Guidance Notes for Students on Placement (Health and Safety)

As a placement student you need to be familiar with health and safety in the same way as other employees of the company or organisation.

Employers should provide you with full training and guidance at the start of your placement. The following notes are intended to be a guide to the main areas of responsibility and you should read them carefully before starting a placement.

They do not replace, in any way, the employers’ responsibilities or policies on health and safety. They should, however, provide you with enough background information to allow you to ask pertinent questions regarding your safety.


Because of the wide variety of work that is carried out and the possible complex layout of the various buildings, it is not possible to produce a set of valid and detailed emergency instructions to cover every situation that may arise. For this reason, each employer has its own emergency instructions relating to particular buildings. There should be in every building a notice setting out the procedure to be adopted in case of fire. The instruction provided by the employer should be studied and committed to memory.

There are certain points that apply to all emergency situations:

  • Know and remember: the standing orders for emergency action. You will have no time to read them in an emergency
  • Remember: you are expected to act in the spirit of the instructions. There is no substitute for common sense
  • The most important consideration at all times is human safety
  • You should act quietly and methodically. You should not rush or attempt to pass others when leaving the scene of an emergency
  • A senior person present should assume control of the situation, confirming the safe evacuation from the premises of all persons present. Any student placement should inform this individual of any specific hazards, so that he may in turn warn the Emergency Services.

If you have to telephone for assistance in an emergency, the following information must always be given:

  • who you are
  • where you are, i.e. the location and telephone extension from which you are telephoning
  • the nature of the emergency and what services are required
  • the exact location where assistance is required.

You should ensure that the message has been correctly received by asking for it to be repeated back to you.

It is essential that the location is clearly defined. Local terminology should not be used because for instance, ‘the research site’ means very little to the Emergency Services.

It is important to give the correct name for the building and the street where it is located. If the post code is known that should also be provided.


The Act is based upon the concept of a general duty of care for most people associated with work activities. The specific aims are to:

  • secure the health, safety and welfare of persons at work
  • protect persons other than persons at work against risks to health or safety arising out of, or in connection with, the activities of persons at work
  • control the keeping and use of explosive or highly flammable or otherwise dangerous substances, and generally prevent the unlawful acquisition, possession and use of such substances

Main provisions of HASWA

There have been a number of Regulations, etc., since HASWA but fundamentally they only amplify the basic concepts contained within HASWA. Those basic provisions of HASWA place various duties upon employers, employees and others. In brief, these are:

General duties of employers

Employers are required, as far as reasonably practicable, to:

  • ensure the health and safety and welfare of employees
  • provide safe plant and equipment and systems of work
  • ensure safe use, handling, storage and transportation of articles and substances
  • provide information, instruction, training and supervision (ensure employees know both the risks and the precautions)
  • the precautions are available and the employees know that the precautions are available
  • maintain a safe place of work and safe means of access and egress.
  • no levy on employees is permitted for the provision of statutory protective equipment. If the protective equipment required by the employer is not a statutory requirement, they are within their rights to levy employees. This is usually only the case where additional protection is provided above that identified in a risk assessment.

Duties of employees

Employees (including student placements) must:

  • take reasonable care for themselves and in their acts or omissions
  • co‑operate with the employer and use safety equipment as identified in risk assessments
  • not recklessly and wilfully interfere with any safety appliances.
  • report any hazards

Written safety policies

Companies (of 5 or more employees) must prepare and revise, when necessary, a written statement of their general policy towards health and safety at work setting out:

  • the organisation ‑ i.e. who is responsible
  • the arrangements ‑ i.e. what is to be done.

Safety representatives and committees

Trade Unions may, in accordance with Regulations, appoint safety representatives and ask for a safety committee. There is a duty on an employer to enter into consultation with representatives, whose functions and rights are prescribed by Regulations.


The prevention of accidents in offices, workshops, stores, laboratories and all other places of work is a duty of every individual using or entering them. Ensuring the safety of others is as important as the avoidance of personal injury. Everyone should make it his or her first task to become familiar with any special instructions issued for dealing with emergencies peculiar to the place in which he or she is working.

General safety rules

You should familiarise yourself with:

  • the layout of the building(s)
  • ways to get out of building(s) in an emergency, which may be different to the way you came in
  • the location of telephones
  • first aid arrangements
  • the safety policy and, in particular, safe methods of working for the tasks you will be doing
  • the location of any materials, equipment and protection that you will need to use
  • the location of fire‑fighting appliances and how they work.

Remember: it may be too late to find out very much when an emergency actually happens. If you have any queries on safety matters, consult your supervisor or safety representative.



Ensure you do not leave open or prop open any door that states “fire door keep shut”.

Means of escape

Ensure that rooms, passages, corridors and stairways are not obstructed and that corridor fire doors are kept closed. If a room contains an emergency exit, make sure that it is unobstructed so that it is immediately available for use in an emergency.

Fire instructions

These appear in the Emergency Procedures for the organisation and possibly in the internal telephone directory. They should be displayed on notices in all buildings.

Fire extinguishers

Do not attempt to use an extinguisher unless you have received appropriate instructions and training and, even then, only if it is safe to do so. Misuse of fire‑fighting equipment, eg hose‑reels, fire­ extinguishers and fire‑alarms, may render it inoperable when required in an emergency and could even result in loss of life. Moreover it is a criminal offence that may result in the imposition of severe penalties by the Courts and disciplinary action by the employer.

Precautions in the work environment

Care must be taken to avoid spillage of water in rooms in which there are electric power points set in the floors. It is possible in some circumstances for a person standing on such a wet floor to receive a severe, possibly fatal, electric shock.

When carrying files or boxes, you should not carry so many that your vision is obscured. You should not carry out manual handling unless you have been trained to do so. Filing cabinet drawers should always be closed as soon as you have found what you want. Open only one drawer at a time because more than one drawer open may cause a filing cabinet to tip forward.

You must never stand on revolving stools or chairs and should avoid using any chair or stool where steps are provided. A fall on to the end of a desk or an open drawer can cause a very serious injury.

You should not leave stacks of boxes, kit bags or files on the floor near doorways for people to fall over. Polished floors, particularly if waxed or wet, offer a hazard. You should never run on the polished floors of corridors or common rooms.


Eating, drinking, smoking and the application of make‑up in laboratories or when handling or working with chemicals is prohibited. Smoking may also be prohibited in many other areas as well.

Work outside normal hours

Many companies have their own rules with regard to work outside normal hours, eg 0800 to 1800 hours, Mondays to Fridays. Saturdays, Sundays, Bank Holidays and other official holidays are usually regarded as outside normal hours.

Extreme care should be exercised when working outside these times and then only with the explicit authority of the management of that organisation. It should be forbidden to perform operations deemed hazardous by the employer, or his/her nominee, unless some other person is within calling distance, and only after prior permission has been given by the Head of the Section or his/her nominee for the particular work involved.

Electrical Hazards

Two of the worst electrical hazards are careless or unskilled workmanship and faulty or worn out equipment. Neither of these hazards need arise. Electric and electronic supplies and equipment, including batteries and electrolytic capacitors can be responsible for personal injury and even death. They can also cause fires and explosions. Remember, some foreign colour coding of electrical leads differs from British practice. If in doubt, ask.

Electricity and fire

All portable electrical appliances should be regularly inspected and tested. This involves a mechanical and visual check that all socket outlets, switches, flexible leads and electrical appliances are in good condition. In case of fire involving electrical equipment, the first action to take must be to switch off the power supply to that equipment. You should extinguish an electrical fire with carbon dioxide, never with water or foam.

Use of electric points and equipment

Lead length should be adequate for the particular job for which the equipment is currently being used. In no circumstances should you interfere with the wiring or connections of any electric point or appliance. A duly authorised, competent person will carry out all necessary adjustments or modifications to wiring.


Noise can cause damage to hearing, reduce efficiency or merely annoy. Damage to hearing can result from a sudden violent sound producing an effect as dramatic as the rupture of an eardrum. Continuous exposure to lower noise levels can, however, produce deafness. In the latter case the impairment to hearing may pass unrecognised for a long period of time due to the insidiousness of the effect. For advice on noise problems you should consult the organisation’s Safety Officer.

First aid

It is a legal requirement to report all accidents in the workplace. Medical advice should always be sought, however serious the injury. Initially, simple first aid measures may be applied. You must report any accident or injury you have in the workplace as soon as possible to your supervisor or first aider.