General Introduction

All science, whether conducted in a controlled indoor laboratory or in an outdoor field setting, requires regular safety training and thorough consideration of safety issues specific to individual research projects. The office of Environmental Health & Safety exists as a safety consulting resource for UC Davis departments and personnel. Also available are several examples of safety protocols, guidelines and procedures developed by various units within the college to help in the formation of safety protocols for particular projects or activities. Ultimately, safety rests with each individual. Individuals are responsible for their own safety and, through their actions, the safety of those around them.

Introduction to Field Safety

Field research is defined here as comprising work activities conducted primarily for the purpose of research, undertaken by employees or students of the university outside of an office or research laboratory. Ultimately, field research involves some risk from both the research activities and chance events that are unpredictable and unavoidable. Part of the risk can be greatly reduced by awareness of hazards and exercising good judgment. Risk in field research may include, but is not limited to, the risk to physical health, emotional well-being and personal safety. The risks may arise because of the nature of the research itself, from the physical climate, or from the political, social, economic and cultural environment of the field work location.

For these guidelines, the following definitions are employed:

  • principal investigator (PI) is a faculty member who assembles a team to carry out field research.
  • field supervisor is a person appointed by a principal investigator to directly oversee field research on location.
  • field worker is a person who carries out research under the direction of a field supervisor.

Solitary field research activities in remote areas are strongly discouraged. Field research involving particularly hazardous locations or activities should be conducted by two or more people and only after full assessment of the risks and available controls and safety procedures has been made. In circumstances where solitary field research is necessary, the solitary field worker assumes the responsibilities of field supervisor. A method of regular communication should be implemented, including steps to follow if a scheduled contact is not made.

Every field researcher has the right, at any time, to refuse to participate in any activity that they feel may endanger their health or safety or that of another person.