Fieldwork Safety

Heads of School/Directors of Institute/Heads of Service have overall responsibility for health and safety in their management units and must make sure that risk assessments are conducted for fieldwork carried out by staff and students under their supervision. The aim of this is to make sure that safe working arrangements are in place for all University-sanctioned staff and student activities conducted beyond the campus environment.

Fieldwork includes larger scale activities such as archaeological digs, student fieldtrips and research fieldtrips as well as smaller scale work such as interviews, survey and sample collection activities carried out by staff and students in many disciplines.

Virtually all fieldwork will involve travel away from the University campus, either locally, or overseas and the University's Travel Policy and travel and insurance arrangements will apply. See the Travel, fieldwork and placement and Insurance and Risk webpages for further information.

Researchers must also consult the "Safeguarding in Research" webpage if the activities involve children, young people or vulnerable adults.


The relationship between travel and fieldwork

Generally fieldwork will involve some practical on-site activity in addition to the travel element and the way in which risks can best be assessed must be considered. It is for those arranging and managing such trips to ensure that the level of risk assessment undertaken is appropriate to the activity. Flexibility is possible in deciding which combination of forms is most suitable for the overall activity planned, provided that they result in a suitable risk assessment.

Typically, attendance at conferences and meetings and similar activities, where risks are minimal, will require only that the University's travel procedures be followed. In many cases the trip will be able to be conducuted under the University Generic Travel Risk Assessment and will not normally require any additional fieldwork risk assessment. 

If the risks from the fieldwork are relatively simple and can be adequately addressed within a Trip-specific Travel Risk Assessment, (where that is required) it is permissible to incorporate basic fieldwork activity risks within that assessment with no additional fieldwork assessment required.

In other situations where the nature of the field activity is more complex (e.g. student field trips) or involves more significant risks, completion of a separate Fieldwork Risk Assessment will normally be appropriate. If both a Trip-specific Travel Risk Assessment and Fieldwork Risk Assessment are being done, it is acceptable for the fieldwork assessment to cross-reference information in the travel risk assessment to minimise repetition. 

A modified version of the Travel Process Flowchart, incorporating fieldwork considerations, is provided on the page linked below to help explain how the two activities interact.

Travel and Fieldwork Process Flowchart


Fieldwork risk assessment

The forms below may be used to support management and assessment of fieldwork-related risks. The Fieldwork Risk Assessment template should provide a useful outline for many types of field activity and should be considered the normal starting point.  However, the range of off-campus activity across the University is very wide and it is recognised that this may not be appropriate for every activity. Where the Fieldwork Risk Assessment template is not a good fit, the General Risk Assessment provides a flexible alternative that can be tailored to the circumstances of any activity.

A single fieldwork assessment can cover a range of activities, or activities over a period of time provided all relevant risks for each occurence are able to be fully addressed. Where that is not the case, separate assessments for individual activities or occurences may be more appropriate.

Fieldwork/Project Risk Assessment Template (v3)

General Risk Assessment Template (1.1)


Sector Guidance

Sector specific guidance on the safe planning and management and risk assessment of fieldwork and travel is provided by the Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA).

This guidance, produced in partnership woth UCEA and others, provides a useful framework that may be followed to manage fieldwork safely. The advice within the document is supported by detailed practical guidance and checklists.