COVID-19: Putting your health and safety first

Our Director of Health and Safety, Tom Fleming, explains the actions the University has been taking to ensure the health and safety of our staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a pandemic such as this, it is inevitable that staff and students will have concerns for their health and safety and will want to know what the University is doing to ensure this. The health and safety of our staff and students is paramount and since the pandemic began the University has been assessing the risk to staff and students on an ongoing basis, reviewing, and where necessary, changing its position in response to the latest information and advice from government and Public Health England.

We have needed to react quickly to a rapidly changing picture, making decisions based on the best available evidence at the time and a wide range of factors.

For example, the decision to suspend face-to-face teaching and close large communal spaces such as the Library and Information Commons was based on emerging advice regarding the need to implement social distancing measures and limit large social gatherings. The recently announced decision to change the spring semester dates was made to allow greater time for colleagues to prepare the online teaching materials needed to enable student learning to continue, and to reduce the pressure they are under. It will also reduce the number of staff on campus, providing greater protection for those staff who do need to continue to come to work to undertake essential duties.

The vast majority of staff are now working from home. We recognise that this will take some adjustment. We are preparing further guidance and advice on how to successfully work from home. This will range from practical matters such as how to set up a workspace, to other factors such as coping with isolation and maintaining wellbeing. Colleagues should undertake an assessment of their workstation, and if this highlights any issues, discuss them with your line manager to determine what adjustments can be made. Further guidance is available here.

All essential activities that need to be undertaken on campus are being risk assessed by managers. This encompasses things such as safe lone working, fire evacuation and mitigating risks of COVID-19 infection through social distancing, as well as all the usual health and safety considerations that are relevant for the activity. Assessing health and safety risk is a dynamic process and isn’t about filling in forms. All managers have a legal duty to consider the health and safety of their staff and students. Guidance for managers and a template risk assessment can be found here.

We are meeting regularly with trade union colleagues, and will ensure that health and safety considerations form a part of those discussions

As the pandemic continues, we will continue to be open and transparent about the decisions we take and the considerations that have underpinned them.

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support during this time.

Tom Fleming
Director of Health and Safety