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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Health and Safety

This page contains a summary of key aspects of the Archaeology Department’s health and safety policy. Please refer to the specific policy and guidance documents for more detailed information. The policy applies to the activities conducted by staff and students both within the Department and at other locations (e.g. fieldwork) and the department operates within the wider framework of Durham University’s health and safety policy. Further details relating to health and safety at Durham University can be accessed through the Health and Safety Service website.

The aim of the Archaeology Department’s health and safety policy, so far as is reasonably practicable, is to provide sufficient information to facilitate the creation of a safe working environment for all staff, students and visitors. In addition, the Department will also help achieve this by doing the following:

  • Providing adequate financial and staff resources to maintain a safe and healthy working environment
  • Providing such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure the Health and Safety of staff, students and visitors
  • Regularly reviewing and auditing health and safety in the Department.


The information presented in these pages is a summary, and for general guidance only. It is not meant to be a replacement for training or familiarising yourself with existing Departmental or University policies. Please check back here on a regular basis to familiarise yourselves with updated information.

If you hear the fire alarm (a continuous siren), you must stop what you’re doing and leave the building immediately, using the quickest safe route. Don’t stop to collect belongings. Assemble at the nearest green assembly point sign and wait until you’re told it’s safe to go back in.

The alarms are tested once a week, currently on Tuesdays before 9am. This is the only occasion when you don’t have to leave the building when the alarm is sounding. At this time each week, if the alarm continues for longer than usual (around a 60 seconds), then it is not a test and you must evacuate the building.

If you discover a fire, sound the alarm by breaking the glass in the nearest call point, then leave the building. Only people who have received specific training should try and use fire extinguishers to fight fires and security will call the fire brigade if required.

Risk assessment forms are provided by the Department to assist staff and students when appraising the health and safety risks of activities that they undertake. All staff and students undertaking teaching and research projects, such as undergraduate or postgraduate dissertations, excavations, field trips or experiments, are required to complete a risk assessment form to formally appraise the risks. It is the duty of each member of staff to ensure that such forms are completed with any person for whom they have managerial or supervisory responsibilities. Those projects where a significant risk is identified must be approved by the head of department, or authorised deputy, before the work proceeds.


The department offers a range of opportunities to study, research or travel off-site, and fieldwork is an essential part of Archaeology. The department has detailed policies covering fieldwork and, in addition, all off-site activities must be assessed under the guidance of the University’s “off-site activity health, safety and security” framework. All off-site activities require risk assessments to be completed.


For staff and postgraduate students, normal opening hours for the Dawson building are:

  • 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday (excluding statutory and customary holidays)
  • 7a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday (excluding statutory and customary holidays)

For undergraduate students, access to the building is limited to the hours when teaching might normally be expected to be taking place i.e. 8.30am to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday. Access outside of these hours will require specific permission from a supervisor or lab manager and completion of a risk assessment.

Between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. (or at any time over a weekend) those authorised to work in the Dawson Building must sign in and out using the sign-in book by the main entrance, so that the fire brigade know the location of occupants in an emergency. If work is to take place outside of normal opening hours, or during holidays, permission is required from either: supervisor, line manager, laboratory manager or the head of department and this may require the completion of a risk assessment.

Laboratory working hours are more restricted and no individual should conduct laboratory or practical work, before 8.30am or after 6pm, at weekends, or during University closed periods without formal permission from their supervisor or line manager, the laboratory manager or the head of department as appropriate, and completion of a specific risk assessment. A small number of processes (especially those involving strong acids) may have even more restricted working hours and conditions.

All laboratories in the Dawson building have their own rules and procedures. Staff and students are responsible for familiarising themselves with these rules and abiding by them. Before any work is undertaken in the laboratories, the consent of the designated laboratory manager must be obtained. If necessary a Task Based Risk Assessment form and/or COSHH Assessment form must be completed before work commences. It is essential that the lab Manager is aware of all the activities being undertaken in that laboratory/facility.

For all Lab related enquires please contact the lab technicians
Steve Robertson (email: / phone: ext 41574)
Beth Upex (email: / phone: ext 41085).


The department has a pool of first aiders who hold the 3-day HSE workplace first aid qualification and can assist in the event of an injury. They have green “first aider” signs on their office doors and access to first aid kits. If you have an accident and are injured as a result please see your nearest first aider in the first instance.

It is a legal requirement to report all accidents resulting in personal injury, including accidents during fieldwork. Any accident, injury or “near miss” incident (where injury could have happened but didn’t) should be reported to the technical team in room D240, who can help with completing an incident report form, or IR1. The technicians act as incident reporting officer and pass on the details on to the health and safety service.

First aid kits are located around the Dawson building, including the pantry and labs. There also kits available from the technician’s office for staff and students to sign out for off-site activities.


The department owns two drones that are available for staff and student research. Please contact Dr Dan Lawrence if you wish to discuss using the department’s drones. The drones operate under specific departmental guidelines, outlined in the document below, which must be consulted before the use of any Drones or UAV’s. Please be aware that the use of drones must be covered by an appropriate risk assessment.


If you are issued with a key to an office or lab (or the key-code to the main door), you should make sure the doors are locked when possible.

University security is staffed 24 hours a day and can be contacted from any internal phone on extension 42222 for non-emergency calls and 43333 in an emergency. From a mobile phone the numbers are 0191 3342222 and 0191 3343333 respectively.

In line with University policy, the Dawson Building is a No Smoking area: this includes the area extending to 10m beyond the perimeter of the building.