Fieldwork in rural and remote locations form an essential part of many teaching and research functions at the University of Western Australia. These tasks and activities may be carried out in unfamiliar surroundings with different risks from those that are well known and controlled whilst on the University campus.
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 is 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.
In a fieldwork situation where a postgraduate or honours research student is in charge of the field work, it is their Field Work Supervisor’s “duty of care” responsibility to instruct the student in their responsibilities and to ensure that the approved “Fieldwork 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 "Fieldwork Participant Declaration" form is located in the Forms section at the bottom of this page.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
A "Voluntary Workers Insurance Proposal is located in the Forms section at the bottom of this page.
If you are planning fieldwork involving diving or boating refer to Diving and boating safety for the relevant planning forms including the fieldwork plan.
Describe the work to be carried out, its objectives, the proposed itinerary, where it will be conducted, by whom, participants, start date, finish date and other relevant information as required on "Form 7 Planning - fieldwork safety plan" below.
Use the "Fieldwork hazard identification checklist" in the forms section at the bottom of this page to work through aspects of the trip which may require health and safety considerations / safety risk assessment.
STAFF - The Fieldwork Supervisor must consider the hazards involved in the planned activities and assess the associated risks using the "Fieldwork Safety Risk Assessment" in the forms section at the bottom of this page. Identified risk control strategies must be implemented and monitored throughout the fieldwork.
STUDENTS - Notification for intended fieldwork is given as part of the Program of Study, which is submitted by all research candidates. Details of field work and any hazardous or dangerous activities must be disclosed in the submission of the Program of Study and the Annual Progress Report. Any field work that becomes part of the research program subsequent to the original Program of Study must be reported in the Annual Progress Report.
Each participant must complete a "Fieldwork Participant Declaration" and volunteers and their supervisor’s must also complete the "Voluntary Workers Insurance Proposal" - see REGISTRATION OF PARTICIPANTS in the forms section at the bottom of this page.
The fieldwork plan and all other forms associated with the planned activities must be submitted, via the local School Supervisor / Administrator, to the relevant Head of School at least one week prior to departure. This time may need to be longer, particularly if immunisations are required. The fieldwork 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 fieldwork 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 to seek further expert advice or opinion.
The approval process (when 'Form 07 Planning-fieldwork safety plan' is endorsed) should include recording of the approval on a central record of approvals which is kept by the school or unit. A suitable template is provded in the forms section of this page. See 'Template - Health and Safety Fieldwork Register' (below).
The Fieldwork Supervisor must instruct participants on health and safety matters related to the fieldwork. It is recommended that an information sheet highlighting key health and safety factors relating to the planned activities be developed, attached to the fieldwork plan and supplied to each participant.
Repeated fieldwork - A fieldwork plan may be reused provided that:
If changes are identified, a new plan will need to be submitted.
Record keeping - A copy of all documentation (inlcuding participant forms) shall be kept in the School/Unit’s office and a copy kept by the fieldwork supervisor during the fieldwork.
Minimum number of people - No less than two people shall be in attendance during the fieldwork. 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 made in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations (WA) 1996 and Code of Practice First Aid, PPE and Amenities. 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.
Communication with the University - 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 fieldwork 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.
Catering - 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.
Leisure time - 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.
Reporting hazards, incidents and injuries - 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.
Medical conditions affecting field work participation - 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 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.
Notification of next of kin - Before a field trip, the Fieldwork Supervisor 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 Supervisor should also take a copy along on the field trip.
Notification of changes to proposed field work - 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.
Notification of return from field work - 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.
Various specialized risk assessments can be found in this Tool Kit.
For Diving and boating activities please use the forms on that page.
REGISTRATION OF PARTICIPANTS