Covid-19 risk assessment: guidance for researchers

Updated on 7 March 2023

Guidance for all researchers, staff and students, regarding Covid-19 risk assessment.

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Research in the UK

COVID-19 risk assessment

As per the information on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website:

HSE no longer expects every business to consider COVID-19 in their risk assessment or to have specific measures in place. Employers may still choose to continue to cover COVID-19 in their risk assessments.

There is a requirement to protect those who will come into contact with the virus due to their work activity.

This means that there is no longer a legal requirement for employers to include COVID-19 risks in their risk assessments UNLESS there is a specific risk associated with deliberate work with the virus. For the University, that means scientific activities where deliberate handling of clinical isolates or propagation of the virus occurs.

This is part of the UK approach to “living with the virus” and is cognisant of COVID-19 now being a public health issue and not a workplace hazard.

COVID-19 guidance

The requirement to risk assess and put in place control measures to protect against infection from COVID-19 (except in the specific circumstances noted above) has now been replaced with guidance issued by the different parts of the UK. In Scotland, the guidance is from the Scottish Government.

A range of measures are recommended, including “staying at home” if unwell, wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces and on public transport and ensuring good ventilation of spaces. None of these are mandatory and the University has not implemented any mandatory controls that go above and beyond the guidance from the Scottish Government.

Within the University, people should use “Covid sense” (Scottish Government quote) and apply the guidance as appropriate and independently from workplace risk assessments, which must still be undertaken and must consider significant workplace risks, applying controls as necessary to reduce those risks to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.

The University Research Ethics Committee has agreed the following measures for non-clinical research involving human participants, effective immediately:

  • For research conducted in Scotland, researchers should be working to the Scottish Government guidance.
  • Where research is conducted in other countries of the UK the guidance for the relevant country should also be consulted.
  • With regards to people visiting campus or research conducted off campus, researchers should refer to health and safety guidance in their School and submit any required information.

Overseas research

Researchers from the University of Dundee travelling overseas to carry out research

Partner(s) in other countries gathering data

  • Partner(s) should undertake health and safety risk assessment prior to conducting research and sharing data that will be used by University of Dundee staff. The University should be assured that relevant steps have been taken but cannot insist on partners following our Health and Safety processes.  The exception to this would be where there was a contract in place which stipulated that the partner complied with UK Health and Safety regulations. Thus, the partner(s) should be conducting their own health and safety risk assessment unless there is a contract in place which dictates otherwise.

Distance learning students (including postgraduate researchers) overseas wanting to carry out research in own country  

  • Researchers are recommended to follow any health and safety requirements and guidance in the country where the research is being undertaken.
  • Ethical approval should be sought in the normal way.

Clinical research (in or through the NHS)

Newly approved criteria for student research will enable some master’s level students to apply for NHS ethics and R&D approvals. Standalone research at undergraduate level that requires NHS ethics review and/or R&D Approval cannot take place. Arrangements for doctoral research remain unchanged.

The student research toolkit shows the type of standalone research projects which students will be able to apply for. These projects are where the student designs the study, submits for approval and conducts the project on their own with supervision. Students and their supervisors will need to use and complete the student research toolkit before being able to submit an application for relevant permissions and approvals through the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS).

Guidance can be sought from TASCGovernance@dundee.ac.uk for any research going through the NHS, be it staff, students or data.

Further Information

This page will be updated as appropriate should the position change. For queries relating to your School Research Ethics Committee (SREC) please see the contacts  page.

Corporate information category Research governance