Risk Assessments can be divided into three categories: Personal Risk Assessment, Risk Assessment for Category (a) and (b) Operations, and Risk Assessment for "One-off" hazardous Operations. Each of these is discussed below.
A personal risk assessment must be completed for every member of a research or technical group when they start work. A standard form for this is attached to the back of the Laboratory Handbook, and an electronic copy can be downloaded (by Oxford-based users only) from ftp://physchem.ox.ac.uk/pub/hmc/riskassl.doc
The purpose of the personal assessment is to define in very general terms the types of work to be undertaken that
Category (a) operations might include laser alignment where lasers must be run at full power, handling of perchlorates, peroxides and other explosive materials, or work with biologically-active materials.
Category (b) operations might include glass-blowing of non-operational rigs, standard operation of lasers, preparation of highly toxic solutions, routine organic syntheses.
Category (c) operations include work with computers, standard laboratory manipulations such as the preparation of non-hazardous solutions, weighing of chemicals which do not present a special risk, operation of spectrometers, etc.
The judgement of the category into which each operation is placed will be made by the supervisor, but that judgement must be justifiable, and determined by the likelihood that the operation can be carried out safely with the defined amount of supervision, not on whether time is available to give that supervision.
Action required: A personal risk assessment must be prepared for each member of a research or technical group, listing in general terms the operations to be performed and the category into which they fall. The assessment must be reviewed at least annually, and must be revised if a new operation in category (a) or (b) is to be undertaken. If the annual review concludes no change is required, the form can be re-signed and dated by the worker and supervisor without modification. A copy of the form (whether relating to a new or existing worker) must be provided to the DSO.
Most risk assessments prepared by research groups will fall in this category, and it is essential that these assessments are made with due consideration of the risks involved in every part of an operation.
A risk assessment is required for any operation which might present significant risk to workers or to those nearby. This includes a large number of operations carried out in the PTCL.
Examples of operations which will require a risk assessment are:
There are many further operations in the laboratory which have the potential to cause harm, and risk assessments must be prepared for these. If in doubt about whether or not an operation merits the preparation of a risk assessment, consult the DSO.
The risk assessment should cover the following topics:
The risk assessment may incorporate a protocol for carrying out the operation safely. If it does not, a protocol should be available which specifies in reasonable detail how the operation is to be performed. It is acceptable for the protocol to refer to detailed instructions elsewhere. For example, a protocol need not reproduce instructions in a manual which specify how to adjust a laser. However, if this is done, the instructions to which the protocol refers must be on hand in the laboratory.
It is important, especially for operations where the risk of injury is significant, that supervisors should not merely assume that members of their groups will automatically know how to work safely.
The preparation of a risk assessment does not provide a means by which operations which present a serious risk of injury may be justified. If an operation cannot be carried out in a way in which the level of risk is reduced to an acceptable level, it should not be performed at all.
Action required: A risk assessment must be prepared for every hazardous operation. Each risk assessment must be reviewed at least annually, and on any occasion where the nature of the operation changes significantly. A copy of each risk assessment and protocol must be provided to the DSO. The risk assessments should be available in the working area, and every worker should be aware of their existence. Supervisors may wish to adopt the procedure used in the DP, where a protocol for each operation is pasted into the research notebook before a new operation is begun.
A risk assessment is required before any hazardous operation, including those operations which will be performed only once. Examples of such operations include:
For each such operation a risk assessment similar to that outlined in section 2 above is required.
Action required: Risk assessments for all potentially hazardous one-off operations must be prepared in advance and a copy provided to the DSO.