Field Safety Procedures

Important Contacts:

Departmental Safety Officer: Keir Hiscock


The Department of Earth Sciences Field Safety Policy applies to all faculty, staff and students who are involved in off-campus field activities related to research or teaching at MUN. The policy requires the "person-in-charge" of the field activity (normally a faculty member or his/her delegate) to complete a Field Research Safety Planning Record (and other safety-related documents) prior to undertaking off-campus field activity (ideally two weeks in advance of the date that the field work begins). Participants (e.g. students) in field studies or field work are similarly required to complete safety-related forms. The Departmental Field Safety Policy is in addition to any general statements regarding safety issued by Memorial University.

For ease of use, there are several versions of safety-related documents available on the departmental website, each customized to the nature of the field activity: (1) Researchers Undertaking Independent Fieldwork, (2) Faculty Leading Fieldtrips, (3) Students Undertaking Independent Fieldwork, and (4) Students Attending Fieldtrips (including field school). The supporting documents can be completed online and submitted via email to the Departmental Safety Officer, or they can be downloaded and completed in paper form and submitted directly to the Departmental Safety Officer.   The Departmental Safety Officer is available to assist with the paperwork.


The terms ‘field activity’ or ‘field work’ are to be interpreted broadly and include, for example, work aboard ships, land-based field studies, and work at field stations. They also include components of student laboratories that take place outdoors and off-campus. These can be for part of a day or extended over several weeks or months.

Responsibilities of person-in-charge

It is the responsibility of the person-in-charge (e.g. faculty member) to take all reasonable steps to ensure that:

(1) An assessment of known and potential risk has been conducted to the extent that is appropriate for your circumstances. The safety documents contain a fairly comprehensive check-list of potential hazards/risks to serve as a guide.

(2) Each participant is informed of the potential risks and of the physical requirements of the fieldwork. Each participant must acknowledge receipt of the information and agree to participate in the activity by signing an "Informed Consent" document.

(3) The fieldwork is conducted safely, including the determination of appropriate safety equipment and clothing and the instruction of participants in use and maintenance of these.

(4) In the case of fieldwork involving foreign travel to non-western countries, participants should consider contacting at the earliest possible opportunity after arrival, the local Canadian embassy, consulate, chargé d'affaires, local C.I.D.A. or C.U.S.O. officers, with details of travel and work plans.

(5) University owned and rental vehicles must be acquired and operated in accordance with Memorial University Policy and Procedures regulations V-2: Vehicles - University Owned or Leased and T-1: Travel Guidelines – General. Only qualified drivers who meet the Memorial University requirements may drive University vehicles and only those considered qualified by the rental company may drive rental vehicles.

(6) In order to ensure that they are covered by MUN insurance when driving university-owned or rental vehicles on university business, all drivers must completed the appropriate documentation (available from the Departmental Safety Officer).

(7) All operators of boats with motors have a license to operate - this is required by the University and the Province. All operators of boats without motors must be certified by the university. Courses in operating both types of craft are offered by the University. It is the responsibility of the person-in-charge to ensure that all safety precautions are taken, operators are certified or licensed, that boats are in good repair and carry legally required safety equipment. For more information, please see the university boating safety manual.

Field work in a remote area

In the case of fieldwork in remote areas where there is limited access to medical support, the possibility of getting lost, and/or the potential for interactions with dangerous wildlife, the person-in-charge should consider:

(1) That provincial Occupational Health and Safety regulations state one person (per 25 course attendees) must have up-to-date certification in first aid and CPR, and that an appropriate first-aid kit needs to be available (the Departmental Safety Officer can advise on what is appropriate).

(2) Ensuring that all participants carry small first-aid kits with them in the field each day.

(3) Providing a communication link to a central station. In some field areas a cell phone is sufficient; elsewhere use of a satellite phone may be the best alternative. The Department has a satellite phone available for short-term loan. If unavailable, consideration of purchasing or renting one is advisable.

(4) Issuing short-wavelength ‘walkie-talkie’ radios for local communication between groups in the field, if more than one. The Department has several sets available for short-term loan. If unavailable, consideration of purchasing or renting sufficient sets is advisable.

(5) Issuing flares for aid in location if lost and carrying them each day in the field.

(6) Conducting area familiarization trips, where appropriate, before work has started.

(7) Having an emergency plan (e.g. information on communication, first aid, and evacuation plans) and a procedure for contacting local authorities or police who can organize a search for missing people.

(8) Obtaining contact information for next-of-kin and information about any relevant health issues (e.g., pre-existing medical conditions, allergies, medications etc.) from all participants prior to departure for the field.

(9) Having all fieldwork conducted in work groups of two or more persons (i.e. working alone in remote areas is highly discouraged). If working alone, ensure that someone is aware of where you are working and that at the end of the day, you make contact with them to check in.

(10) Supplying appropriate wildlife deterrents (e.g., bear spray, bear bangers etc.) and firearms, if necessary, and the relevant training and certification.

‘Best Practice’ protocols

Departmental ‘best practice’ protocols include the following:

(1) A general safety lecture to all participants should be given prior to trip departure (a generic Powerpoint lecture is available online for download). All participants should be made aware of the Safety Policy document and a review of the forms to be completed by participants should be part of the lecture. Immediately prior to commencing work in the field the person-in-charge should review with participants, where appropriate, any safety themes relevant to the circumstances of the particular field activity about to be undertaken.

(2) When the field activity involves students (especially those with limited field experience) the safety lecture should: (i) Give particular emphasis to caution when working on outcrops that are wet or on steep terrain, especially along the coast; (ii) Point out the need for robust footwear with good soles for traction, appropriate field clothing for wet, cold, or sunny weather, and the requirement to wear safety glasses when working with geological hammers.

(3) In the case of field trips, the person-in-charge should note the particular hazards associated with each field stop as it is visited.

(4) The person-in-charge should encourage each participant to take personal responsibility for his/her own safety by making his/her own safety assessment at each site visited, and not to attempt anything that s/he considers unsafe.

(5) All field participants should wear hard-hats when working in quarries, mine workings (including underground workings) or steep rock faces where there is a risk of falling rocks (hard hats are available through the Departmental Safety Officer in the Main Office).

(6) Climbing cliffs or steep rock faces without appropriate safety gear is not permitted.

(7) Completion of an Incident Report Form in the case of a significant incident or accident in which safety was compromised in the field.

Completion of a Field Research Safety Planning Record and other safety-related forms

The person-in-charge of a field activity or field work is required to complete a Field Research Safety Planning Record and other safety-related forms (see below) before going into the field in order to comply with the Departmental Field Safety Policy. Participants in field activities (e.g. students) also must complete safety-related forms before engaging in off-campus field work. All of the safety-related forms are available from the Departmental Safety Officer in the Main Office or can be downloaded from the departmental website. After the person-in-charge has completed the safety forms, undergraduate students taking specific courses can find course-specific forms.

Forms completed by the person-in-charge can be submitted via email or in printed form to the Departmental Safety Officer. If there are any questions regarding the Safety Policy or completion of the paperwork, see the Departmental Safety Officer.

Forms completed by participants or students normally will turn in printed copies of their forms to the person-in-charge of the particular field activity.

An overview of safety-related forms and the appropriate action to be taken upon their completion follows:

(i) Field Research Safety Planning Record - to be completed by the person-in-charge of the field activity and then emailed or filed with the Departmental Safety Officer.

(ii) Field Activities Safety Awareness - to be completed by the person-in-charge and then emailed or filed with the Departmental Safety Officer.

(iii) Emergency Plan - to be completed by the person-in-charge and then emailed or filed with the Departmental Safety Officer. The person-in-charge should have a copy of the Emergency Plan in the field, and require field demonstrators to carry a copy as well.

(iv) Incident Report Form - to be completed by the person-in-charge if events warrant, and then emailed or filed with the Departmental Safety Officer, when appropriate, at the end of the field activity.

(v) Declaration of Informed Consent - to be completed by the field participant (e.g. student) and a printed copy submitted to the person-in-charge. This form must be completed before the participant is permitted to engage in the field activity. The person-in-charge will turn all of the Consent forms for all participants to the Main Office (Departmental Safety Officer) who will retain them for the duration of the field activity. The Consent forms are to be shredded when the field activity concludes.

(vi) Health Statement and Medical Release Form for Travel - to be completed by the field participant (e.g. student) and a printed copy submitted to the person-in-charge. This information will be considered confidential unless circumstances require use of the information. The person-in-charge will carry all of the Medical forms for all participants while in the field (in case the information is needed) and then arrange to have the documents shredded (by the Main Office) when the field activity concludes.

(vii) Other Required University (Enterprise Risk Management) Forms - These forms are to be completed by the person-in-charge organizing the field event. All of the ERM forms are to be submitted to Keir Hiscock, along with the Departmental Field Safety Forms. The Department apologizes for some unavoidable duplication in the paper work – we have done our best to minimize.

Blank copies of all of the safety forms are available from the Departmental Safety Officer in the Main Office or they can be downloaded from the departmental website.


Earth Sciences

230 Elizabeth Ave

St. John's, NL A1B 3X9 CANADA

Tel: (709) 864-2530

Fax: (709) 864-2552