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Occupational Exposure

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Managing occupational exposure risks

Health can be affected when individuals are exposed to noise, vibration, chemicals, biological agents, dusts, etc. The effects to health can be temporary or permanent.

Managers and supervisors must protect the health of staff, students and visitors by ensuring risk is assessed and control measures are applied. This can be done by eliminating the hazard altogether or reducing the exposure to as low as reasonably practicable. The assessment should be recorded on a UoR risk assessment form, and reviewed regularly, especially if there are significant changes to the work, such as location, methods or substances.

Support to Managers and Supervisors

H&SS provides topic-specific webpages on noise, vibration, and hazardous substances. These provide guidance to help you recognise if work might be a concern for health, and explain the types of controls that can be used to reduce risk. The topic webpages also provide access to learning resources (online or in person), a variety of risk assessment forms, and the University H&S policies.

If managers and supervisor are not clear on the level of the hazards, or if completing the risk assessment is challenging, managers and supervisors should seek assistance before starting the work.  At the local level, help is available from other competent staff in the area (with knowledge or experience of similar work ) and the local H&S Coordinator can provide advice, or seek more specialist assistance from H&SS, who can engage specialist external contractors where needed. If in doubt, contact H&SS via

H&SS also provides advice on personal protective equipment and respiratory protective equipment, and can perform qualitative face-fit testing. H&SS will also carry out noise surveys, on request.

Health Surveillance

HSS works closely with the University Occupational Health Services (OHS), which provides in-house health surveillance for staff and students. Health surveillance involves physically inspecting or testing the body to monitor changes in health. In most cases surveillance will not be necessary due to the effectiveness of other control measures in managing health risks.

However, if there remains a reasonable likelihood of developing an occupational disease or an adverse health affect, then health surveillance will be required. Managers and supervisors must record the need for health surveillance on the risk assessment. For each relevant individual they must complete a surveillance enrolment form and submit that to OHS, who will consult the individuals, advise their manager or supervisor of the specific health surveillance requirements and place them on the regular health surveillance programme. The risk assessment should be reviewed for health surveillance need at each time the work is changed.

Health surveillance will be required if any of the following are met:

  • Noise levels regularly exceed 80dB(A), or exceeds 80dB(A) and the worker’s health makes them more susceptible to noise exposure (e.g. existing hearing loss, tinnitus), or the work involves ototoxic substances (see RNID pages on ototoxic drugs)
  • Hand vibration levels regularly exceed 2.5m/s over 8 hours, and whole body vibration exceeds 0.5m/s over 8 hours
  • Work involving biological agents at bio-hazard group 3 or 4, or GM hazard class 2 or 3
  • Any other hazardous substances that is likely to cause an identifiable disease or adverse health effect, or the substances listed in schedule VI of the COSHH regulations 2002 (amended), or where there is a liability to exposure to lead or other heavy metals


If in doubt, contact H&SS via or OHS via


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Contact details

Health & Safety Services

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  • 0118 378 8888 
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  • University of Reading

    Health and Safety Services

    Whiteknights House (W027)

    Room G23

    Shinfield Road



    RG6 6UR