Policy#: OR-0001

Effective Date: January 23, 2018

Last Revision Date: January 23, 2018

Field Research Safety

(Policy OR-0001)

I. Purpose of the Policy

Field research can present unique safety challenges when conducted in remote or potentially hazardous environments. This policy addresses the need to manage field research safety risk. The safety risk assessment process includes identifying hazards, evaluating exposure potential, and implementing appropriate mitigating measures. Principal Investigators, academic supervisors, field team leaders, and other responsible individuals must control safety risks associated with both the research and the local environment.

II. Definitions

Field: Area outside the geographic boundaries of the University, the engineered (urban) environment, and/or the United States.
Participants: Academic employees, staff, student, or volunteer involved in any activity in the field.
Research Activities: Tasks directly involved in fulfilling research goals, including ancillary activities such as transportation and habitation.
Safety Risk: The probability that a person will be harmed or experience an adverse health effect if exposed to a hazard.

III. Detailed Policy Statement

Principles

  1. The health and safety of field research participants is of paramount concern and must be considered and addressed during activity planning.
  2. The University is responsible for assessing and appropriately addressing potential safety risk associated with research activities.
  3. The potential severity and likelihood of safety risk must be considered when determining whether or not an activity should proceed.
  4. Implementation procedures for this policy are defined in the Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Procedure for Field Research Safety.

Risk Assessment

Academic employees and Staff organizing any field research activity must make reasonable efforts to determine the foreseeable potential safety risks presented by participation in the activity and must, with the assistance of qualified individuals, take reasonable steps to appropriately mitigate those risks. If an activity assessment indicates potentially high participant safety risk, even after reasonable risk mitigation strategies have been considered, the activity must be revised to reduce risk or canceled. It is essential that having assessed the safety risks, those organizing the activity will exercise appropriate care in deciding whether to proceed.

Planning

The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) Field Research program provides field safety planning tools and support. Use of a pre-trip field plan is required for research in remote or potentially hazardous locations. While a field safety plan can provide mitigating parameters and control requirements for a number of potentially hazardous conditions, it should be recognized that no set of guidelines can address every possible contingency. Focused training may be required for trip organizers, as well as participants, depending on the potential hazards noted in the plan.
Additional support and resources are available through the UC Center of Excellence for Field Safety.

Communication

Field research organizers should advise potential participants, prior to their commitment, of the reasonably foreseeable risks associated with participation in the research activities. The field safety plan, risk assessment, and/or procedure document(s) must be shared with potential trip participants. Trip organizers should conduct an in-person pre-trip meeting that includes a discussion of potential safety risks and appropriate controls.

Participation

Potential field research participants are responsible for evaluating the appropriateness of the planned field activity and associated safety risks with respect to their personal capabilities. UC employees are not required to participate in any campus activity that they believe poses a significant personal safety risk. If a student determines that a required academic activity poses a significant personal safety risk, the student should discuss the potential need for accommodation with the instructor or field research organizer. No student should be compelled to participate in an academic activity that involves personal safety risks that they are not willing to assume.

IV. Getting Help

The campus EH&S Field Research program provides training and assistance to campus units (including help with completing forms, carrying out procedures, or interpreting policy).

If you need help with ...

Contact ...

questions about this policy

The Executive Director of Environmental Health and Safety, ehs@ucsc.edu, 831-459-5394, https://ehs.ucsc.edu/index.html

using UC Santa Cruz field safety tools or questions regarding the field safety program

The Environmental Health and Safety Field Safety Program, fieldsafety@ucsc.edu, 831-459-2553, https://ehs.ucsc.edu/programs/research-safety/field-research

V. Applicability and Authority

This Field Research Safety policy applies to all individuals participating in research activities sponsored by the University. The policy includes all academic and occupational field research activities held outside of the UCSC main campus.

The Vice Chancellor for Research is the campus authority for the Field Research Safety policy, with implementation authority delegated to the Executive Director of Environmental Health and Safety, including the authority to approve exceptions. Planned field research activities will be routinely reviewed in accordance with the EH&S Procedure for Field Research Safety. Ultimately, the Vice Chancellor for Research, or his/her delegate, has authority to deny any field research activity due to unacceptable safety risk.

This policy was reviewed and approved by Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor, January 23, 2018, with reviews scheduled for January 2019 and January 2022.  

VI. Related Policies/References for More Information

Implementation Procedures
Resources

VII. Revision History

January 23, 2018: New policy


Procedure for Field Research Safety

I. Overview/Procedure Description

To ensure the health and safety of participants during field research activities, the University of California, Santa Cruz has created a policy on Field Research Safety (OR-0001). This Field Research Safety Procedure document provides implementation details and information in support of the Policy. No two trips into the field are identical, and it is understood that how an individual or group prepares may also be different. The goal of this procedure is to establish a minimum level of due diligence, without restricting how programs operate.

II. Procedure Details

A. Areas of Responsibility
General field safety support is provided by the Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Field Safety program. Research utilizing specialized equipment or techniques (e.g., boating and diving, radioactive or biological materials, animals, human subjects) may require additional procedures required by the applicable governing body (e.g., Diving Control Board and Scientific Boating Committee, IACUC, IRB, IBC, RSC). In addition, research must comply with all export control regulations that cover shipment of controlled physical items, such as scientific equipment that require export licenses from the United States to a foreign country and transfers of controlled information, including technical data.

B. Procedure Steps/Checklist

Field Safety Plan Requirements

Researchers are required to develop a field safety plan prior to beginning field research activities. EH&S provides a template (UCSC Field Safety Tool, https://ehs.ucsc.edu/programs/researchsafety/field-research/) to assist with document creation, but researchers are not required to use this form. Plans containing the following details will satisfy the Policy on Field Research Safety requirements for planning. More detailed plans and additional documentation are always allowed and encouraged.

Field Safety Plan Minimum Requirements:

• Research location and description
• Participants and contact information
• Emergency services at research site
• Site travel and access
• First aid considerations
• Travel preparations

Field Safety Plan Compliance Assurance

Field research organizers are expected to develop a field safety plan for applicable research
activities covered by the Field Safety Policy (OR-0001). Additional resources are available from
the UC Santa Cruz EH&S Field Safety Program (https://ehs.ucsc.edu/programs/researchsafety/field-research/).

EH&S will conduct the initial review of the completed field safety plan. If necessary, EH&S will solicit additional information from involved parties and experts (e.g., researcher colleagues; UCOP Risk, Security & Resilience; Department Chair; other qualified resources).

In the event that EH&S is unable to adequately assess risk associated with a field safety plan, or
risk mitigation steps do not initially appear adequate, EH&S will request review and input from the following sources:

Tier 1 – Risk Services staff will review the field safety plan and information gathered by EH&S. If
safety or other risk appears to be high and no reasonable mitigation steps are available, review
escalates to the next tier.

Tier 2 – Department Chair and Dean, from the originating Division, review input from prior reviews. If Department Chair and Dean determine that safety or other risk is high and no reasonable mitigation steps are available, review escalates to the next tier.

Tier 3 – The Vice Chancellor for Research or his/her delegate has authority to deny the proposed field research activities.

During EH&S review, and throughout the tiered review escalation process, the Principal Investigator and field research coordinator may provide input or revise field research protocols as needed. The intent of this process is to support field research by ensuring a safe work environment, not to deny field research altogether.

C. Definitions

See Field Research Safety Policy for definitions

III. Getting Help

The campus EH&S Field Research program, as well as program-specific committees, provides training and assistance to campus units (including help with completing forms, carrying out procedures, or interpreting policy).

If you need help with ...

Contact ...

questions about this policy

The Executive Director of Environmental Health and Safety, ehs@ucsc.edu, 831-459-5394, https://ehs.ucsc.edu/index.html

using UC Santa Cruz field safety tools or questions regarding the field safety program

The Environmental Health and Safety Field Safety Program, fieldsafety@ucsc.edu, 831-459-2553, https://ehs.ucsc.edu/programs/research-safety/field-research

diving or boating related questions

The Diving and Boating Safety Program office, 831-459-4286, http://www2.ucsc.edu/sci-diving

IV. References

Specialized Field Safety Groups

Related Forms

Related Policies

Field Research Safety (OR-0001)