This policy and guidance is designed to ensure as far as is possible that fieldwork activities carried out through the University happen safely and without any incident or injury occurring to any of the participants or others who may be affected.
The guidance explains what the University requires field work organisers to consider and ensure is in place before any off campus educational or research activity is undertaken.
Background - Risks and Liabilities
If an incident were to occur during a fieldwork activity, criminal or civil action may be taken against the participants, organiser or the University.
The University has a legal responsibility to its staff and a legal duty of care for its students and members of the public under the Health and Safety at Work Act. It also has an obligation to ensure that any third party provider has considered the health and safety impact of its activities and acted to manage this accordingly.
All employees have a responsibility under law to follow instructions provided for health and safety by the employer and to act sensibly to protect their own health and safety and that of others.
Fieldwork is any work carried out off campus for educational or research purposes where the University retains responsibility for the health and safety of the participants.
This includes activities such as museum or industrial visits, social science interviews, overseas travel for work purposes and these activities which may more traditionally be associated with the term fieldwork such as surveying or collection work carried out by biologists or geologists.
Roles and Responsibilities
The responsibility for ensuring that suitable management systems are in place to support the safe conduct of fieldwork lies with the Senior Management team of the University and ultimately with the Vice Chancellor.
- Heads of Departments have overall responsibility for health and safety in the department including fieldwork activities. It is usual for a Head of Department to delegate the practical management of all aspects of fieldwork, including the health and safety requirements, to the fieldwork leader. In these cases the Head of Department must be sure that the fieldwork leader is a suitable person to carry out that role, through experience and appropriate training (competence).
- The Fieldwork Leader is responsible for the overall supervision of the activity. There should only be one leader per activity, however they may appoint a leadership team and allocate responsibilities appropriately in this team. They must ensure that health or safety issues are considered, that any precautions required are put in place, communicated to all participants and are adhered to for the duration of the activity. Levels of supervision need to be assessed as appropriate for the activity and environment and there needs to be the potential to change this with a fluid situation. This will include if necessary ceasing the activity if it cannot be completed safely. The fieldwork leader must be explicitly empowered to discharge these responsibilities and to implement emergency or contingency plans where needed.
- Participants must ensure they understand and comply with any instruction given to them by a leader or supervisor, as well as reporting any potential hazard. They must accept responsibility for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by them.
- The Home agent should be a member of staff based in the department who will hold the information about where the fieldwork is being carried out and who is present for each section of the work. There should be a record held at the home base of all participants and their next of kin, contact details and if necessary their passport numbers. A contact number for the home agent should be available for 24/7 use by the fieldwork leader or as an emergency contact by relevant services.
- Individual members of staff carrying out work or travel alone are responsible for taking appropriate care in their activities and which ever of the roles of Leader are relevant to their activity. An emergency contact as home agent should also be provided who is available to provide assistance if needed - in some high risk activities this will need to be in a proactive position whereby if the individual does not check in at a certain time an emergency process will need to be activated.
- A third party provider may be used to provide some or all of the activities. If so the fieldwork leader must ensure that they conform with legal requirements for the activity and have in place a full health and safety policy and relevant suitable and sufficient risk assessments. Suitable public liability insurance must be in place and checks must be made to ensure that it is valid for the duration and provides sufficient cover of the activity.
In order to ensure that all fieldwork is approved before commencement, the fieldwork leader should complete all of the above actions and document the risk assessment. If they are happy that the work can commence they should pass a summary of the findings and copies of the assessments to the head of department for approval. If there is a request for approval for an activity which the head of department feels needs further approval they should be able to take this to the relevant group at university level for approval.
The University Insurance office can provide guidance to Fieldwork Leaders regarding the level and type of insurance that may be needed.
The university will need to identify what insurance is already in place, that it is adequate and what activities may require additional cover as identified in the risk assessment. Specific activities will need to be identified and risks arising from them will need to be adequately covered. Emergency plans will need to reflect the activities of the insurer (e.g. does cover include repatriation?).
Where staff or participants are travelling independently to the location arrangements must be put in place to ensure that should any incident occur while they are travelling they can contact the University and action can be taken as necessary.
The University must not charge (or recharge) students for insurance cover nor may it provide advice to students regarding insurance.