Fieldwork

Overview

What is fieldwork?

Fieldwork is defined as 'any practical work carried out by staff or students of the University for the purpose of teaching and/or research in places which are not under University control, but where the University is responsible for the safety of its' staff and / or students and others exposed to their activities.' Voluntary and leisure activities are excluded, along with work experience (e.g. placements) and similar activities controlled by other employers.

Fieldwork can include very diverse activities, such as:

  • surveying
  • sample collecting
  • scuba diving
  • archaeological digs
  • social survey interviews

Guidance

The following represents departmental policy and guidance for fieldwork activities. It provides an outline of the necessary steps to be taken for the safe management of all fieldwork activities, both within the UK and abroad.  Careful planning and risk assessment represents the key starting point of any fieldwork activity to ensure appropriate measures are taken to reduce risk to a low and acceptable level.

The policy and guidance is based on the document 'Guidance on Safety in Fieldwork' published by The University Safety and Health Association, (USHA, 2005). Consideration has also been given to British Standard, BS 8848, 'A Specification for adventurous activities, expeditions, visits and fieldwork outside the UK'.

Key requirements

Summary of key requirements

  • Prepare a risk assessmentand control risk by ensuring that:
    • a suitable number of supervisors is always present
    • supervisors are competent under the circumstances likely to be encountered and have adequate first aid training
    • all fieldworkers are adequately prepared (e.g. clothing, footwear, training)
    • suitable lines of communication are available
    • accidents (and dangerous occurrences) are reported and investigated
  • No fieldwork should be carried out until the member of staff who is supervising the fieldwork has considered all significant hazards and identified appropriate safety precautions to reduce risk to an acceptable level.
  • Plan for reasonably foreseeable emergencies (contingency planning), bearing in mind the likely hazards of the environment and the type of work undertaken e.g.:
    • provision of adequate emergency equipment (e.g. first aid kits, bivouac tents)
    • correct treatment of any casualties and equipment e.g. decontamination
    • means of summoning aid - emergency service details
    • evacuation procedures
    • liaison with police and emergency services
    • possible need to communicate in a foreign language
  • All fieldwork participants must be given a safety briefing before the trip. This should include adequate instruction and information on the likely, foreseeable hazards associated with the field trip and the safe working practices that need to be followed - including arrangements for emergency situations.

Responsibilities

Responsibilities

Head of Department

The Head of Department (HoD) has overall responsibility for health and safety in the Department. The need to ensure a risk assessment is made for fieldwork is delegated to the Fieldwork Organiser / Supervisor.

Fieldwork organisers (Supervisors)

Although the HoD has overall responsibility for health and safety in the department, specific responsibilities are delegated to other appropriate individuals.  For fieldwork, it is the responsibility of the fieldwork organiser to ensure that a risk assessment of the fieldwork activity is prepared, and a 'safe system of work' established (i.e. the identification and application of appropriate safe fieldwork practices).

Departmental Safety Advisor

The Departmental Safety Advisor (DSA) is responsible for providing practical help and advice for fieldwork activities.

Fieldworkers

The fieldworker is responsible for ensuring or not endangering your own safety, that of your colleagues and that of members of the public; behaviour which endangers your own health or safety or that of others may result in prosecution, irrespective of whether such conduct violates specific guide-lines.