Fieldwork Safety Procedure

Definitions

Field Camp: Isolated location at which the researchers camp, conduct logistical and research activities. Field camps differ in sizes and may includes tents, wooden cabins and/or trailers.

Satellite Camp: Temporary field camp location; generally smaller and used for day trips or for a few days.

Dangerous goods: Means a product, substance or organism included by its nature or by the regulations in any of the classes listed in the schedule (Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992).

Fieldwork Procedure Overview

This document was created to assist you in completing the Local Fieldwork Safety Form and the Non-Regional Fieldwork Safety Form. It is important that applicants submit a new form for each fieldwork session. Please start planning well in advance to ensure that there are no unexpected delays. Keep in mind that this document is not exhaustive and is meant to serve as a starting point when planning your fieldwork. Ask your supervisor for additional information in the planning stage. For example, certain field or satellite camps require that at least one team member have previous field work experience. Note that if you plan on staying in a field or satellite camp, you should familiarize yourself with the camp protocols and code of conduct.

Fieldwork Information

Clearly state what your research will cover, include information such as the type of environment and what type of sampling will occur, if any. Provide as much information as you can regarding the various geographical sites you will visit during the fieldwork session. It is essential that you familiarize yourself well in advance of the licensing and permitting requirements for the particular sites where you will be working. In addition, certain work may require the principal investigator (PI) to obtain a scientific license. The licensing process can be lengthy and applicants are responsible for making sure they apply sufficiently in advance to secure their licenses and permits. Please ensure that all permits have been obtained prior to submitting your application. Once done, please attach all permits and licenses with your application.

Fieldwork Participants

Fill in the contact information for each participant as well as any particular medical conditions or allergies. It is important that you carefully choose an emergency contact. This person should be able to reach your family members and close friends during an emergency. In addition, this person should be available, dependable and aware of your current medical history. Make sure to have an informed discussion with your emergency contact prior to starting fieldwork. In addition to an emergency contact, you may wish to designate a check-in person – someone outside of the research site that can check-in on you regularly.

Emergency Contact Information

While out in the field, it is important that each participant carry the contact information of a local individual in case of emergency situations. In addition, each participant must have the emergency contact information for the local Fire, Medical and Police services.

First Aid and Medical Plan

The first responding authority is the point person within the group for the first responders. Ensure that the contact information is accurate. In addition to a well-stocked first aid kit, list any additional medical materials you will bringing on site. Note that at least one participant must be first-aid certified (Standard First Aid with Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) C & Automated external defibrillator (AED) Certification). If you plan on travelling to remote areas, it may be a good idea to have at least one team member certified for wilderness first aid. Participants should notify their colleagues as well as the Health, Safety and Risk team of all pre-existing medical conditions (allergies, physical limitations, etc.) prior to starting fieldwork. List any and all applicable documents for medical service such as insurance documentation and health cards.

Immunization/Prophylaxis

Participants travelling to certain foreign countries for fieldwork will be required to undergo a medical assessment and receive immunizations. For more information, visit the Government of Canada's website page on travel vaccinations.

Recommended Training

You may be required to complete various general training sessions as well as fieldwork-specific training sessions. General courses may include CPR and Wilderness First Aid whereas fieldwork-specific training courses may include all-terrain vehicle certification, snowmobile, ice augers and firearms training. If the research requires being on any body of water, a boating license will be required.  Ensure that your training records are complete and up-to date prior to submitting your application. If you plan on employing firearms, make sure to consult the regional regulations regarding the use of firearms in the camp site(s).

Dangerous Situations

Fieldwork can involve certain threats to your safety and well-being. Being familiar with various scenarios of dangerous situation is the first step in preparing yourself for the unexpected nature of fieldwork. Examples of dangerous situations include natural disasters, civil wars, riots and encounters with animals just to name a few. These situations may be abrupt and develop very rapidly. If you intend on working in areas subject to dangerous situation, it is important to develop an emergency and/or evacuation procedure. For example, individuals working in the Arctic should prepare for extreme cold which can lead to hypothermia if adequate precautions are not exercised. Ensure that you have adequate clothing to protect you from the various elements.

Physical and Psychological Demands

Fieldwork adds an additional layer of emotional and physical stress to an already existing workload. It is important to understand that individuals are differently equipped to deal with these stressors. Fieldwork can be both mentally and physically strenuous. If you identify physical demands that are not present in the checklist, ensure that you include them in your submission. Be prepared, both mentally and physically, to change plans as needed while in the field. Always remember that your safety and that of the group is more important than sample collection.

Travel Itinerary

Participants should consult international regulations regarding the requirements of obtaining a travel VISA as well as the current wait times. For more information, visit the Government of Canada's website page on visas. It is required that a complete and up-to date travel itinerary be submitted with your application.

Safety Checklist

Checklists can be useful tools to ensure that all steps of a procedure/list are followed. It is a good idea develop checklists for various components of fieldwork. For example, a checklist could be used to ensure that all items necessary for gathering samples on a boat are present. In addition, you should develop another checklist to ensure you have all the supplies necessary for collecting samples in the wood. Similarly, prior to leaving the field, make sure you inventory all of the gear and leave nothing behind.

Moreover, confirm that you have all the gear/personal protective equipment (PPE) during the planning phases and that you take the time to check that they properly fit (hiking boots, backpack). If you plan on using a Global Positioning System (GPS) or a satellite phone in the field, verify that all participants are familiar with its use. Similarly, remember to bring additional batteries.

Risk Management

Research projects, whether in a lab or in the field, are naturally hazardous. Risk assessments are tools employed to try and mitigate risks and should be conducted for each individual experiment. The first step in the risk assessment is to determine which hazards pose a risk. The next step requires you to determine which control measures you can employ to reduce the probability and the severity of these situations if they were to occur. Whether participants are working regionally or internationally, care should always be taken to identify dangerous flora and fauna. It is a good idea to prepare a guide containing pictures of dangerous plants that you should avoid as well as venomous insects and animals. Common situations include exposure to extreme temperatures, being stranded due to bad weather (snow storms, rain etc.) and being low on food/water. For more information, visit the Office of Risk Management’s (ORM) website page on Job Hazard Analysis.

Below you will find examples of a risk assessment analysis.

Situation

Danger

Control measures

Collecting samples from birds

Risk of cuts, scrapes, bites and parasites.

Wear PPE when manipulating birds. Decontaminate hands and monitor skin for ticks and parasites.

Collecting water samples.

Risk of sinking and drowning.

Ensure the boat is in good condition before setting out. Lifejackets must be worn at all times

Difficult or unknown terrain

Risk of tripping and falling.

Plan your route in advance. Wear adequate footwear for the conditions. Avoid travelling at night without proper lighting. 

Unknown vegetation.

Risk of poisoning.

Do not consume wild plants. Wear gloves if you manipulate plant material and wash your hands frequently.

Long work periods outside in the cold.

Risk of hypothermia. 

Wear adequate clothing in a layered fashion (remove layers to reduce sweating). Eat plenty of food and stay hydrated. 

Transportation of Dangerous Goods

The transportation of dangerous goods is regulated under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Act, 1992. Participants transporting, shipping or receiving dangerous goods must possess a valid TDG Certificate of Training. Whether transporting dangerous goods by road, rail or air, individuals are required to prepare documentation certifying that the cargo has been packed, labelled and declared according to relevant regulations. Depending on the situation, this documentation may include a Shipper’s declaration and/or a bill of lading. In addition, dangerous goods transported by air should comply with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Shipping Regulations. Keep in mind that certain air carriers may refuse to transport dangerous goods. While in the field, you may generate waste that needs to be stored and brought back to a local institution for proper disposal. Depending on the type of waste generated and whether it can be safely transported, it is critical to coordinate with local resources to have it properly disposed at their facilities. Additional information can be obtained by contacting the ORM at enviro@uottawa.ca.

Travelling with Equipment

Participants engaging in fieldwork using particular equipment should plan well in advance to make sure the equipment can be safely transported onsite. Similarly, participants should test every piece of equipment beforehand and verify they are all working as intended. It is a good idea to bring spare parts and additional batteries for certain pieces of equipment. Moreover, participants should receive all equipment-specific training prior to arriving on site. Prepare and bring written procedures for the safe operation of the various equipment that will be used during the fieldwork session. Depending on the size of the equipment, it may be necessary to coordinate with international and local resources in order to facilitate its transportation. With that said, try to only bring mandatory equipment into the field. Once the fieldwork is done, ensure to perform the necessary maintenance work on the equipment to keep it in good working order.

Submitting your Application

Please ensure that all required documentation is submitted together. Delays can occur if documentation is missing from your application. It is best to plan ahead and discuss possible concerns with the Health, Safety and Risk team in advance instead of leaving them in your application. Submit your completed application, at a minimum, no later then one week prior to your fieldwork. Please allow sufficient time for your application to be reviewed.

FAQ Section

1. Where do I get the new Fieldwork safety forms?

You can download the new Fieldwork Safety forms on our website in the forms section.

2. Why do I need an emergency contact?

Emergency contacts serve a vital function. These individuals are able to reach your family and friends in emergency situations and are familiar with any pre-existing medical conditions you might have.

3. How do I dispose of hazardous waste?

If you generate hazardous waste in the field, you are required to make sure it can be safely packaged and transported to a local facility for proper disposal. Before leaving for the field, ensure that all aspects of hazardous waste disposal have been discussed with your supervisor and the Health, Safety and Risk team.

4. Where can I obtain First Aid and CPR Level C, Wilderness CPR and TDG training?

Applicants may register for the University of Ottawa First Aid and CPR Level C (with AED) course, the Wilderness First Aid course and the TDG course. Note that First Aid certificates are valid for 3 years, although it is recommended that they be renewed annually. Similarly, a TDG certificate is valid for 3 years for transportation by road, railway or vessel and 2 years for transport by aircraft.

References

1. University Alberta, Environment, Health and Safety, Field Research Office

2. Polar Continental Shelf Program Manual (Updated August 2016). Government of Canada

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