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Risk Assessment and Waste Management

Risk Assessment

The purpose of a risk assessment is to identify the hazards involved in a procedure, to set out how those hazards are to be controlled, and to communicate that information to those who need to know.

UCL policy requires that all hazardous activity must have a suitable and up-to-date risk assessment, and these assessments must be recorded in the RiskNet system.  Any person who is going to carry out any new activity involving a hazard must conduct a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk, and establish any required control measures, prior to starting the work.

To be valid, risk assessments must be authorised within RiskNet by a competent person. For research students, this person will usually be their supervisor, and likewise for researchers this will usually be their line manager. However, where someone is working in a lab outside of their supervisor or line manager’s direct control, it may instead be the laboratory or facility manager or a delegated deputy (such as an experienced researcher or technician). Any activity that involves a high hazard task also requires authorisation by the department safety officer.

Our most hazardous environments are our department laboratories and research facilities. Each laboratory or laboratory facility should have general risk assessment prepared, which details the hazards anyone with unsupervised access to the area must be aware of and any controls they must follow. 

All laboratory workers are expected to become competent in performing risk assessments; they are required to complete the University’s Principles of Risk Assessment eLearning course before they commence work, so they are able to carry out a proper assessment of the risks involved and the precautions necessary to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

When is a new risk assessment required?

If proposed laboratory work falls within the scope of the activities already covered in the general laboratory or facility risk assessment, there is no requirement to do a full, separate new assessment. However, line managers and supervisors should ensure that their staff and students are familiar with the hazards & controls and receive any necessary training required by the risk assessment.

Otherwise, it is still a good starting point for a new assessment to use the existing laboratory assessment as your starting point. This way, you ensure you include all of the hazards and controls that already exist in your workplace.

When an existing risk assessment for a similar task to your work exists in RiskNet, it is both permitted and encouraged to use this as the basis for your new assessment. In this way, you can make good use of existing expertise. Remember, if the risk assessment was for work in different lab or was completed a long time ago, it will need to be changed to include the latest safety information for the correct lab.

Similar to laboratory risk assessments, certain equipment and specialised processes often have their own risk assessments. Examples include X-ray generators, high power laser systems, and processes involving hazardous chemicals. Often it is not appropriate for non-specialists to attempt risk assessment for these types of equipment and processes, so you will instead be provided suitable training covering the safe operation and safety controls required by the existing risk assessment.


Creating a new risk assessment

If you do have to create a new risk assessment from scratch, how you approach this may vary considerably depending on how specialised the activity is. Below is a useful basic guide to approaching general laboratory work that requires risk assessment. It assumes that you have already determined that a suitable risk assessment does not currently exist in RiskNet and the work does not require specialised assessment.

      1. The first step in a new risk assessment for a completely new process should be to draft a very basic procedure; write a step-by-step guide in bullet points describing the process, for example for a lab experiment which instruments/apparatus are involved and how they will be used, etc
      2. Next think about the hazards that may be present, and how likely something might go wrong and lead to harm, and record this for each step. It is useful at this stage to consult any safety documentation available e.g., from equipment manufacturers.
      3. Then consider the environment the work will take place in- not only the location, but also who else may be working in the area. Review your assessment of the hazards for each step based on this information- how does it affect their severity and how likely they are to cause harm, not only to you but also to others nearby?
      4. The next step is to determine your controls. You may find, after consideration, that you can eliminate some hazards just by changing your procedure or moving to a more suitable workspace. A very good rule of thumb is the ‘hierarchy of controls’

          Heirachy of Control measures.jpg

        • Finally, review your draft process with the assistance of your supervisor/line manager, or the lab manager (as appropriate) before transferring to RiskNet for formal review.

    It is much easier to edit and review the information in a risk assessment this way, as your draft document can be more easily shared and edited than a RiskNet form.

    The RiskNet System

    UCL requires that all risk assessments be recorded in the RiskNet system.  A step-by-step guide to creating risk assessments can be found here. Your supervisor, line manager or the laboratory manager will also be able to provide guidance in preparing risk assessments using the RiskNet system.

    As well as risk assessments, RiskNet also hosts a number of other functions, like DSE assessments. Explaining the full functions of RiskNet are beyond the scope of this document, but an overview of RiskNet systems may be found on the Safety Services RiskNet web pages.













    EEE Hazardous Waste Management Plan

    Waste Management

    All departments generating hazardous waste have a waste management plan. 

    The plan will detail

    • Types of hazardous waste generated.
    • Who is responsible for the waste.

    The responsibility is held at a local lab level with PIs to ensure they are in line with UCLs waste streams and will monitor their waste streams including

    • Information on when waste is reduced, reused or recycled as well as how it is processed (landfill, heat treatment etc)
    • How the quantity of waste generated will be monitored

    Please refer to the UCL main website for further information on waste and recycling. 

    Heirachy of Control measures.jpg

    Heirachy of Control measures.jpg

    Heirachy of Control measures.jpg

    Heirachy of Control measures.jpg