UCL Ear Institute


16 July 2008 minutes

UCL Ear Institute
Health & Safety Meeting
16 July 2008


  • Prof. D McAlpine 
  • Mrs C Overington
  • Mr B Kavanagh (Safety Officer UCL)
  • Dr R Nickel
  • Dr S Dawson
  • Mr G Nevill
  • Mr J Kelly
  • Mrs M Shah
  • Ms M Gomez

In attendance:           

  • Ms E Turner
  1. Apologies for absence

Apologies were received from Rada Al-Khafaji, Deafness Research UK (DRUK)

  1. Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting were circulated prior to the meeting and were approved as a true record.

  1. Matters arising (not covered elsewhere in the agenda)
  • Prof McAlpine (DMcA) raised the matter of the fly-screen doors for Joerg Albert’s (JA) laboratory. The door need to be fitted with better handles, to make it more robust.  At present there exists a possibility of damage to the screen due to the handle being too tightly fitted.

    RN mentioned that the door was secure from the outside. JA’s concern was with the flies storage door.  It was reported that the outside door needed to be closed in order to preserve the double containment.

    Action:  CO to request DL to organise the fixing of door handles.

  1. Safety Audit Report

Cheryl Overington (CO) advised that Brian Kavanagh (BK) and Colin Skeete had recently reviewed progress following the Safety Audit at the Ear Institute and had made his recommendations.  The assessment of the Safety Audit was good with only one reservation: working out of hours for which a compromise has been reached.  CO reported that arrangements had been put in place for out of hours working and this procedure was working well: staff had been instructed to put their name and telephone number on the white board in the Foyer of the CAR Building when they enter and delete when they leave.  CO confirmed that an instruction had already been given to staff members to use their mobile numbers for this purpose.

It was mentioned that the shelf attachment for the white board, the marker and the eraser had gone missing and a request was made to have a shelf fitted under the whiteboard.  Action: CO.

CO said that actions under Section 1 still needed to be addressed by DMcA:  (i) the completed Risk Assessment, DMcA to email all staff and instructed them to complete their risk assessments; (ii) DMcA to conduct an Annual Safety Inspection. The latter is to be conducted once all individual risk assessments had been received. Action:  DMcA / CO.

  1. DRUK Issues

There was nothing to report in Rada Al-Khafaji’s absence.

  1. Fire Safety Management Policy

    6.1       Building Evacuation

    DMcA mentioned the recent gas scare, specifically the division between the Admin and CAR buildings, and the need to evacuate staff members. The reported problem was situated in the basement of the Admin Building, and did not affect the CAR Building.

    It was noted that staff conducting experiments in the CAR Building can be severely disrupted with potentially many hours of work lost if the evacuation is unnecessary.

    A proper evacuation procedure is necessary and discussion ensued as to whether it was necessary to activate fire alarms as a means of instructing staff to leave the building. However, this automatically alerts the Fire Brigade with serious cost implications.  It was suggested having a pre-alarm procedure where a Fire Marshall assesses the situation before activating a full evacuation to avoid unnecessary termination of experiments. 

    It was noted that there was a problem using e-mail addresses for instructions and alerts as these messages were moderated, and it was suggested that evacuation message should be approved prior to circulation.  Due to moderation some staff members do not receive messages until hours later and, in some cases, the next day.  CO emphasised that ALL effected staff were informed in person and the email was only for information to those not affected.

    BK advised that Communications can be contacted prior to an alarm being activated to advise the emergency services not to respond. In the event of a bomb threat, a procedure should be initiated where the evacuation is conducted on a floor by floor basis, in the likelihood that the device in situated near the exit point which would normally be used.

    It was reported that there is an alarm in the animal house, but this is a light only variety which does not have a buzzer.  Staff members working in the animal house should be made aware of this in the event of a building evacuation.

    6.2.      Fire Safety Management Policy

    It was noted that staff and visitors staying for more than three days require an induction, be shown around the building, be made aware of all exit points and the assembly point outside the building.  This is being undertaken by G. Nevill.

    It was noted that during the summer months there were a number of project students at the Ear Institute.  PI’s to take responsibility for communicating via e-mails to all staff advising that project students will be in the building.  Action:  PI’s

    Students for taught degree courses are given a formal induction at the beginning of the academic year. However, MSc students who are here only to do projects will not be so familiar with the building.  It was suggested that project students, be given the fire safety induction as a group rather than individually as this would be a more efficient use of the Senior Fire Marshall’s time. Action: PI’s to inform GN of students needing Fire Induction.

    CO advised that the Annual Fire Training is due to be conducted later in the year.  Previously this was done on a floor by floor basis.  The Fire Marshalls for each floor will be asked to undertake this once again.

    7.         Specialist Officer Reports

    7.1       Regina Nickel reported that we do not need special permission to house genetically modified animals, as this is covered by Animal Services, who are the main supplier of genetic mice to UCL.  However, Animal Services should be informed that we have genetically modified animals in the unit.  Action:   RN to inform UCL

    7.2       Category 3 Laboratories.

    DMcA raised the matter of Category 3 Laboratories as there is a possibility, within the next six months, to look at viral track infections.  UCL will be introducing procedures to conform to requirements for Category 3 Laboratories.   It would be necessary to install a new hood.  Martin Stocker from Physiology will be working with DMcA on a project and he requested to be informed of these requirements.  It was noted that the type of genes and vectors used would determine the level of requirements. 

    7.3       Radiation

    Sally Dawson (SD) reported that there had not been very much radiation work conducted recently, and therefore there was little to report.  There had been a change of supplier due to GE Healthcare stopping supplies of most radiation isotopes.  No problems had been experienced with deliveries from the new supplier and everything had run smoothly.

    8.         Objectives for the New Year

    DMcA reported that most of the safety objectives had been met with regard to the previous document.  CO said that objectives would need to be set for next year with regard to improving safety.

    8.1       DMcA thought the main issue relating to the side door to Britannia Street is signage, which is still required to indication that the building is part of UCL.  CO advised that this matter had been followed up on several occasions. Due to increased number of students and new courses being run by outside visitors, it is necessary to provide more secure access to the building.  Leaving the door open was not acceptable, caused primarily by an inappropriate closing mechanism.  A stronger door, which gives the appearance of being a proper entrance was required.  The door to Wicklow Street, at the rear of the building, could also be improved. This door does have an adequate closing mechanism.

    Action:  CO to submit a project request and contact Ana De’Ath.

    It was noted that permission may be required to effect any change to the door, due to the Listed Building status.

    8.2       It was noted from the previous minutes that de-cluttering was on the list of safety objectives.  This is on-going and some items have been removed already. 

    The procedure is to identify items for disposal, then advise the Departmental Secretary, who will organise the collection(s) with Estates and Facilities Division. The responsibility rests which each staff member.

    Sensitivity is required with regard to the Electronics Workshop on the 1st Floor, as this area contains many items of historic interest.  It was suggested that these be stored at Otodynamics. Some equipment is non-functional and occupies a substantial amount of office/storage space. 

    BK reported that this equipment may require disposal under one of the hazardous waste categories if they contain vacuum tubes.

    Action: DMcA to circulate an e-mail, reminding staff to de-clutter and to speak to David Kemp regarding the Electronics Workshop.

    CO reported that laboratories, situated in the hospital, were still full of items which belonged to the former ILO.  It was the responsibility of staff to clear these areas upon vacating the space.  However, on recent inspection this had not be done.  The cost of disposal needs to be determined and people contacted who were working in those areas. 

    9.         Incident and accident reports.

    There were no reports received for incidents or accidents. 

    DMcA raised a related issue regarding the reporting of incidents such as light bulbs not working and other minor defects, which could pose a safety risk.  This will form part of the responsibility of the Building and Laboratories Operative appointed to replace John Orie.  Staff members are to be reminded of the procedure to be followed.  It will also be the responsibility of the new Operative to proactively inspect the building to ensure there are no problems.

    10.       Any Other Business

    BK informed the meeting that he attends Departmental Safety Meetings in order to answer any questions of a specific nature in relation to health and safety issues. This allows for a monitoring function of the departments. 

    There was some further discussion about the Histology Room.  DMcA felt that the use of the Histology Room for certain experiments was not the best option. A suggested alternative is to use a section of the animal house.  However, this may require the room to be fitted out for the purpose as well as obtaining the necessary licence for the premises in order to conduct reconstructions.

    SD asked what was happening with regard to a fume hood.  It was reported that there was one in the end room which was seldom in use. 

    11.       Date of next meeting

    This has been arranged for 5th November 2008.