Should the universities know better?

As you probably know, I have posted on this problem before. It is quite a simple situation. Universities do not have the money to deal with all the LEGALLY required safety work they have to put in place. It is not legally required to put in ergonomic workstations for students and to do so would cost a fortune. I am certain that I speak for all Universities when I say that we do try to treat students as “employees” whenever possible but the LAW in this country requires us FIRST to ensure the safety and health of employees. If the country puts the money in to provide the appropriate upgrading of facilities ALL Universities (without exception) would welcome this with open arms. Don’t moan about us – lobby your MP. We can’t change things – they might be able to, if enough people get stuck in.

Comment 1: I can’t agree more – universities do require more funds and in terms of health and safety the legal requirement is primarily for staff. However, from experience I’ve noticed that various universities have very different priorities when dealing with health and safety and disability issues. By coincidence I know somebody at Bristol University and the response they’ve had from the University has been fantastic! Keep up the good work!

Comment 2: I certainly wouldn’t blame university staff for the conditions. I know the conditions aren’t as they are because of deliberate neglect or lack of concern. I understand also that a voluntary occupation, i.e. studying, is never going to be covered by employment law. I do wonder, though, whether the universities don’t have a legal obligation to provide safe workstations as part of their general legal responsibility for health and welfare of the students. After all, if a student were to receive a serious shock from electrical equipment on university premises which had been wrongly wired, presumably the university would have some liability? I expect they are insured against that sort of thing? So it seems to me that unsafe workstations should also be corrected, and that universities must have a responsibility to do it under existing law, without the need for new legislation?

Again, I’m not criticising the will of either the staff or the institutions to put things right if possible, I’m just saying that if universities *do* have a legal responsibility to make the workstations safe, and if it’s made clear to the government that there is a legal obligation for them to do so, then perhaps more money would be forthcoming for the purpose. What do you think?

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