Case study: University of Leeds

The University of Leeds launched a revitalisation programme in partnership with campus trade unions to bring about significant and lasting improvements to health and safety performance.

The challenge

Around one in ten university staff reported an accident at work, and the university had also received two improvement notices from HSE in the last three years. Managers and staff recognised that there was room for improvement.

With jobs ranging from laboratory experiments to office administration, and from field work in the Arctic to serving lunch in the canteen, the university's 8000 staff have a very diverse range of health and safety issues and are spread across 98 acres of campus. The key challenge was raising awareness of health and safety issues and getting everyone involved.

Getting the workforce on board

The university launched a revitalisation programme with the three campus trade unions where both unions and management are equal partners in achieving health and safety standards and resolving issues. A declaration that health and safety is one of the university's top priorities is at the heart of the partnership.

"The revitalising agreement has been crucial to the success of this work - it has enabled us to develop a strong partnership and work together for change."

Raising awareness

"It was essential to make sure that everyone understood their own health and safety responsibilities and knew what could happen if these weren't taken seriously. This required a change in both attitudes and behaviour."

A DVD was made using contributions from staff across the university. It highlighted what can happen if health and safety is not taken seriously, and also gave examples of best practice. Every member of staff watched the film, was then encouraged to talk about local issues and priorities, and received information on individual health and safety responsibilities.

"˜ . . . the DVD and briefings created an opportunity for dialogue by using real case studies from our campus and giving people the chance to ask questions and discuss local issues."

How is the workforce involved?

  • A health and safety committee was formed with representatives from all areas of the university, including health and safety representatives appointed by the trade unions. It works to clear terms of reference and monitors arrangements for managing health and safety, considers incidents reports, and makes recommendations for improvements.
  • As part of the revitalisation agreement, a sub-group of the main committee was formed to include trade unions and meets between the main meetings at short notice, if necessary, to consider urgent health and safety matters. It also provides a sounding board for developing new or revised policies.

Benefits so far

  • There has been a notable change in the awareness and attitudes of staff - they understand the issues more now and engage more readily.
  • The staff now have clearer, more accessible information and they are more aware of their own health and safety responsibilities.
  • Although it is too early to measure a reduction in accidents, the university is confident that their accident reporting system now provides a more accurate picture.

Keep improving

Creating change is a long-term project that will require ongoing commitment. This is the first time the university has done something on this scale and profile with health and safety so it is important to evaluate and reconsider aspects of the plan along the way. We will continue to adapt to the needs of our staff and ensure maximum engagement.

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