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Fieldwork

Safety Policy Arrangement 48-2010

 

Policy Statement

The University of Dundee accepts its responsibility for the health and safety of its staff and students when they are engaged in work outside of its premises.  It acknowledges the wide range of risks arising from this work, and is committed to managing these risks through suitable and sufficient risk assessments.

Definition

Fieldwork is defined by Universities & Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA) as “Any work carried out by staff or students for the purposes of teaching, research or other activities while representing the institution off-site.”  Therefore, it includes any work carried out by staff and students in buildings or locations that are not owned or managed by the University, and where the University is responsible for their health and safety,  and others affected by their activities e.g. attending conferences and meetings; recruitment activities; teaching activities such as surveys and sample collection; and research activities such as working in a collaborator’s laboratory.

Arrangements

This Safety Policy Arrangement is based upon “Guidance on Health and Safety in Fieldwork” published by UCEA/USHA which is available at https://www.ucea.ac.uk/en/publications/index.cfm/guidance-on-health-and-safety-in-fieldwork 

This Safety Policy Arrangement addresses risks that are not addressed by:

  1. Safety Policy Arrangement 44-2010 Travelling on University Work Overseas
  2. Safety Policy Arrangement 45-2010 Student Work Experience
  3. Safety Policy Arrangement 40-2008 (rev 2010) Travelling on University Work within the UK
  4. Safety Policy Arrangement 8-2002 (rev 2010) Lone Working

For low risk work in a reputable organisation (e.g. attending a meeting or conference) it is sufficient for staff to lodge the following details with their School/Support Service: date, destination and purpose of trip, their contact details, and contact details of host organisation. 

For higher risk work (e.g. taking students on an excursion, interviewing members of the public, working in remote locations, lone working) staff must complete a risk assessment following the Guidance given below. They must discuss the risk assessment with the appropriate Senior Manager (i.e. Dean/Director/Vice-Principal/University Secretary/Principal) and obtain their approval for the work.  A copy of the risk assessment together with their contact details, and contact details of host organisation should be lodged with their School/Support Service.

Staff should review the risk assessment on their return from fieldwork, and should report to their Senior Manager any significant health and safety issues which arose with recommendations for avoiding these in the future.

Staff taking students on fieldwork should brief the students fully on the findings of the risk assessment and emergency arrangements as well as the standard of behaviour expected of them.  They should make it clear that unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated and will result in disciplinary action.  During this briefing students should be encouraged to report any health or other concerns they have about their ability to complete the fieldwork, or their understanding of the findings of the risk assessment.

Students should attend all briefings prior to the activity, and inform staff of any medical condition or circumstances which may affect their ability to undertake the activity.  They should follow all instructions and training given by staff.   They should stay with the party at all times except by prior arrangement and observe reporting in procedures.  They should report any personal injury or illness arising during the activity.

Accident/incidents or ill health occurring during a fieldwork activity should be reported and investigated as detailed in Safety Policy Arrangement 1-2002 (rev 2010).

Guidance on Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is a decision making process that involves a careful and systematic investigation of what could cause harm to people during the planned fieldwork activity so that an informed decision can be taken of whether existing precautions are adequate, or more needs to be done to prevent harm.  The complexity and detail of the risk assessment should be proportionate to the foreseeable level of harm.

For local routine fieldwork it may be appropriate to make a standard generic assessment and develop a procedure setting School/Support Service standards and procedures for such activities e.g. staff or students meeting people in their homes, taking students to visit museums, factories or businesses.

However, for trips to isolated destinations occurring on an irregular basis there is clearly a need for more extensive planning and risk assessment that ensures:

  • expectations of what can be achieved are realistic, bearing in mind the experience and training of the participants and the nature of the environment.
  • all foreseeable risks have been identified, and reasonable measures taken to manage them
  • all participants have a clear understanding of the nature, purpose and aim of the fieldwork.
  • a suitable number of supervisors are always present
  • supervisors are competent under the circumstances likely to be encountered
  • effective means of communication are available.  This is especially important for lone working
  • a clear ‘chain of command’ has been established, with one person nominated as Fieldwork Leader with deputising arrangements in place
  • regular head counts or other checking in procedures are in place
  • all participants are adequately prepared (e.g. clothing, footwear, training)
  • contingency and emergency plans are drawn up including emergency equipment, means of summoning help, first aid, liaison with emergency services, evacuation procedures and all participants should be informed of these plans
  • situations have been identified where changes should be made to itinerary or activity, and who has authority to make these changes
  • situations have been  identified when the fieldwork should be cancelled or terminated, and who has authority to cancel or terminate the work
  • checks on competence of service providers (e.g. transport company,  activity provider) are adequate
  • permission to work on land/site has been granted

Staff and students should be informed of the findings of the risk assessment.   Typically this is done by drawing up a Participant Information Pack, Handbook, or a set of procedures/rules that is circulated and discussed with participants.  Participants should be encouraged to ask questions since this will evidence that they have understood the salient points.

Appendix 1 gives a form that can be used to document risk assessments.  Risk assessments should be kept for five years.

Appendix 2 lists some typical risks that should be considered the assessment.

Appendix 3 lists web sites giving activity specific advice.

Appendix 4 gives a Fieldwork Handbook.

In addition, when a student has disclosed a disability then an inclusive risk assessment must be carried out.  Guidance on undertaking inclusive risk assessments and arranging work placements for disabled students can be found at http://www.dundee.ac.uk/disabilityservices/resources/usefullinks/workplacementsandfieldtrips/

 

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