Safety Issues for Field Supervisors
The field supervisor bears the same responsibilities
as a field worker. In addition, the field supervisor is responsible for
safety planning in advance of field research, as well as implementation
of safety protocols on-site. At all times, the field supervisor must exercise
good judgment and take all reasonable care to protect the personal health
and safety of participating team members. A field supervisor must assess
the risk, as far as possible, which may vary in accordance with weather,
project activities, and the experience, age, fitness and other characteristics
of the persons involved in the field research.
A field supervisor is expected to have all of the suitable technical training for doing field research. In addition, some safety training is required. As a minimum, Red Cross first aid training is recommended for all field supervisors. Additional safety training, such as river rescue, may be needed depending on the field research. The following factors should be considered in development of a Safety Plan for each project.
- Scheduling: To the extent possible, field research
should be planned in advance. The principal investigator should know
when a group is doing field research. If the principal investigator
is away, then the department staff should be advised of pending field
- Protective clothing and equipment: A properly
equipped first aid kit, a mobile telephone, and extra water are required
on all field excursions. In addition, university policy requires attention
to protective clothing and equipment. Details are provided in the UC
Davis Policy & Procedure Manual Section 290-50.
- Weather: The typical weather for the season
of the field research should be assessed and reported to field workers.
If weather conditions are bad, be prepared to cancel or modify part
or all of the field trip as necessary for safety.
- Phone numbers: The home phone number of all
field workers and the supervisor, as well as phone numbers of emergency
contacts, should be included in the Safety Plan maintained by the field
supervisor. The home and work phone numbers of the principal investigator
and department chair should be obtained and used in case of emergency.
- Medical facilities: The telephone number, location
and directions to a medical facility in the vicinity of the field site
should be written into the Safety Plan maintained by the field supervisor.
- Vehicles: Most fatal field research accidents
are related to vehicle travel. All state and local laws, rules and regulations
must be followed. Defensive driving should be practiced. Drivers should
switch at the first sign of fatigue, or, if alone, should stop when
too tired to continue safely. University vehicles must not be used for
personal or recreational purposes.
- Land access: Permission should be sought for
entry onto private land and clearly no damage should take place. Attention
should be paid to local warnings, no trespassing signs and danger signs.
Conduct during field research
The field supervisor must ensure implementation of the controls and
safety procedures established by the principal investigator, ensure
that the team members use the appropriate safety equipment and follow
appropriate safety procedures and medical precautions, conduct ongoing
risk assessments during the field research and report any new hazards
to the principal investigator, deal with and resolve any safety concerns
which arise in the field, and maintain regular contact with the principal
investigator and/or departmental contact wherever/whenever possible.
After field work is completed and a trip ends, the field supervisor should inform the principal investigator in a timely fashion of all substantive incidents that occurred in the field. Using hindsight, the field supervisor should revisit the Safety Plan for the project and amend it as needed to enhance safety.