Assess Potential Field Hazards

Hazard assessment for field activities may be triggered by various entities, such as via animal protocol review, as part of the research/lab safety program at your campus, or through department procedures. The field hazard assessment tool below provides an overview of resources and hazard mitigation steps for common UC field activities.

All fieldwork warrants a pre-trip discussion regarding foreseen hazards, appropriate precautions, communication options, and emergency procedures. Additional actions are listed below.

  • Will you be traveling more than 100 miles from your home campus/office?
  • Register with UC Away for travel insurance documentation, 24/7 assistance, and a custom “Trip Brief”
  • Will you be traveling internationally?
  • Be familiar with the UC International Activities Policy, your campus International Activities office (listed on p. 13 of the Policy); resources at
  • Does your “Trip Brief”, the CDC, or State Department recommend vaccinations or prophylaxis for your destination?
  • Schedule a medical visit at least 6-8 weeks prior to your trip; Occupational Health, Travel Clinic or Student Health Clinics available, depending on your campus.
  • Will you be visiting sites with hazardous terrain, climate, wildlife, zoonotic risks, poor sanitation, other environmental hazards, or remote sites with limited services (e.g. more than 30 minutes from emergency medical services)?
  • Complete a Field Safety Plan and review with all participants.
  • At least one participant should have current first aid training and carry a first aid kit.
  • Does your worksite lack reliable phone service?
  • Include check-in procedures in your Field Safety Plan
  • Avoid working alone, when possible
  • Carry field radios or satellite communication device
  • Will you be visiting private property or entering private homes?
  • Avoid working alone, when possible
  • Ensure proper approvals/protocols are in place
  • Carry UC identification
  • Dress comfortably but professionally
  • Carry a reliable means of communication and check in with your supervisor regularly
  • Will you be visiting controlled sites such as construction sites or mines?
  • Request PPE and site access requirements in advance
  • Carry UC identification
  • Avoid working alone, when possible
  • Check-in with site manager/superintendent to understand what other hazards are currently present on the job-site
  • Will you be driving to your destination via UC, rental or personal vehicles?
  • Review UC auto insurance policies for students, faculty and staff; complete relevant driver safety training as required by your campus; consider off road/4x4 training if applicable.
  • Will anyone be chartering boats, planes or using other non-commercial means of transportation?
  • Consult with Risk Services regarding appropriate insurance and precautions
  • Are you responsible for students registered in a field course?
  • Review UC Field Ops Manual Ch. 4: “Best Practices for Trip Leaders” and “Campus Resources”
  • Consider establishing a “Student Behavior Agreement” or reviewing a “Code of Conduct”
  • Set the tone for a safe trip by discussing expectations and rules before the trip
  • Carry a participant roster with emergency contact information at all times
  • Will participants be camping or sleeping in shared dorms, housing, etc.?
  • Will volunteers be helping on your project?
  • Register volunteers formally; consult with Risk
  • Will family members, partners, or other companions be travelling with participants?
  • Companions should be registered via UC Away and may be eligible for UC travel benefits
FIELD ACTIVITIES – Specifics to integrate into your Field Safety Plan
  • Working outdoors with temperatures over 80 degrees F?
  • Complete Heat Illness Prevention training
  • Carry sufficient water, take breaks in shade
  • Carry shades or tarps if natural shade is unavailable
  • Maintain means of communication, awareness of worksite location, and ability to obtain EMS
  • Working in dry vegetation/areas with high fire danger?
  • Complete fire extinguisher training
  • Carry a fire extinguisher, shovel, and bucket of sand in your vehicle
  • Consult with your Campus Fire Marshal or Fire Prevention Office
  • Working in cold, possibly wet conditions?
  • Provide all participants a recommended gear list including waterproof clothing, boots; layers for insulation, extra dry socks, tarp, etc.
  • Carry extra blankets or sleeping bag in your vehicle for emergencies
Does work involve:
  • Excavating soil more than 4 feet deep?
  • Working at heights over 6 feet?
  • Entering caves, vaults, mines, or other potential confined spaces?
  • Handling or transporting hazardous materials or samples?
  • Use of powered tools or equipment?
  • Working in loud noise?
  • ATVS?
  • Snowmobiles?
  • Clinical work or handling of biological specimens?
  • Handling/trapping wildlife?
  • Contact EH&S for appropriate hazard assessment, training, and PPE selection
  • Include training requirements and precautions in your Field Safety Plan or refer to specific procedures, JHAs, etc.
  • If medical clearance or vaccinations are required, schedule your appointment with Occupational Health at least 6-8 weeks prior to travel (e.g. for use of respirators, working in loud noise, handling bats or other hazardous wildlife).
  • Will anyone be operating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones)?
  • All UAS flights require prior approval and post- flight reporting. The new UC Drone Web App, sign in and select the Drone symbol) provides a unified portal for managing flight requests and reporting for UC students, staff and faculty.
  • Will anyone be boating (motorboats, kayaks, canoes, or other paddlecraft)?
  • Properly fit PFDs must be worn at all times
  • Contact your Boating Safety Officer for training and guidance. As of 2018, boating safety training is REQUIRED in California.
  • Complete a Float Plan for every trip.
  • Will anyone be diving?
  • Contact your Dive Safety Officer for required training and approvals.
  • Complete a Dive Plan for every trip.

Assemble a written field safety plan

For field work in remote locations - or hazardous work off campus - develop a field safety plan with site information and emergency procedures. Taking the time to compile a thorough safety plan and discuss it with your team will prepare you to more effectively manage risks that arise in the field. It serves as a hazardous assessment tool and can include Go/No Go criteria, refer to other protocols or training and be used to brief your field team or course participants on trip logistics and precautions. Developing and using a field safety plan is appropriate for the following activities:

  • Conducting field research or teaching field courses off campus,
  • Work performed at field stations, nature reserves, or controlled sites. Established site procedures may be available, but should be supplemented with a safety plan for hazards specific to your research or tasks.

Field safety plan templates and assistance are available via campus EH&S research safety programs. For scientific diving or boating, a dive or float plan serves a similar purpose. Links to these resources are available in the Appendix under “Campus Resources” or you may search your campus EH&S website directly. Example plans from UC Berkeley and UCSD/Scripps Institute of Oceanography are provided at the end of this chapter.

Register your trip for UC travel insurance & assistance

You are automatically registered if you book travel using UC’s central travel service Connexxus; otherwise, you should register trips over 100 miles from your home campus/office via the web portal UC Away. Shortly
after registration, you will receive an email with UC travel insurance numbers and destination-specific information in the form of a “Trip Brief”. If conditions change during your trip (e.g. approaching storm, disease outbreak, heightened security), you will receive updated alerts via email with specific guidance for your location. You may also access travel intelligence reports directly by logging in to the Worldcue Trip Planner or by downloading the app Worldcue Mobile. Some key points:

  • You may register a trip directly via UC Away at
  • Shortly after registration, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to a customized “Trip Brief” for your destination and a link to your profile. Keep this profile updated with your best contact information during travel.
  • You will be provided an insurance card with our UC plan ID.
  • UC Travel Emergency Assistance is available 24/7 from United Healthcare Global:

Identify appropriate equipment, gear and first aid supplies

Fieldwork often requires travel and work at sites that lack basic services such as plumbed water, reliable communications, or prompt emergency medical services. It’s important during planning to budget for appropriate safety measures. A budget justification for field safety supplies and training – signed by EH&S Leadership at UCOP – is provided at the end of this chapter. It is appropriate for field safety supplies and training to be budgeted and reimbursable using University research and/or departmental operation funds; regulatory references are cited where applicable.

First Aid Kits

Any excursion into the field should include carrying some basic first aid supplies. There is no perfect first aid kit, but considerations include:

  • First aid kits provided in a workplace must be approved by a consulting physician, i.e. a Medical Director or Occupational Health Physician per CCR Title 8 Section §3400 Medical Services and First Aid.
  • First aid kits don’t save lives, people do. Get trained and know how to use everything you put in your kit.
  • Commercial first aid kits are good starting points. The NOLS Store and other vendors such as REI and
    Adventure Medical Kits have options designed for outdoor excursions for various group sizes. For educational excursions, you may use the coupon code Educate2018 to receive 15% off of first aid supplies and books at the NOLS Store. This code may be used as many times as you need, and they are planning to update the last digits of this code at the beginning of every calendar year (Educate2017, 2018, 2019...).
  • Customize your kit for your destination, tasks, group size and level of training.
  • Pack extra gloves!
  • Re-pack your first aid kit for each trip; replenish used or expired items.
  • Check for expiration dates on medications and sterile items; replace items that may have been torn open or damaged. Many vendors sell refill kits.
  • Leave an empty plastic bag in your kit for trash. Be strict with all users of the kit to use the trash bag.

Important safety equipment to bring in the field

List required PPE, equipment and recommended clothing/gear in your Field Safety Plan. For remote, outdoor work don’t forget “outdoor essentials”:

  • First aid kit
  • Map, compass, GPS
  • Charged cell phone, field radios, satellite phone/device or personal locator beacon; extra battery or charger
  • Extra water and/or water purification methods
  • Extra food/snacks
  • Hats, sunscreen, sunglasses
  • Emergency shelter, e.g. shade canopy or lightweight tarp, bivvy sack or emergency space blanket
  • Appropriate footwear and clothing, layers
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Matches or fire starter
  • Signal/mirror, whistle
  • Knife or multi-tool; duct tape for basic repairs
  • Your field safety plan with emergency procedures, other protocols if applicable
  • Other equipment specific to your class or project

Important safety equipment to bring in your vehicle

Adapted from “Field Safety in Uncontrolled Environments”:

  • Jumper cables, tire gauge, spare tire, jack, tow rope
  • Printed map, directions
  • Charged cell phone, charger
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Tools: pliers, screw driver, hex wrenches, shovel
  • Useful supplies: duct tape, super glue, bungee cords, large plastic bag
  • PPE: nitrile gloves, grip gloves, safety glasses, reflective vests
  • Fire extinguisher, shovel, bucket of sand (for work in dry vegetation with any type of ignition source/spark)
  • Space blanket, sleeping bag, and/or extra dry clothing (for cold or wet field sites)
  • Extra first aid kit, water, snacks

Complete other forms/documentation

  • Relevant permits (such as scientific collecting permits, animal use protocols)
  • Participant medical forms, if applicable (consult with your campus medical director for guidance)
  • Liability waivers, if applicable (consult with your campus Risk Manager, or review guidance from UCOP:
  • Copies of drivers’ licenses, driver authorization forms (if applicable)
  • Copies of passports for all participants on international courses/trips
  • Copies of medical prescriptions (if applicable)
  • Include a participant list with emergency contacts as part of your field safety plan, dive plan, or float plan

Consider Transportation Options and Precautions

Modes of travel as well as vehicles or equipment used at your field site should be included in your field safety
plan, along with any prerequisite training or required work practices. Contact your campus Risk Manager or EH&S office for assistance. Related resources include:

  • UC Auto Insurance Policy - Contact your campus Risk Services; UCOP Auto Program FAQs
  • BUS-46 Use of University Vehicles
  • Your Worldcue “Trip Brief” created by booking through Connexus or registering your trip with UC Away often will include alerts on local road conditions and guidance on travel logistics
  • Driving UC Vehicles in Mexico (Fact Sheet UCSB Risk Services)
  • Driving Safety in the Field (compiled by UCSC, includes vans, trailers, off road)
  • Multiple vendors offer off road/4x4 training within California and have led custom (behind the wheel) classes for UC field researchers and staff; contact your EH&S office for referrals
  • Contact your campus Risk Manager regarding insurance if chartering boats, planes, or using other non-commercial modes of transportation.

Communicate with participants before your trip

Your students/field team members need to be physically, mentally and logistically prepared for their field experience. Help prepare your participants to have a safe experience:

  • Schedule an orientation “pre-trip” meeting before heading out in the field
  • Send or give your participants information regarding your course or project. This can include a personal equipment list, a description of what to expect, a participant medical form, syllabus, waivers and contact information of leaders and other participants.
  • Review your Field Safety Plan, Worldcue trip brief, expected hazards and conditions, security concerns, code of conduct, and travel logistics
  • Encourage participants to get medical procedures (including dental procedures) taken care of before extended field excursions.
  • Initiate direct communication with your participants. It may be necessary to talk directly with participants beforehand to determine whether a field class or research expedition is the right choice for them.

See Chapter 4 for more suggestions on setting the tone for a safe trip.

Case Studies