Unattended operation of apparatus and equipment

1.  Introduction

This Policy Statement refers to the unattended operation outside normal working hours of apparatus and equipment which is not designed to be permanently left on.  Such operations pose a potential risk to security staff, cleaners, other users of the building and members of the emergency services who may attend an incident.

Most Science departments already utilise an overnight running system.  The purpose of this Policy is to provide a common standard throughout the University and to request departments to review their existing arrangements.  This Policy applies to apparatus and equipment left running unattended outside normal working hours (which includes overnight, weekends and holidays) when the number of personnel present in the department is significantly reduced.

Apparatus and equipment which is not required to be left running unattended outside normal office working hours should be switched off.

Those responsible for particular apparatus/equipment should decide how to operate and maintain it safely.  Proper maintenance is important to ensure reliability of the apparatus when running unattended.

Failure of the equipment or services to it should result in a safe shut down (fail to safety mode).

Equipment/apparatus to be left running unattended out of normal office hours should be accompanied by an authorisation document.  To be effective the authorisation should:

(a)  give the precise location of the apparatus/equipment to which it refers; describe the apparatus/equipment and any special hazards associated with it;

(b)  be dated ‑ to have a finite duration if applicable;

(c)  list the services used and indicate how they may be safely isolated (a diagram may be helpful here);

(d)  give precise instructions on what to do in an emergency;

(e)  give the name and telephone number of emergency contacts.

The authorisation document should be clearly displayed near to the equipment/apparatus, and a small simple notice attached to the door of the room saying "EQUIPMENT WORKING OVERNIGHT".

Personnel signing the authorisation document should include the academic supervisor responsible or the departmental safety officer or the departmental administrator or the laboratory chief technician/superintendent.  Apparatus/equipment should not be left running unless it has been operating satisfactorily for at least one hour beforehand.

University Security Services staff have been asked to report immediately to the department instances of apparatus found running without an authorisation.

This guidance must be brought to the attention of all academic supervisors and supervisors of services.

Departments should provide the degree of instruction and training needed for persons who may deal with incidents involving complex apparatus.

2.  University Security Services

The University Security Services carry out routine patrols of University buildings and sites to deter crime and to check on the safety of individuals at work.  The patrols are in contact by radio with the University Central Alarm Monitoring Station located in the Old Observatory (telephone (2)72944 or (2)72939).  The Central Monitoring Station will call out keyholders and summon the emergency services as necessary.  Departments should ensure that keyholder information is kept up to date with the Security Services.

All rooms where apparatus is left running overnight should normally be safe for the University Security Services to enter regardless of any statutory or other warning notices (eg laser area) displayed on doors.  THEY DO NOT ENTER LOCKED ROOMS.

Wherever possible, rooms should be provided with automatic fire detection, should not contain cylinders of compressed gases, should contain the minimum quantity of flammable liquids, and should ideally be left with the overhead lighting switched on for the benefit of the night patrol.


(Copies are obtainable from the Safety Office).

These signs must be displayed only with the permission of the head of department.

If rooms in which experiments are being carried out are left locked for any reason, the department must accept full responsibility for dealing with any emergencies.  The head of the department should be informed whenever it is considered necessary to leave rooms locked.

If members of the University Security Services are to carry out their duties efficiently and without danger to themselves, it is essential that the Security Services be kept informed of any special hazards which they may encounter both inside and outside the buildings.  If any building operations are being carried out, the Security Services should be informed by the person responsible for the operation.  This would normally be the University Surveyor and/or the head of department.


May 2001