My supervisor cam by with a little surprise today... I hae to write risk assessments for every lab procedure I am going to do (which up until now is about 30, but still counting). Did anybody else who does lab work go through the same thing? Did you "borrow" from other RAs? Did your department have them?
Way too much work... the only thing I found so far after moving to the UK is that the H&S regulations are ridiculously complicated and a lot of administrative work! I don't have time for all of this stuff ,-)
I don't do lab work but I do take studnts out on fieldwok which require risk assessment s- the usual thing to do is to get a template (or an existing one) and adapt it to refellect the specific circumstances, change the date etc. If all your proccedures are similar (eg in same lab, using chemicals, similar processes etc) then it should be a doddle. I would have thought that you should be able to get either a template or an example that you can adapt.
H&S is (rightly) taken seriously and that is in part to protect you. If there were an accident in the lab and you were injured then the risk assessment would help to demonstrate that you had complied with legal and other requirements and could be essential in any litigation (either defending your actions or in suing the lab). It is also a major part of any industrial process to have a risk assessment.
I can't believe that you think it is "ridiculously complicated" and that you "don't have time for it" - that sort of attitude results in short cuts and sloppy practices and can, and does, lead to injury and death (and I speak from experience of losing a relative abroad because a risk assessment was not adequately done - four years on we still have not had the inquest and there is a long legal process going on to ensure that rules are changed). If you were my student I would question your maturity and ability to undertake independent research.
There seems to be two main reasons for risk assessment - to protect the user/doer/researcher etc, and to protect, in law, the organisation/university in case of claim by the researcher or other organisations. A lot of risk assessments are sensible, where they involve working with substances, machinery, or processes which are clearly hazardous, such as ionising radiation, toxins, liquid nitrogen, etc. However, some risk assessments (I've actually seen one for "pouring water", although not at my current place, are plain stupid and exist just to justify some petty-minded individual. I think on the whole, however, they're pretty sensible.
In terms of writing them, we generally have just one per procedure, and sign any which are relevant to us. It seems to work pretty well.
It shouldn't take that long and should mainly be a copy and paste exercise after you've done a couple, unless you are using an absurd amount of machinery. Ask the technicians in the lab (if there are any) and you should be able to get hold of old ones that are similar. Even if you can't then it shouldn't take long to whip one up. All you need to do is think of an accident that could happen then give it a likelyhood factor and a risk or injury factor. As long as you get any that are high risk of injury and can show that they're unlikely then I wouldn't worry about having missed a couple of low injury factor ones. The point of the exercise isn't to jump through hoops, but to show that you have considered all the possible risks. You should be able to knock off all thirty in a day, assuming all the tasks are similar, maybe two days if they're not.
They can be a pain, but I'd rather it be a pain a hundred times than one person get seriously injured. Also, I understand that people do it differently in other countries, and these methods may be better (or worse), but they're not how it's done here, so there's no real point trying to fight the risk assessment method.
Try the HSE web site for guidance if you haven't already.
Good luck :-)
Sorry for double post.
Just to add, you could probably have one for "general lab activity" and cover all the stupid ones like using scales or using the fridge in one.
Hey, i started my phd in october, and one of the first things i had to do was to complete risk assessments b4 i was allowed in the lab, it was such a faff!! i dont think u need to write a separate risk assessment for every procedure, if the same chemicals are used in 5 procedures you only need to mention it. I had to do my own risk assessment but another student who started around the same time as me, her supervisor gave her around 5 RA and she just had to change the front page which include name, supervisors and project title etc. So i think it depends on your supervisor.
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