Departmental Health and Safety Management Guidelines

1. Establishing a Departmental Safety Policy


Although there is a University-wide safety policy, it is considered necessary for individual departments and units to establish their departmental safety policy in line with the University's general safety policy. The purpose of the safety policy is to communicate the management's commitment and direction towards the priority of protecting employees' safety and health. It should state clearly the department/ unit's policy on ensuring safe and healthful work activities and working conditions so that personnel at all levels understand the priority of ensuring safety and health protection in relation to their job requirements and responsibilities.


Content of Safety Policy: | Sample content |

The Safety Policy statement should be in written form. It should be as concise as practicable to ease communication, understanding and remembering. Nonetheless, the safety policy statement should be able to communicate the following messages:

  • The commitment to health and safety by the Head of Department (HOD).
  • The commitment to treat health and safety as a core management function.
  • The commitment of necessary resources for achieving the health and safety goals.
  • The importance of protecting the health and safety of employees and others who may be affected by the department's activities.
  • The importance of planning for safety.
  • Performance in health and safety will be measured.
  • Legal requirements will be complied with.

The Safety Policy Statement should be signed by the HOD and dated. It should also be reviewed and adjusted periodically.



  • Have the Safety Policy Statement signed by the Head of Department (HOD).
  • Make the safety policy known to all staff in the department by effective means (e.g. posting the statement at conspicuous locations, emails to all staff, reiterating at management and operation meetings and at appropriate occasions).
  • Make the Statement as the beginning page(s) of the "Departmental Safety Manual".




2. Organizing Staff for Health & Safety


The essence of effective management is to achieve organizational goals through people with team efforts. The same applies to achieving health and safety goals. 





In developing an effective organization for managing health and safety, the HOD should ensure that:

  • Appropriate responsibility as well as authority for health and safety has been formally assigned to specific individuals;
  • There are effective arrangements to encourage the involvement or participation of all staff members in the Department in health and safety matters;
  • Sufficient information is supplied to and collected from staff about the risks to which they may be exposed and the appropriate control measures they should take;
  • Staff are properly trained to do their work and to discharge specific health and safety duties effectively; and
  • Sufficient resources, in terms of time and finance, have been allocated.



Assigning Safety Responsibilities


  • The HOD should assume overall responsibility for health and safety in the Department.[Notes]
  • Responsibilities for health and safety should be assigned successively through a management structure. The fact that "safety is a line responsibility" should be emphasized. Such responsibilities should be documented and made known to the individuals concerned.
  • Persons with assigned health and safety responsibilities should be appraised on their health and safety performance.
  • A senior staff should be appointed to serve as the Safety Officer for the department. The appointee should carry the Department Head's authority in implementing safety. There should be arrangements for covering the Safety Officer during his/her absence from work. For some departments/ units, it may be necessary to assign additional staff member(s) to assist the Safety Officer in implementing safety measures.
  • Safety should be made a standing agenda item at senior management meetings and at operational meetings at all levels.


  • There should be arrangements for the involvement and participation of all staff.
  • Each department/ unit should establish a Safety Committee with representatives from appropriate staff groups.
  • The Safety Committee should be chaired by a senior member of staff.
  • The mandate of the Safety Committee should cover setting safety objectives, devising safety procedures/ arrangements and monitoring safety performance for the department.


  • There should be effective means for bringing to the attention of all staff the safety policy and of the department and other safety information concerning the staff.
  • The Departmental Safety Committee should also facilitate communication of important safety information among staff members.
  • Maintain a close link with HSEO.


Ensuring Competence through Training

  • Arrangements to ensure that staff are provided with adequate and appropriate safety training.
  • While HSEO provides general safety courses on various topics, supervisors of staff in the department are responsible for conducting job-specific safety training. Examples include specific methods for handling specific hazardous agents used in the particular laboratory, specific emergency response procedures appropriate for that laboratory, etc.
  • When necessary, appropriate safety advice should be sought, from HSEO or other appropriate outside bodies.


Assign Safety Responsibilities

  • Define and assign safety responsibilities for staff at different levels.
  • Write down the assigned safety responsibilities and include them in the "Departmental Safety Manual".
  • Make the respective safety responsibilities known to individuals by effective means (emails, memos etc.)


  • Appoint a senior staff member as DSO.
  • Appoint other staff members to assist the DSO as necessary.
  • Specify the authority and responsibilities of DSO and his/her assistants.


  • Establish a Safety Committee (if appropriate), or discuss safety matters regularly in appropriate management and operation meetings.
  • Establish effective means for communication safety messages to staff (safety bulletin board, safety newsletters, emails, webpages, suggestion box, all staff meetings etc.)


  • Arrange the necessary training courses for staff.
  • Maintain a training record.
  • Review and monitor safety training for staff according to the training plan.



3. Planning and Implementing


Planning is the key to ensuring that potential health and safety risks have been anticipated and assessed, and appropriate measures have been established to control the risks involved.



  • Planning should be specified as a line management responsibility.
  • Safety plans should be recorded in writing for implementation of controls and monitoring performance. They should provide for identifying hazards and measuring risks, and deciding how they can be eliminated or controlled by developing and implementing appropriate safe operating procedures and performance standards.
  • The safety procedures and performance standards should identify who is responsible for actions and when the actions must be done.
  • The training needs for staff should also be identified during the planning process.
  • Priority on safety efforts should be set based on the outcome of risk assessment.


  • Establish requirements for risk assessments and safety plans to be documented and evaluated by appropriate persons (HOD, DSO, HSEO etc.)
  • Establish appropriate safety rules, procedures and performance standards to control hazards identified in risk assessments. [Notes]
  • Establish arrangements in monitoring the compliance of the requirements mentioned above.
  • The above requirements should be written down in the "Departmental Safety Manual" and made known to staff members concerned.



4. Measuring and Monitoring Performance in Health and Safety

The purpose is to measure and monitor safety performance against predetermined plans, procedures and standards, and to assess their implementation and effectiveness in order to identify the need for remedial actions.


  • Safety performance should be measured and monitored with both "active" and "reactive" systems. 
  • Active monitoring (before things go wrong) involves regular inspections and checking to ensure that appropriate safety procedures and standards are being implemented and management controls are working. 
  • Reactive monitoring (after things go wrong) involves reporting and investigating injuries, ill-health cases, property damages and near-miss cases in order to identify what has gone wrong and to determine what remedial actions need to be taken.
  • Measuring and monitoring safety performance, whether it is active or reactive, should be specified as line management responsibility.


  • There should be arrangements and programs for conducting regular health and safety inspections in the department. Supervisors are required to perform regular safety inspections of their own work areas to monitor for compliance with established safety procedures and standards.
  • In addition, arrangement should also be made for the departmental Safety Committee and HSEO to conduct announced and unannounced safety inspections to provide feedback to management on safety performance.
  • The arrangement for HOD and other senior management to periodically inspect workplaces can help in promoting and reinforcing a positive safety culture.
  • Records should be kept for each inspection with details of both positive and negative findings. There should be arrangements to ensure that safety improvement actions will be taken by appropriate personnel.
  • There should also be arrangements for reporting hazards. Staff and students should be reminded to consult their supervisors if they feel unsure of their operations. Supervisors should monitor the performance of their staff and students and take positive action including stopping work, where necessary, when hazardous situations are spotted.


  • Recommendations should be recorded in writing and should specify who is responsible for taking the remedial actions and when the actions should have been taken.
  • There should also be arrangements to ensure that all necessary actions have been taken.


Safety Inspections

  •  Establish requirements for staff responsible for workplaces to conduct safety inspections and follow up with safety and health deficiencies. Safety inspections and follow-up actions should be documented.
  • Establish requirements for management staff of the department and HSEO to conduct announced and unannounced safety inspections.
  • Establish means to communicate safety problems identified in safety inspections for appropriate remedial actions by appropriate personnel.
  • Document the above requirements in the "Departmental Safety Manual" and make known to the staff concerned. 


  • Establish requirements for supervisors and appropriate personnel to investigate accidents and incidents, recommend and follow up with remedial measures.
  • Document the above requirements in the "Departmental Safety Manual" and make known to the staff concerned. 


  • Establish effective means for staff to report hazards.



5. Reviewing Safety Performance to ensure Progressive Improvement


To systematically review and examine the department's safety efforts and the results to determine whether they conform to the planned arrangements and whether these arrangements are implemented effectively and are suitable for achieving the department's safety policy and goals.



  • Safety performance should be reviewed by conducting appropriate safety audits. For this purpose, a Departmental Health and Safety Audit Scheme has been developed by HSEO (click here to go to the Audit Scheme). 
  • HSEO will also help the department in conducting independent audits with the full support of the HOD.



  • Establish requirements and make arrangements for periodic safety audits.