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Health and safety partnership sets new standard

18 January 2008 | last updated: 7 March 2019

Unions at the University of Leeds today signed a new partnership agreement with the university to promote and safeguard the health and safety of staff and students.

At the heart of the partnership is a declaration that health and safety is the university's highest priority. This is being backed by a substantial annual investment of £1.4m in health and safety, together with an awareness-raising campaign and a package of improvements.

The partnership is the first of its kind in higher education in recognising unions and managers as equal partners. Its purpose is to make the campus a safe environment for all staff, students and visitors through achieving the highest possible standards in health and safety.

Ann Blair, Leeds UCU president, said: 'If properly implemented, this agreement will benefit not only staff but students and the institution as a whole. The next challenge for UCU - and the university - is to put this goal into practice.'

UCU's head of equality and employment rights, Roger Kline, commented: 'This agreement sets a standard on health and safety policy that is amongst the best, if not the best, in higher education. It states clearly that health and safety and the work environment are the top priority for the university and confirms prominently that UCU is an equal partner in ensuring this goal is achieved.'

The new health and safety 'revitalisation programme' aims to bring about significant and lasting improvement in the culture and performance of health and safety at the university . A number of steps have already been taken and others are planned, including:

  • the appointment of the first director of well-being, health and safety in a UK university, supported by a professional team of 18 staff
  • a doubling of the health and safety budget to £1.4m over two years
  • new campus-wide health and safety standards
  • a new website and online risk assessment package
  • health and safety 'learning packages' for staff
  • a health and safety DVD to be seen by all 8,000 campus staff
  • a six-month high profile awareness-raising campaign.

Around one in ten university staff have reported an accident at work, ranging from minor trips to injuries requiring time off. The University of Leeds has received two improvement notices from the HSE in the last three years, and both university managers and staff agree that this is unacceptable.

University vice-chancellor Michael Arthur said: 'The health and safety of our people is our top priority, and we will do whatever is necessary to make our campus as safe as possible.

'We need to bring about a permanent shift in health and safety culture. We should not underestimate the challenge of achieving this, but I am confident that by working together we will succeed. I look forward to the day when our university is a flagship for health and safety, with others looking to us to see how it should be done.'

UCU has commended the openness with which the university has acknowledged past shortcomings and committed to a step change improvement. The union will now be approaching other universities - and FE colleges - seeking similar agreements which have at their core the leadership of the vice-chancellor or principal, equal status for trade unions, and health safety and working environment of staff as the top priority.