Safety requirements for University lecture facilities

The University is responsible for the safety of persons on its premises.  Heads of departments and institutions are required by Council to ensure that persons attending lectures and other events in areas under their control are not put at risk.  In discharging their responsibilities heads are expected to follow the requirements of this Policy.  In cases where there is likely to be a problem relating to freedom of speech or security, public order etc, heads are expected to seek the advice of the University Marshal, who may need to assume responsibility for the premises while the event takes place.

Where a conference or lecture has been organised by an outside body or another University department, it is still the head in control of the premises who remains responsible for the health and safety of those attending.

Overcrowding must be avoided and adequate procedures for controlling the numbers of persons attending a meeting, lecture or conference must be in place.

Heads must (in consultation with the University Safety Office) set a limit on the number of persons permitted in each room/area used for the gathering of people where that number is likely to exceed fifty.  This maximum number should be clearly posted in the lecture theatre or room.  Loose furniture should not be brought into an area in order to boost capacity above the agreed limit.

Heads must also ensure that adequate stewarding is provided to prevent the permitted limit being exceeded and to prevent stairs, passageways and entrances from being blocked.  Instruction and training of stewards is a departmental safety responsibility. Stewards must be given the authority to refuse entry where the maximum agreed capacity has been reached.

No event should be allowed to take place unless the required number of fire exits are clear, readily available emergency lighting and illuminated exit signs are functioning and adequate fire fighting equipment is both provided and in good working order.

Where a department contains a facility which is subject to a local authority licence, the head should ensure that additional requirements specified by the licence are complied with in full.

Where there is the possibility that the capacity of the facility may be exceeded, either admission should be controlled by the issuing of tickets or overflow facilities should be available.

Where a conference or meeting is organised by an outside body, the head of department or institution should:

(a)  ensure that organisers are aware of the maximum capacity of the rooms which are to be made available to them;

(b)  ensure the organisers are aware of the requirement to assess the likely audience numbers and provide adequate stewarding, if necessary;

(c)  obtain an assurance that these requirements will be met.

The person in control of the premises holding the lecture should require the completion of a booking form by the person responsible for organising the lecture.  The system would normally be expected to operate where attendance of more than fifty is expected or where any lecture is organised by a body external to the department (e.g. a college, another University department or any other organisation not linked to the University).  The booking form should draw attention to the maximum capacity of the room to be used and the requirement to provide adequate stewarding.

In the case of most normal University lectures, adequate stewarding would simply require the person giving the lecture to scan the room before and during the lecture and assess whether the seating is adequate.  If people are standing and/or sitting in the aisles, the room should be regarded as overcrowded unless overspill arrangements can be made.  Those not seated properly should be asked to leave.  The assessment of dangerous overcrowding is clearly a matter of judgement and a common sense approach is expected.

In the case of lectures organised by external bodies or of special lectures where large numbers of people are expected to attend, 'adequate stewarding' will require the stationing of stewards at each entrance who, once all the available seats have been taken, can refuse to admit anyone else.  External bodies organising lectures on University premises should be required to designate, on the booking form, those persons responsible for controlling the event.

The responsibility for safety in lecture theatres on NHS Trust premises rests with the head of department responsible for the particular event and must comply with the requirements of the Medical School Office.

Lectures and other events should not be allowed to commence or continue unless the relevant safety requirements have been satisfied.


November 2001