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Safety awareness must be part of the university culture

NATIONAL SAFETY MONTH: Last semester, one of our employees climbed up on their office chair to reach something on the top shelf. The employee lost their balance and broke a wrist in the fall. We could say that these things happen, or that it is due to a lack of safety culture.

Illustration: Colourbox

(Illustration: Colourbox)

Fortunately, the incident only led to a broken wrist, although that in itself is bad enough. The mishap could easily have been far worse.

Safety awareness, security expertise and safety culture are central this National Safety Month. It is crucial to report concerns, and the Speak Up channel can be used for that purpose. Here you can also share your concerns anonymously. Bear in mind that safety culture also includes cyber security and data protection.

Do you know enough about data privacy legislation? Test yourself with the data privacy game.

Sikresiden.no provides advice for every type of emergency at work or at home. There is also information about risk prevention and a variety of issues are covered, such as cyber security, violent incidents and research ethics. Download the app to your mobile. The app has been specially adapted for UiA and is translated in English.

Sikresiden.no provides advice for every type of emergency at work or at home.

We will be fine…

… which is good. But then something goes wrong – so who is to blame? As an employer, UiA is responsible for workplace health and safety. However, safety is also an individual responsibility.

UiA must ensure a safe work environment in accordance with the requirements of the Working Environment Act, the Personal Data Act and other legislation. That is why we have internal controls and focus on Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) in every unit and provide HSE training to students, the latter mostly at the faculties of Engineering and Science and Health and Sport Sciences.

However, laws and regulations must be observed. Safety culture is to automatically think whether what we are about to do is safe, for ourselves or others; it is an automatic risk assessment that puts safety first.

Awareness raising

Many of us have climbed the office chair to reach for something on the top shelf, and it usually goes well, which means that we don’t think about the risk. And this is where the fault lies. Or the lack of a safety culture if you will.

(Illustration: Colourbox)

(Illustration: Colourbox)

Falling down the staircase in an office building is equally painful as in a shipyard. Safety is just as important among researchers and clerks as among industrial workers. However, awareness is much higher in industry.

“UiA is no ordinary company,” some people say, but that is precisely why safety thinking is important. Many UiA students and employees work with materials or equipment that require safety measures - heavy lifting equipment in the mechatronics lab or medicines in the nursing education for example.

Since neither staff nor students use such materials on a daily basis, there is all the more reason to be extra careful. A bomb squad visited campus once when potentially explosive chemicals were discovered by chance. No one had thought about the danger the chemicals posed when stored together in the same cupboard, until someone suddenly noticed and reacted.

The goal is to think safety and assess risk in everything we do.

Safety culture must be learned

“All companies have some form of safety culture. We also have that here at UiA. The question is whether it is good or bad. We only become aware of it after experiencing a security breach”, says Chief Information Security Officer Anette Thorkildsen Osaland in the Division of IT.

The attitude that things have gone well so far undermines effective safety awareness.

“Security breaches are often the result of a lack of security awareness and behaviour. This may be due to a lack of knowledge or ability to make the right decisions, or that someone consciously chooses to bypass safety procedures”, says Anette Thorkildsen Osaland.


Prevention – Speak Up

Safety culture is about the knowledge, training, motivation and skill of each individual employee or student. We must strive to learn from each other, across disciplines, and co-create a good safety culture.

“Some people use the Speak Up channel to report near-accidents. We can learn from that. It can help prevent injury and we avoid greater damage”, says HSE adviser Helge Wehus.

The Working Environment Act describes how the employer must identify hazards and problem areas, to then prepare plans and implement measures to reduce risks. The basic safety work is based on a risk and vulnerability analysis conducted at each individual unit.

“Training is essential to reduce risk. If we haven’t assessed the risks associated with an activity, it is easy to be inattentive to risk. Staff and students who participate in practical activities that can lead to danger to life and health must receive training. And the training must be repeated where necessary”, Wehus says and explains that all employees in mechatronics receive forklift training to operate forklifts which are occasionally used there.