Health and Safety in the Workplace
The University has a responsibility to safeguard, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its staff and students. A Health & Safety Code of Practice, regularly updated, is issued to all staff and provides a general framework for safe working in the University. This Code of Practice may be supplemented by Departmental rules and members of staff should ensure that they are aware of the safety precautions appropriate to each Department in which they work. An abbreviated safety guide is supplied to students.
It is the duty of every person while at work:
- To take reasonable care for the Health and Safety of themselves and of all other persons who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work;
- To co-operate with the Heads of Department and any other persons having specific safety duties, so that they can comply, so far as is necessary, with relevant health and safety legislation, codes etc. and with the University's health and safety policy; and
- Not to interfere with or misuse, intentionally or recklessly, anything provided in the interests of health, safety or welfare.
The University's concerns and responsibilities also extend to health issues that may affect staff in the work place, particularly smoking, alcohol and drug related problems, HIV and AIDS, and Stress.
The University has a no smoking policy, based on 2007 legislation and the health risks of passive smoking.
Alcohol and Drug Related Problems
Alcohol and other drug related problems are common, and frequently a symptom of stress arising in the workplace or elsewhere. The University lays emphasis on advice, help and treatment in such cases.
The University accepts that many alcohol and drug related problems are fundamentally medical conditions and should be recognised as such. However, individuals have a responsibility for proper treatment once diagnosed. This belief is fundamental to the action the University will take at a departmental and medical level to identify and help those staff who have alcohol or drug related problems. The cornerstone of the policy is help and encouragement for the individual to return to an acceptable working pattern and to control their problem through appropriate professional assistance in the interest of their own health and safety, and the safe and efficient working of the University.
Dealing with the Issue
The University will ensure that any employee who presents with an alcohol or drug related problem will get advice, help and, if required, treatment. Time off work for this will be allowed if necessary.
- Where help is sought voluntarily, the employee should notify the Head of Department, who will in turn refer the employee in confidence to the Occupational Health Service. Alternatively, an individual may approach the Counselling Service, the Department of Human Resources or go direct to the Occupational Health Service. The treatment record of any employee who has or has had an alcohol or drug related problem will be kept strictly confidential. The Occupational Health Physician will discuss medical details with the GP or other medical specialist only when given written permission by the member of staff to do so.
- Where a member of staff is noticed by management as having problems which appear to be alcohol or drug related, the opportunity to discuss the problem and for diagnosis and help via the Occupational Health Service will be given.
- Where a member of staff believes that a colleague has an alcohol or drug related problem, the matter should be referred to the head of department.
- Someone whose problems have been diagnosed as being alcohol or drug related will, subject to relevant succeeding paragraphs, have the same protection of employment and pension rights as those granted to an employee with problems that are related to other forms of ill health.
- Should a member of staff refuse diagnosis or help, or discontinue a recovery programme, this in itself is not grounds for disciplinary action. However, unacceptable behaviour and standards of work would then be dealt with through normal disciplinary procedures. Each case will be dealt with on its merits.
- If a member of staff relapses and alcohol or drug related problems reappear at work - advice and help having previously been received - the case will be considered sympathetically in the light of expert opinion. The opportunity for further treatment and protection of job rights will be carefully considered.
- Cases of overt drunkenness at work are subject to normal safety and disciplinary procedures. Such incidents, if isolated, are not necessarily indicative of chronic alcohol abuse or dependence.
- In some cases, the University will have an obligation under safety legislation to remove an individual from a risk activity immediately.
AIDS and HIV
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The virus interferes with the body's normal defence against illness. Some people who acquire the virus remain healthy for years although the virus can be passed on in certain circumstances.
HIV is not spread through ordinary social and work contact, by touch, or through water or air, or by coughing or sneezing. Infection cannot arise working alongside someone with HIV or AIDS, or by sharing ordinary everyday utensils and appliances.
There may be an extremely small theoretical medical risk of infection from HIV in a few specialised jobs; e.g. staff who handle fresh blood and people whose work involves piercing the skin. Routine hygiene/safety precautions provide adequate safeguards against this risk. Advice may be obtained from the University Occupational Health Service and Safety Services.
If a colleague at work has HIV or AIDS:
- There is no need for any special precautions to be taken
- There is no need to feel threatened or afraid. People with AIDS or who are HIV positive need understanding and support as in the case of any other illness.
- People with HIV or AIDS have a right to keep this information confidential. Spreading gossip or rumours is unacceptable.
- Verbal or physical harassment, like teasing, jokes or threats of violence against people with HIV or AIDS, will be treated as a disciplinary matter
- Assumptions should not be made about people with HIV or AIDS or their lifestyle.
AIDS/HIV and Employment
- An employee who becomes infected with HIV or who develops AIDS is not required to inform the University unless others could be endangered by failure to do so. In such circumstances, strict confidentiality will be maintained.
- Existing and prospective employees of the University will not be required to submit themselves for an HIV test.
- There will be no discrimination in recruitment or promotion procedures or in the provision of any benefit, facilities or services on the grounds that an existing member of staff or a job applicant is infected with HIV or has AIDS
- If an employee is in any doubt about any aspect of HIV/AIDS, he or she is advised to contact the Occupational Health Service, where any such discussions will remain confidential.
For those travelling abroad on University business, the booklet "The Travellers Guide to Health", available free of charge from travel agents is a useful reference particularly on HIV and AIDS. Individual queries should be discussed with a member of Occupational Health Service staff.
The University recognises the need to address the issue of negative stress in order to provide members of staff with a supportive and encouraging environment in which they can perform their best and contribute towards improving the overall performance of the University.
In meeting the legal requirements to ensure the physical and psychological health, safety and welfare of staff while at work it is recognised that stress needs to be treated as any other potential health hazard and preventative action taken.
Following the approval of the Report and Recommendations of the Stress Working Party by the Strategic Planning Committee in November 1997 a memorandum was sent to Heads of Departments from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for staffing, highlighting the issue of workplace stress and need for good working practices.
The University is committed to taking a proactive approach to addressing the issue of Stress, and initiatives arising from the Recommendations of the working party continue to be developed and implemented.
In each of the above areas, the services of the University´s Occupational Health Service are readily available to provide professional medical help and advice in the strictest confidence. Similarly, the University´s Counselling Service and the Department of Human Resources are experienced in dealing with individual problems and are always willing to help.
In a situation where a member of staff refuses to accept University policy on Health and Safety or health related issues, a need for disciplinary action to be taken may arise. In such a case, the normal University disciplinary procedures will be followed.