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Illness, stress and injury

All education institutions have a legal responsibility for the health, welfare and safety of their staff.

This requires pre-emptive action, such as carrying out risk assessments, the training of first-aiders and publishing accident procedures

When accidents happen, it may not always be easy to assess what steps you should take. We would normally advise that all accidents are reported, even where they may seem minor. Not only will this help your institution identify risk areas, but may be of benefit if complications arise.

One of your employer's responsibilities is to take preventative steps to guard against any long-term negative health implications of your job. This includes paying for regular eye tests for visual display unit users, ensuring workstations do not present posture or related health risks, and taking appropriate action when health & safety concerns are raised.

Your employer's responsibilities also extend beyond your physical environment. They should also ensure that workloads and working hours are such that you do not become at risk of stress or stress-related illness. With increasing workloads, stress-related illness is becoming increasingly common.

Read UCU's recent research into the extent of stress in further and higher education.

Signs of stress - and this is by no means an exhaustive list - include: physical symptoms, such as headaches or rashes; emotional changes, such as over-reaction or sleep problems; and behavioural changes, such as substance abuse or high blood pressure.

If left unresolved, prolonged stress can be potentially life-threatening. If you feel you are at risk, please see your GP, and approach your branch/local association who will be able to support you if necessary in subsequent approaches to management.

If you fall ill during a holiday period, provided you inform your employer, you can take that holiday lost to sickness when you have recovered - see here for holiday rights information.

If you have a health & safety problem

Your local safety representative at departmental, site, branch/LA, college or university should be your first port of call for any health or safety query or problem. Elected by the union locally, they have the knowledge, are able to access training with paid leave, get paid facility time and have direct access to the union's officials and health and safety advice line. They are part of the local procedures agreed with your management, with statutory rights, to deal with health and safety.

UCU has representatives on workplace health and safety committees - joint union-management committees set up under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations. Many branches/LA's also have safety reps committees, made up of union members only.

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