Guidelines for Safety in Fieldwork
This document aims to give guidance to those who organise and carry out fieldwork activities. The definition of fieldwork given below is wider than previous definitions and therefore all Schools who arrange practical work for staff or students in places unsupervised by the University, are advised to take note of the information below. The guidelines aim to reflect the information available in the CVCP Code of Practice for Safety in Fieldwork 1995 but relate it directly to the structure of the University of Nottingham.
Definition and scope
Fieldwork is defined as any practical work carried out by staff or students of the University for the purpose of teaching or research in places which are not under direct supervisory control of the University, but where the University is responsible for the safety of its staff, students or others exposed to their activities.
In addition to "traditional" field studies and expeditions, this definition covers such activities as visits to industrial sites (excluding organised, supervised visits such as a factory tour), home visits by medical or social workers, street surveys and working in isolated areas of the University such as on the Farms. (The guidelines do not apply to farm or estates workers.) Given the broad range of these activities, the scope of this document is to outline the responsibilities of Schools with respect to Fieldwork. Detailed guidance on specific types of activity can be found in the documents listed in the bibliography but all Schools organising fieldwork should obtain the CVCP Code of Practice for Safety in Fieldwork.
Placements, i.e. period of paid or unpaid work experience at another industrial or commercial
premises are excluded. Further, specific CVCP guidance relates to this type of activity in which the hazards involved relate to the work of the organisation providing the placement.
The responsibility for ensuring that there are effective arrangements for the health and safety of field workers ultimately lies with the Head of School. The Head of School must ensure that those appointed to organise fieldwork are authorised, adequately trained and competent to do so.
The Head of School must also ensure that procedures are in place to review the safety of fieldwork activities, taking into account the experiences of previous work.
The organiser/leader of the fieldwork is responsible for carrying out the risk assessment and putting together safe systems of work, which should be agreed with the Head of School or School Safety Officer. In the case of an expedition to a hostile, remote or inaccessible location and/or where there the fieldwork involves higher risk activities the additional requirements specified in the Addendum to this policy must be followed.
The risk assessment must consider the risks to the health and safety of members of the University, as well as any others who may be affected by the fieldwork activities, e.g. members of the public. An appropriate level of supervision must be identified, considering the number of participants, their experience and training. There must be clear definition of who is in command and where sub-groups are formed, there must be a leader appointed for each sub-group who has had instruction/training appropriate to their position.
Where fieldwork is conducted on the premises of another organisation, University supervisors should be satisfied that the local safety procedures are adequate for the work envisaged and that the individuals concerned understand and comply with them. Where safety arrangements are deemed unsatisfactory, new arrangements must be negotiated before the fieldwork commences/continues. (Guidance for the safety of Placements is available from the Safety Office web page.
General safety rules should be laid out for all those taking part in fieldwork, preferably through written protocols, supplemented by verbal briefings or advice. The protocols should include contingency plans for foreseeable emergencies. The leader/supervisor of the fieldwork activities is responsible for ensuring that all safety precautions are observed for the duration of the activities. The School Office should be given details of any fieldwork trips, including a list of all those involved. Special heed must be given to lone workers (see below).
Each individual field worker also has a responsibility for conducting fieldwork activities in a safe manner both for his/herself and for others. He/she must comply with the protocols and safety information provided. He/she must report any matters (e.g. health conditions) which may affect their ability and hence their safety in carrying out the fieldwork.
Equipment and Training
Instruction and training must be provided to field workers to enable them to carry out the activities safely. Field workers should be advised on appropriate clothing and equipment needed for the field. They should be given training in the safe use of any equipment provided. Any specialist activities, e.g. mountaineering, caving, diving, must be supervised by competent persons. Formal qualifications are needed in some cases. (Contact the Safety Office for advice). Where fieldwork is part of a student's course, safety training and involvement in risk assessment should be regarded as an integral part of the student's training in the discipline.
Whenever possible, work should be organised for groups of individuals and lone working is to be discouraged as far as possible. However, it is recognised that in some situations it is not reasonably practicable to avoid lone working and particular care should be taken to establish safe procedures with respect to the working environment, with the lone worker involved directly in the risk assessment.
Where people will be working unaccompanied/out of sight/earshot, then this must be justified and any additional precautions specified. Clear guidelines for the type of activity that the lone worker may carry out should be given. The risk assessment must take into account the environment, (e.g. lone females in individuals' homes; isolated fieldwork on the farm). The University supervisor is ultimately responsible for the lone worker and should know the lone worker's location and itinerary. Effective communication with lone workers is crucial (see Methods of Communication Appendix D, CVCP Code of Practice). The use of mobile telephones is advised. The frequency and nature of monitoring/reporting on lone workers depends on the nature of the work. This should be defined prior to commencement of the fieldwork. Consider precautions to protect lone workers such as security locks (e.g. on buildings/vehicles); anti-theft alarms/personal alarms; monitoring and reporting systems, e.g. personal radios, mobile phones; use of whistles.
The leader or supervisor of fieldwork should be aware of any field worker's individual problems which may affect his/her safety in carrying out the fieldwork, e.g. disability, medical condition. Occupational Health (ext. 4329) should be contacted for advice on these and other health issues. Health questionnaires are available to Schools with input from Occupational Health. Confidentiality of medical information must be taken into consideration.
Procedures must be put in place to ensure the individual's safety. Exclusion on health and safety grounds from part or all of the activities may ultimately be the only course of action. Other health matters to consider are the fitness of participants, immunisations, first aid provision, emergency contacts, health surveillance.
First Aid Provision and Accident Reporting
Elementary First Aid training is recommended for groups working in isolated areas and an adequate number of qualified First Aiders should be available in the field. Occupational Health should be contacted for information on the first aid training available.
All accidents during fieldwork activities must be reported as soon as possible after occurrence using the University Reporting System (Safety Office Circular P1/95A). The accident must be investigated and any remedial actions taken into account in future fieldwork. Fieldwork leaders/supervisors must be aware of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 (See Safety Office Circular P5/96B) for reporting to HSE of serious incidents.
Major incidents which may or do attract media attention should be immediately referred to the Public Affairs Office based at University Park, (via Security if out-of-hours).
The University holds insurance for standard work-related activities carried out by its members, i.e. employees and students. If a School is unsure of the adequacy of insurance arrangements for fieldwork activities, the matter must be referred to the University insurers via the Procurement Office). Fieldwork organisers / supervisors are responsible for ensuring the insurance is adequate and informing field workers if it is necessary for them to obtain additional personal insurance, e.g. for travel.
Leisure Activities and Leisure Time
There is some ambiguity about the University's responsibility for off-campus leisure activities. In general, it should be assumed that whenever activities are organised or led by a member of staff, they should be treated as fieldwork for safety and insurance purposes.
There is great potential for accidents to occur during leisure time on fieldwork. Organisers and leaders/supervisors must ensure field workers are aware of the standard of behaviour expected of them and that whilst involved in fieldwork, they are considered representatives of the University of Nottingham during leisure time as well as during work activity.
The above also applies during transportation as the vehicle driver must not be adversely affected by the behaviour of his/her passengers. Excessive consumption of alcohol should be discouraged, particularly when hazardous activities are envisaged.
Accommodation Outside of the United Kingdom
To ensure that the standard of accommodation for field trips outside the United Kingdom meets an acceptable standard of safety it must be booked through a travel agency or tour operator affiliated to the Association of British Travel Agents.
It is not unknown for accommodation to contain deficiencies such as:
Gaining assurance as to the standard of accommodation to be used for an overseas field trip is complicated by differing national standards and the ability to check it. Accommodation that is advertised by ABTA members is subject to an ABTA code of practice that includes verification by the company that it meets certain standards relating to safety. Booking of accommodation by this route is considered to be the most practical means of gaining this assurance.
Where the nature of the fieldtrip is such that no accommodation is available through the above route, for example remote locations, then an assurance should be sought from the accommodation provider that it complies with relevant legislation relating to fire precautions and safety. If the accommodation is used on a recurrent basis (e.g. annual fieldtrip) then the trip leader should make a record of any problems noted to assist in determining its future suitability.
Fieldwork organisers are responsible for ensuring suitable transport during the fieldwork and where relevant, to and from the fieldwork location.
Where vehicles are to be driven by staff or students, appropriate insurance must be in place. The regulations of the locality must be adhered to, e.g. Highway Code, speed limits, drivers hours, wearing of seat restraints. Other considerations are vehicle checks and maintenance, rest periods for drivers and training. There are specific requirements for those wishing to drive minibuses (8 or more seats) who passed their driving test after 1 January 1997. Information concerning minibus driver training is available from the Safety Office. Individuals who passed their driving test before this date may drive vehicles with up to 16 passenger sears on their existing licences but they should arrange a familiarisation session prior to first use. (Contact the University Safety Office for further information on the above.)
Higher Risk Fieldwork & Expeditions
Fieldwork abroad may expose individuals or groups to additional hazards associated with crime, political instability, tropical diseases, dubious transport safety standards, etc. In addition expeditions to hostile, remote and/or inaccessible locations and/or where the fieldwork involves higher risk activities must be given more careful consideration than standard field expeditions. As such they will require rigorous risk assessment and identification of control measures to reduce risks to a level that is acceptable to both the University and the individual participants.
The University Safety Committee has established an Expedition Peer Review Panel [EPRP] comprised of University employees who have experience of organising these types of expedition and who will review and approve risk assessments and emergency response plan and advise the relevant Head of School as to its adequacy or otherwise.
There is an Addendum to this document that gives full details of the above procedure
The University has also engaged the services of International SOS to provide advice on high risk expeditions and security, medical assistance and evacuation of casualties in event of emergency.
Further details available at the following link:
Further Guidance for Fieldwork Organisers
The CVCP Code of Practice for Safety in Fieldwork (available in Safety Office), Appendix C contains checklists that are supplied as an aid to those planning and organising fieldwork. The lists are non-exhaustive but provide useful aide-memoirs.
For further advice or guidance please contact the Safety Office in the first instance.
Several Schools have produced documents related to the fieldwork they carry out. These may prove useful examples to others: Agriculture, Civil Engineering, Geography, and Biological Science.
The Safety Office also has fieldwork policies from other Universities available: Edinburgh, Middlesex, North London, Oxford, and Warwick. University Risk Assessment Guidance is available from the Safety Office along with copies of relevant health and safety legislation.
Other Publications (* Available from the University Safety Office)