Mentoring is essential to transfer knowledge and practical skills from experienced faculty, staff and researchers to new researchers and students, and is often provided informally. However, documented training is a critical part of our University safety programs in order to comply with regulatory requirements, accrediting agencies, and in many situations, funding organizations. Commercial trainers typically provide documentation via a certification that an individual should maintain and be able to provide upon request, e.g. a first aid card. UC-sponsored safety training is typically documented centrally on campus, such as through the UC Learning Center. Departments, research groups or field course instructors can integrate training on safe practices into lab meetings, hands-on demonstrations, or field lectures, and document completion via a simple sign-in form (template provided below). It also is appropriate to list required training as prerequisites in a Field Safety Plan that is reviewed and signed by all participants. Field-related training typically falls into two categories:

  1. Preparation for working at remote sites, and
  2. Specialized “task-based” training directly relevant to field activities

First Aid Skills

First aid training is appropriate for working off campus and at remote field sites because emergency medical services may be limited or delayed. Additionally, Cal/OSHA (Title 8 §3400. Medical Services and First Aid) requires first aid supplies and persons trained to render first aid “in the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital, in near proximity to the workplace.” CPR/AED training is also recommended and offered on most campuses.

Wilderness first aid training is appropriate for outdoor fieldwork or visiting remote sites because it covers more first responder information and relevant scenarios than typical 4 hour community first aid classes. There is no adequate substitute for getting this training. The largest wilderness medicine training provider in the U.S. is the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). The 2-day Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course and 10-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course are both taught at numerous UC campuses. Other training providers within California include Sierra Rescue, Wilderness Medicine Associates, and Foster Calm. For trip leaders, field scientists, or students that plan to pursue a career doing outdoor work, WFR training is highly-regarded professionally and will prepare individuals to manage a broad-range of emergency situations, illnesses, and injuries.

Leadership Skills

Facilitating field research or teaching field classes can require leadership skills that go beyond the expectations of a lab instructor or classroom teacher. This manual attempts to provide a comprehensive resource for helping instructors learn more of these skills. Many other organizations, both on and off campus, offer much more in-depth training. For example, the UCSC Outdoor Recreation Program sponsors the Experiential Leadership Program (ELP), which offers many relevant classes and a certificate program to students, staff and faculty who want to improve their group leadership skills, particularly in an outdoor context. An excellent written resource is the NOLS Leadership Educator Notebook, which can be ordered from the NOLS ( Field Safety in Uncontrolled Environments (published by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists) also provides excellent guidance on planning and leading field excursions and was the model for UC Berkeley’s Field Safety Plan template.

Basic Outdoor Skills

Working in the field can require knowledge of many outdoor skills, such as map-reading, compass use, cross- country navigation, camping, cooking over a fire or with a camp stove, field sanitation practices, and treating drinking water. Campus outdoor recreation programs may be able to help provide additional training in these skills or provide referrals, e.g. outdoor skills workshops are offered on many campuses. Some examples of noteworthy training models include the University of Alaska Fairbanks Field Safety 101, and NSF’s Arctic Field Training.

Leave No Trace & Outdoor Ethics

Many field sites are fragile and can easily be damaged by even light use. It’s important, whenever possible, to adopt field practices that minimize lasting negative impacts. The national educational program called Leave No Trace ( has developed a set of principles that can be generally applied when working in wilderness conditions. More guidelines are available for specific habitats (e.g. river, deserts, etc.) and areas outside the United States on the LNT website and describe how to adhere to the following seven LNT principles:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Specialized “Task-Based” Skills

In order to make accurate risk assessments in the field, you need knowledge about specific hazards. For instance, if you don’t understand what causes an avalanche, you can’t possibly accurately decide when, where, and how to safely travel on steep snow. Get the training you need in the specific skill areas where you’ll need to do risk assessment. Even a little training can go a long way towards making more accurate assessments and performing safer actions in the field. Mentoring is critical to transfer knowledge and practical skills from experienced faculty and researchers to new researchers and students. Brief your team often - at the beginning of an activity and as conditions change (effective communication is covered in more detail in Chapter 4). The appendix of this manual will expand with additional technical topics as they are compiled and developed.

Scientific Diving and Boating

SCUBA diving is a high risk activity and the UC Dive Safety Programs oversee scientific diving operations in the open water and educational aquariums. Each of the UC Dive Safety Programs enable UC to meet the comprehensive diving standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) by providing training, dive planning and logistical support required for working underwater. The primary mission of the UC Dive Safety Officers is to train, support and oversee all employees and students conducting scientific diving in their unique environments using an array of highly specialized SCUBA techniques while ensuring that all diving activities occur in a safe and effective manner. The six existing UC Dive Safety Programs at UCSD/Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UCD/Bodega Marine Lab, UCSC, UCSB, UCLA and UC Berkeley serve approximately 550 UC scientific divers and many more through collaborations and reciprocity.

The UC Dive Safety Officers oversee the largest and most active scientific diving system in the country and have  a long history of collaborating together to meet the shared mission of ensuring this high risk activity occurs in a safe and effective manner. UC also owns Gump Station in Moorea, French Polynesia and the UC Dive and Boat Safety Program oversees all of Gump’s diving and boating activities.

A summary of the Diving and Boating Safety Officer services include:

  • Cal/OSHA Compliance
  • US Coast Guard Compliance
  • Training of Scientific Divers & Boaters
  • Providing required documentation when collaborating with another scientific diving organization
  • Diving and Boating Consultation and Technical Support
  • Development and ongoing oversight of Diving, Boating & Emergency Management Plans
  • Management of Boat Safety Programs
  • Dive Safety Equipment Testing and Repair Services
  • Purchasing of Dive & Boat Safety Related Equipment

Boating – Motorboats, kayaks, canoes, rafts, other paddle craft

As of January 1, 2018, a California Boater Card is required for boat operators in California. The Motorboat Operator Training Course (MOTC), offered by multiple campuses, goes beyond recreational boating requirements and includes hands-on instruction on fire extinguishers, knots, trailers, radios, distress signals, PFDs, rescue, boat maintenance, and boat operation. Kayaks, canoes, rafts and other paddlecraft are commonly used for field activities and research projects. Properly fit PFDs must be worn at all times and a Float Plan should be completed for every trip. Consult with a UC Boating Safety Officer for guidance; a list of contacts is available in the Appendix under “Campus Resources.” Guidelines, checklists, and Float Plan templates are also compiled on the Scientific Boating Safety Association website (

Climbing or Work at Heights

Falls from height are consistently among the top causes of work-related fatalities in the U.S. Climbing trees, towers, or other structures; using ladders or lifts like “cherry pickers”; or other work at height or near edges or cliffs all warrant careful review of equipment and safe practices. Consult with your campus EH&S department to obtain appropriate fall protection, ladder safety, or equipment training. Full-body harnesses, helmets, and other safety gear must also be properly fit, diligently inspected, and properly used to avoid injuries and ensure compliance with Cal/OSHA regulations. Please note: seat harnesses commonly used for sport rock climbing with dynamic (elastic) rope are not acceptable for working at heights because of the potential to be suspended upside down and because they are not designed to absorb shock after a fall as full-body harnesses used in conjunction with shock absorbing fall arrest systems are designed to do. Compliant full body harnesses have a dorsal D-ring to attach fall arrest systems and/or to be used during rescue.

Operating Powered Tools or Equipment

In general, consult with your EH&S department prior to using powered tools or equipment (including ATVs    and snowmobiles). Follow manufacturer’s instructions and keep a manual accessible. Prerequisites and safe work practices for use of powered tools or equipment should be documented in your Field Safety Plan; in some situations referring to specific manuals or JHAs. A Job Hazard Analysis (sometimes referred to as a JSA or Job Safety Analysis) is the breaking down of a job into its component steps and then evaluating each step, looking for hazards. Each hazard is then corrected or a method of worker protection (safe practice or PPE) is identified. Additional requirements for worker training, certification, authorization, etc., may be identified for the process or job. The final product is a short written document, a standard of safe operation for a particular job (see an example JHA).

Excavating or Trenching

Hazards related to excavating or trenching include:

  • physical hazards from use of digging equipment or being trapped/buried by collapsing soil;
  • respiratory hazards caused by disturbing soil that contains Coccidioides fungi (which causes Valley Fever) or other environmental contaminants,
  • and trips/falls if the edge is not clearly flagged or protected. Excavations greater than 4 feet deep trigger Cal/ OSHA regulatory requirements for evaluation and shoring. Consult with your EH&S office for guidance and to establish safe work

Entering Confined Spaces such as Caves, Vaults, or Mines

Hazards related to entering confined spaces include:

  • physical hazards from unstable structural integrity, low overhead clearance,
  • respiratory hazards from unsafe environmental conditions, such as hydrogen sulfide gas or lack of oxygen,
  • and increased risk due to access limitations, unreliable communications, and isolated, often dark and rugged/uneven conditions.
Consult with your EH&S office for confined space entry training and to establish safe work practices. It is a standard precaution for workers to wear a hardhat, headlamp, and carry a 4-gas meter (that measures hydrogen sulfide, combustible gas, carbon monoxide, and oxygen levels simultaneously) to verify safe conditions and adequate oxygen levels prior to entry into a confined space.

Handling Wildlife

Wildlife biologists face environmental hazards in the field, as well as risk of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases and the physical threat of a wildlife attack or bite. During required institutional review of animal protocols, best practices for trapping or darting of wildlife should be adopted, but broader field hazards should not be ignored. As with all fieldwork, working alone, extreme weather conditions, unreliable communications, and limited or delayed emergency medical services may exacerbate any research-related incidents.

It is standard precaution for gloves to be worn when handling any wildlife, and additional controls are warranted for species that transmit life-threatening diseases, e.g. wearing a respirator for handling deer mice (hantavirus), or getting a rabies vaccination for handling bats or other carriers. Animal procedures require hands-on demonstration and training; consult with your Campus Biosafety Officer or Veterinarian for guidance and never perform work that is not specifically approved in your Animal Use  Protocol.

Clinical Work or Handling Biological Specimens

Clinical work or collecting/handling human biological specimens should be covered under an Exposure Control Plan that includes careful consideration of vaccinations, safe work practices, appropriate PPE, post-exposure prophylaxis, and incident reporting. Cal/OSHA requires that employees that may be exposed to human blood, bodily fluids, or cells be provided Bloodborne Pathogen Training and offered Hepatitis B vaccination at no cost. Consult with your Campus Biosafety Officer for guidance.

Transporting Hazardous Materials, Hazardous Waste, or Biological Specimens

Moving regulated hazardous materials can be complex. Most biologicals are not stable for shipping and are typically stored in dry ice or liquid nitrogen. DHL offers a Shipping Dangerous Goods option. World Courier handles infectious materials and replenishes dry ice. They also keep materials in pressurized cabins, and forgo x-rays. Cryoport and FedEx will ship a liquid nitrogen vapor carrier internationally.

Regulated Hazardous Materials include:

  • Infectious and biological substances
  • Genetically modified organisms or micro-organisms
  • Chemicals
  • Radioactive materials
  • Compressed cylinders (whether filled or empty)
  • Dry ice
  • Liquid nitrogen
  • Certain batteries
  • Equipment containing batteries (including but not limited to PCs, tablets, cell phones and eVapor cigarettes
  • Gasoline
  • Ethanol

Anyone shipping hazardous materials should consult with your EH&S office for guidance on required training and labeling. Also, please note, to move research materials between a UC campus and outside institutions there must be a Material Transfer Agreement in place. Contact your campus Material Transfer Coordinator for more information. Prior to shipping research equipment or materials out of the country, work with your export control manager or Vice Chancellor for Research’s office to determine whether an export license is required. For more information visit the ECAS International Shipping site.

Use of Drones (Unmanned Aircraft System)

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. Additional training resources and regulatory updates are available online via the UC UAS Safety website. Review and integrate the Top 10 Tips for Safe UAS Flights into your planning and operations.

Safety Resources for Specific Areas of Study

Agriculture/Rural Studies:

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) provides excellent “Safety Notes” for a variety of outdoor and field activities

Geology/Earth Sciences:

Polar Sciences - US Antarctica Program, Arctic Sciences (NSF):

Wildlife Biology:

Archeology, Paleontology, Anthropology, Others:
Health and Safety for Museum Professionals (SPNHC)

Working Alone Off-Site (CCOHS Fact Sheet):

Guidelines for Social Worker Safety:

Safety of Journalists:

Training Documentation Blank Template

Case Studies