Departmental safety inspections

1.  Introduction

Regular safety inspections are an important part of a department's system for managing health and safety. University policy recognises this and requires departments and institutions to carry out an inspection at least annually and to send to the University Safety Office a record of the inspection (UPS S1/02). This policy statement sets out the basic requirements and provides generic checklists, which may be used as a starting point for the inspection. Please note that arrangements for inspections by accredited trade union safety representatives are laid down in UPS S2/13.

2.  Purpose of regular inspections

Regular inspections provide a means for the department to measure safety performance against standards such as University safety policy or local safety procedures. They also serve to identify unsafe procedures and unsafe conditions and rectify them before an accident happens. They provide an opportunity to ensure that other, more specific, checks and tests have been made at the appropriate intervals (e.g. on fume cupboards, microbiological safety cabinets, fire extinguishers, electrical equipment, pressure systems). They facilitate compliance with the University's policy on risk assessment by identifying where risk assessments need to be completed.

3.  Inspection arrangements

The University requires departments and institutions to inspect all areas under their control at least annually; they may find it convenient to spread the effort required over the year, rather than attempting to deal with the whole area in one inspection.

Inspection may be carried out by one person (usually the departmental safety officer or an area safety officer) or by a small team (which can usefully include someone with specialist knowledge, e.g. of electrical safety or laser safety). Team size should be restricted to three or four if the operation is not to become unwieldy. There is no reason why members of departments should not be notified of inspection dates and times: they are more likely to be cooperative if they do not feel an attempt is being made to catch them by surprise.

4.  Inspection report

A written report should be prepared which includes the date and scope of the inspection and the names of those carrying it out. It should include details of any problems identified (their nature, location and severity), the action required to remedy those problems, with an indication of the priority attached to the task, the timescale and the person(s) responsible for remedial action. The report must also detail the arrangements for ensuring that recommendations for remedial action are acted upon.

A copy of the report should be sent to the head of department and the departmental safety committee should make a point of discussing the report at one of its meetings and ensuring that its recommendations have been acted upon. A copy of the inspection report should also be sent to the University Safety Office.

5.  Inspection checklists

Checklists can be valuable aids to inspection and many departments will already be successfully using one. Those who have not yet made their own may find the appended lists useful as a starting point (they are not intended to be comprehensive and each department should aim to prepare a checklist specific for its own premises and activities). It is important to use any checklist only as an aid; over-reliance on it may constrain the inspection and lead to problems being missed.

University Policy Statements contain the standards against which many of these items may be judged and the relevant ones are noted on the checklist. All departments should have a full set of Policy Statements. Statements of safety policy and organisation may also be found on the University's intranet at

6.  Action

All departments/institutions are required to carry out a departmental inspection at least annually. Heads of department should decide who should carry out the inspection. Departmental safety officers should ensure inspections are carried out at appropriate intervals (appropriate to the work activities undertaken), that the reports are discussed with departmental safety committee and that they are forwarded to the head of department and the Safety Office.


January 2007