This information has been reorganised to produce an improved workflow when planning fieldwork. The revision is located at: REVISED Fieldwork in rural and remote areas
Field activities in rural and remote locations form an essential part of many teaching and research functions at the University of Western Australia. Field work may be required in unfamiliar surroundings with different risks from those that are well known and controlled during normal campus activities.
The University must exercise a “duty of care” under the WA Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984. All staff involved in the conduct of field activities should be familiar with the University’s Occupational Safety and Health Policy and the Responsibility and Accountability Policy, in particular, the responsibilities of supervisors and individuals. A summary of the important responsibilities relevant to field activities is provided below.
It is the responsibility of the Head of the Academic/Administrative Unit to ensure that satisfactory provisions for safety and health are made for rural and remote field activities approved by their unit. Heads of the Academic/Administrative Units must institute a system for assessment, approval and review of all field activities in their unit and ensure that occupational safety and health issues are reported and resolved. The Head may delegate this duty to the Field Work Supervisor but responsibility for ensuring satisfactory provisions for field work safety and health is not delegable. The Head must be satisfied that the Field Work Supervisor and the Field Work Leader are competent.
It is also a responsibility of the Head to ensure that all field work participants are adequately trained as well as being adequately informed. The distinction between information and training is significant and should not be underestimated (for example, field work involving scuba diving is potentially very dangerous for the untrained, no matter how well informed they may be).
The staff member in charge of a rural and or remote field activity must ensure that the risks associated with rural and remote field activities are managed effectively. To do this they must:
Many of the hazards likely to be encountered on field activities and appropriate risk controls are discussed in these procedures. Hazard identification and risk assessment forms are included to:
The Field Work Supervisor can delegate the supervision or training of a student to a suitably qualified and/or experienced person, as appropriate for the task. The Field Work Supervisor is, however, responsible for ensuring that each participant has received appropriate training and has gained sufficient competence to undertake the task.
The Field Work Leader in charge of the practical undertaking of rural and or remote field work has a particular responsibility for safeguarding the safety and health of all staff, undergraduate, honours and postgraduate students in their charge as well as any volunteers who may be assisting.
Field Work Leaders of rural and remote field activities must:
In a field work situation where a postgraduate or honours research student is in charge of the field work (in other words, is the Field Work Leader), it is their Field Work Supervisor’s “duty of care” responsibility to instruct the Field Work Leader in their responsibilities and to ensure that the approved “Field Work Plan” is submitted and adhered to.
Each staff member, student and volunteer has a moral and legal responsibility for ensuring that his or her work environment is conducive to good safety and health by:
A volunteer information sheet (Attachment C) is provided at the end of these procedures to record the details of approved volunteers.
All personnel involved in field work must be mentally and physically fit for the tasks required. They must accept appropriate medical advice where relevant and disclose to the Field Work Leader/Supervisor or Head any limitation imposed by their health that may affect their ability to participate safely in any field work activity. This obligation applies both before and during field work. Information provided must be treated as confidential information, unless non-disclosure creates a risk to other participants.
The University of Western Australia is committed to being fair, equitable and sensitive to the diverse needs of its staff and students in all its policies and practices and to supporting access by disadvantaged groups with due regard and respect for the sensitivities of all stakeholders. With respect to field activities, it is the University’s responsibility to avoid discrimination against people who have a disability by making reasonable adjustments to the working environment and arrangements.
When students are undertaking a field activity as part of their course requirement, reasonable accommodations will (where reasonable) be made to ensure that students who have a disability can participate. Some students may not, however, be able to undertake some activities. Alternative arrangements must be made to ensure that these students can meet the inherent requirements of the course. Advice and assistance can be obtained from Equity and Diversity in Human Resources.
Adjustments to the working environment and arrangements for students and staff with disabilities may include:
Everyone participating in field work must be adequately insured. Advice can be obtained from the University’s Insurance and Risk Management Officer. Heads of Units undertaking field work should ensure that appropriate insurance has been arranged to cover all parties before the field work begins. Details of the University’s insurances can be obtained at on the University's Insurance Policies page.
There are four steps:
Listing the field work to be carried out, objectives, proposed itinerary, where, by whom, participants, start date, finish date and other relevant information.
Refer to Appendix 1 – field work hazard identification checklist
The field work plan (attachment A), copies of the participants forms (attachment B) and voluntary workers insurance proposals (attachment C – if applicable) shall be submitted, via the local School Supervisor / Administrator, to the relevant Head of School at least one week prior to departure and this time may need to be longer, particularly if immunisations are required.
The field work shall only begin upon approval and “sign off” by the Head of School. Should the Head of School discern that a higher level of approval is required, the field work plan’ shall be submitted to the Dean. Either level of management has the right to refuse to grant approval, make approval conditional on certain criteria being met or seek further expert advice or opinion.
The Field Work Leader or Field Work Supervisor must instruct field work participants on safety and health matters related to the field work. It is recommended that an information sheet be developed and attached to the field work plan for each participant. Attachment B of this document contains a field work participant’s form, to indicate that the participant has received, read and understood the information provided. This form also gathers details for contacting next of kin in the event of an emergency.
For routine field work undertaken on a repeat basis, the same field work plan may be used provided that:
If changes are identified, a new plan will need to be submitted.
A copy of the field work plan and field work participant’s forms shall be kept in the School/Unit’s office and a copy kept by the fieldwork leader during the field work.
A minimum of two people should be in attendance during the field work. In some situations and according to the level of risk, more people will be required. Likewise for safety reasons, maximum numbers may need to be enforced, for example boat trips in vessels licensed to carry a maximum number of people.
First aid provision must be provided in line with the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations (WA) 1996 and Code of Practice First Aid, PPE and Amenities [PDF, 406.85 KB]. Remote area field work requires a currently qualified first aid attendant to be present. Senior First Aid qualifications are preferred and may be required in many circumstances. Contents of first aid kits need to reflect the types of hazards likely to cause injury, as stipulated by the Code of Practice.
The method of communication and frequency of communication must be agreed in the field work plan. Mobile phones (where reception is available), UHF radio, satellite phones and EPIRBs (for when other forms of communication fail) may need to be considered. Where possible, contact shall be made at agreed intervals with University staff on campus.
With some types of field work it may be more appropriate to set up an alternative communication arrangement made with a reputable contact point. Examples of such include a local police station, CALM, National Parks ranger, another institution, a mine site manager, a ship’s master or a farm manager. The underpinning principles are that wherever possible, communication should occur daily, and that there must be a documented emergency back-up plan in the event that contact is not made.
All University policies and procedures apply throughout the duration of the field work. It is the Field Work Supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that people involved in the field work are aware of all relevant policies such as:
For further information visit the Safety and Health homepage.
Field work participants must also be cognisant of and abide by statutory requirements such as flora and fauna collecting, National Parks regulations, entry into other designated areas, Health Department protocols, and so on.
The Occupational Safety and Health Regulations, Codes of Practice, Guidance notes, Australian Standards and Industry Codes provide further information pertaining to legally binding safety requirements. Supervisors must be familiar with these in relation to the activities involved in the field work. For further information contact Safety and Health on (+61 8) 6488 3938.
Food hygiene in the field is essential to minimise intestinal upsets. Procedures appropriate to each field trip form part of the scope of work for that trip.
In many respects, the potential for injuries is greatest during student leisure time. Students may wander off without providing information about where they are going and may engage in dangerous activities such as swimming alone or climbing cliffs.
The abuse of alcohol during leisure time can often be a problem on field trips; drunken students may engage in dangerous pranks, provoke the aggressive attention of local inhabitants, or become aggressive towards one another and/or staff members.
The University’s requirements on reporting hazards, incidents and injuries must be adhered to in the event of any injury occurring or where a hazard may have resulted in an injury.
All personnel involved in the field work must be physically and mentally fit for the tasks required in the field work. They must accept appropriate medical advice where relevant and disclose to the Field Work Leader/Supervisor or Head of School any limitation imposed by their health that may affect their ability to participate safely in any field work activity. This obligation applies both before and during field work.
Information provided must be treated as confidential, unless non-disclosure creates a risk to other participants.
Before a field trip, the Field Trip Leader must ensure that a list of all participant’s next of kin details have been provided to the School/Unit office. These should be retained for the duration of the field work. The Field Work Leader should also take a copy along on the field trip.
During a field activity, a specified contact person at the University must be notified as soon as possible of any changes to the originally proposed itinerary or schedule, including changes of dates, location or number of persons attending the field activity. If the changes cause a flow-on effect to the existing risk assessment, then a revised risk assessment must be prepared.
Participants must notify a specified contact person (such as their supervisor) on return from field activity. If a staff member or a student fails to return from a field activity at the pre-arranged time and has not notified a change in arrangements, the specified contact person is responsible for notifying a School/Unit representative – for example, the Head of the School/Unit. This person is then responsible for notifying emergency services as applicable and next of kin.
If you are planning fieldwork involving diving or boating refer to Diving and boating safety for the relevant planning forms including the fieldwork plan.
Any breach of these field work procedures will be dealt with at the discretion of the Head of School and Dean (or equivalent administrative Head of Unit), in accordance with the University’s procedures on substandard performance of staff and disciplinary procedures in the case of students/researchers.
Staff members: at a minimum, the Dean must inform the staff member that the breach is not acceptable and that it will be documented on their personal file. Further repeat offences shall be referred to the Director of Human Resources for formal disciplinary action.