Setting the Scene


CHARM (Chemical Hazard and Risk Management) was an in-house system used by the University to manage COSHH risk assessments across the Science Schools. The system had been in place for a number of years and developments in IT meant that it was now time to reassess CHARM.

The Lean Team facilitated a group of academics from the Schools of Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Psychology, together with a representative from Environmental Health and Safety Services. To fit in with the demands of the academic timetable, the group meet for a total of 6 days over a period of several months.

There were a number of concerns about the original system, which became known as CHARM 1:

  • Permission restrictions meant that others such as the Head of School could not access a risk assessment that they had not authored
  • Risk assessments were owned by the author and even if you had the right permissions, to access an assessment you needed to know who the author was
  • There was no inbuilt review for assessments
  • The system did not have a search facility
  • The system did not have an archive facility
  • Over reliance on one person to classify chemical hazards under the University’s in-house system


  • To enable the University to undertake world class teaching and research in a safe environment now and in the future
  • Specifically, the project was to:
    • Identify existing and required competencies
    • Maximise engagement with the system and hence the overriding legislation
    • Design a training programme
    • Draft a specification for a system, CHARM 2, that:
      1. Is a more flexible and user friendly means of maximizing engagement with a chemical hazard and risk management system and hence the overriding legislation, COSHH
      2. Facilitates compliance with legislation
      3. Creates a safer working environment
      4. Increases user accountability
      5. Has the potential to include management of other risks


  • IT developer resource availability. Necessary improvements could not be made without a complete rewrite of the software
  • Funding for IT developer resource
  • Staff buy-in to the new system
  • The team also need to be aware of the need to comply with legislation e.g. COSHH



Process Improvements

  • A clear understanding of roles in the CHARM process
  • A new, simpler electronic risk assessment form, and system
  • Hazardous substances were codified so it was easier to understand a substance’s relative seriousness
  • Over time, a system that e.g. was searchable, contained an archive, and sent alerts

Qualitative Benefits

  • Better management of chemical risks, as is legally required
  • People were aware of the process, and its value, when tackling situations that had the potential to become dangerous


Detail of working copy of proposed future state process

SDC12036 2The washers helped stick the map to the magnetic strips on the wall. The experiment with washers did not work. The lesson is to use small sections of the magnetic strip.


Draft high level future state map

Chemistry new process 2



“[Your] time and effort is very much appreciated.” – Environmental Health and Safety Services Manager