Role of Safety Officers


All laboratories should have at least one person who is well-versed in safe practices and who understands and can advise the management on its legal responsibilities in respect of the health and safety of its employees. Under the UK Health and Safety Regulations 1988, employers have a legal obligation to appoint as safety advisors "competent" persons who will advise and assist in protective and preventive measures against accidents and ill health caused by their work. The suggested duties of a safety advisor (officer) include:-

  1. Advise management on the formulation of a safety policy (required by law in the UK).
  2. Assist scientific staff in drawing up standard operating procedures (SOPs) that incorporate safe practices.
  3. Carry out safety audits and inspections.
  4. Investigate accidents and incidents and ensure they are reported and documented as required by law.
  5. Ensure that hazardous materials are correctly labelled and stored.
  6. Ensure that protective clothing and equipment are in god order.
  7. Oversee routine decontamination procedures and carry out effective decontamination after an accident.
  8. Maintain appropriate literature and disseminate information on safety matters.
  9. Liaise with emergency services.

Emergency Plans

One or more SOPs should be drawn up for dealing with:

  1. Natural disasters (fire, flood etc.)
  2. Serious contamination of premises
  3. Accidental exposure of staff to infection
  4. Emergency medical treatment
  5. Inquiries into dangerous occurrences
  6. Epidemiological investigations  

In the drawing of an emergency SOP, the following should be taken into account;-

  1. The presence and location of Group 3 and 4 pathogens and hazardous substances
  2. Location of high risk areas
  3. Personnel who are at risk
  4. Identification and whereabouts of emergency civil and medical services
  5. Sources of prophylactics and therapeutics
  6. Sources and provision of safety and life-saving equipment