Risk Inventory and Evaluation at TU/e: not just a checklist!

From a health and safety perspective, our environment is very complex. We deal with students, teachers, maintenance staff, interns and support staff working in labs, offices, workshops or classrooms, …

Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RI&E) is especially important when regularly working with new materials and substances and changing equipment configurations.

By Tiny Verbruggen, Head of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) at the TU/e (Eindhoven University of Technology).

An integrated approach to safety

At TU/e, Environment, Health & Safety is positioned in the Human Resources Department. We develop strategies and policies, making sure all aspects of safety and hygiene are covered, from desk height to hazardous substances and radiation. However, we don’t create policies from an ivory tower and force them upon our colleagues. We base them on continuous discussions and feedback.

From a health and safety perspective, our environment is very complex. We deal with students, teachers, maintenance staff, interns and support staff working in labs, offices, workshops or classrooms, with x-rays, radiation, biological compounds and new substances and chemicals in new combinations. Each facility and department is different
and we have to comply with a wide range of different kinds of legislation and licensing, workplace safety rules, guidelines for radiation and biological safety and much more.

Broad spectrum of safety issues

The people from different disciplines and departments who are involved in safety find it absolutely vital that EHS can discuss science and technology at their level. That’s why our department has the highest level radiation experts in house. Our partners must also have the same level of knowledge and insights into our environment and processes.

Philips Innovation Services has ample experience with complex organizations, advanced technology processes and substances as well as all kinds of target audiences. Unlike many smaller agencies, they work with the IMA questionnaire, but have adapted it to be more extensive and practical.

Organizations of our size must have their RI&Es checked. You can have this done internally by certain certified people, or bring in an external party. We do this, in part, to avoid any questions regarding our neutrality. Also, we sometimes have several projects going on at once and simply don’t have the capacity to do everything ourselves. Keeping all knowledge up to date is also extremely time-consuming. For some of our most critical applications, we work with Philips Engineering Solutions. They have the required knowledge of our environment and processes. For example, they’ve carried out RI&Es for all of our technical facility locations.

The importance of second opinions

A huge benefit is the fact that Philips Engineering Solutions’ experts look at our processes in a completely different way. Sometimes, certain procedures are carried out in a certain way out of habit. Getting in an external party might force us to rethink things completely. After a RI&E, a plan of action is issued. For us, it is vital that these recommendations are instantly applicable.

We expect an external party to be critical and also point out things we haven’t seen ourselves, and to come up with solutions and improvement suggestions. All advice given must be immediately applicable. The experts with Philips Engineering Solutions can hit the ground running, so to speak. We can bring them in at any stage and in any location. They know exactly what we expect. We approach them to fill in for colleagues who are away a longer period. Occupational health expert Ton Arends, for example, is supporting us in-house now.

In our case, processes are very closely interlinked and installations are temporary, as we perform a lot of experiments and prototyping projects. In this respect, we are totally unlike a ‘traditional’ production environment. By working with Philips Engineering Solutions, we give ourselves peace of mind and our own staff and students can focus on their core activities.

Photo: Nanolab at Eindhoven University of Technology (cleanroom)

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