Field Operations Safety

 

The work of research and teaching labs at the University of Washington include a broad spectrum of field operations, such as rocket tests, water sample collection, and wildlife observation, to name just a few. EH&S is committed to supporting a safe and healthful environment for all individuals associated with field operations, including students, faculty, staff, and approved volunteers by providing guidelines and resources to lead safe, successful field courses and research trips.

EH&S guidance is focused on policies and risk management practices relevant for field courses and research, international trips, research expeditions, and other outdoor excursions. Field sites may include field stations, natural reserves, public lands or parks, wilderness areas, coastline or waterways, or more controlled sites such as construction areas, excavations, or mines. Each of these environments pose unique considerations for the health and safety of the individuals working and teaching there.

Essential safety elements for fieldwork include:

  • Risk assessments
  • Appropriate equipment
  • Adequate training
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Chemical management
  • Safety plans
  • Waste handling
  • Signage
  • Proper emergency practices
  • Safe working conditions

You can find detailed information about field safety practices in the UW Field Operations Safety Manual, including state regulations, UW policies, safe work practices, and document templates.

Due to the wide range of operations performed in the field, additional reference to other relevant safety resources may be necessary to create a complete field safety program.

What you need to know

There are federal, state, local and University requirements that need to be observed for any type of field operations you may be conducting. These requirements are detailed in the UW Field Operations Safety Manual, as well as in other safety manuals referenced there.

The UW Field Operations Safety Manual, as well as safety document templates and tools, is maintained through the EH&S Laboratory Safety program. 

What you can do to stay safe

The UW is committed to safe field operations. If you observe potentially unsafe practices, conditions or have questions, please feel free to report it confidentially to the contact listed above or through EH&S’s Report A Concern page.

In order to stay safe, do not conduct any field operations without the proper training. You must be authorized by your department to conduct field operations in affiliation with the UW.

When conducting UW field operations, observe the following:

  • Follow the standards in the UW Field Operations Safety Manual.
  • Complete and document safety trainings relevant to the work being conducted.
  • Do not conduct operations without the knowledge and approval of your department.
  • Check in advance for additional UW entities that should be notified of your operations.
  • Plan your operations in locations and conditions that are appropriate.
  • Ensure required emergency equipment is on site.

Service available

Contact EH&S for guidance on activities you plan to conduct as part of your field operations. Subject matter experts are available to answer questions and direct you to information relevant to your work.

More information

Additional safety manuals

Due to the wide range of operations performed in the field, reference to other relevant safety manuals may be necessary to access vital information for maintaining the health and safety of those working with potentially hazardous materials or equipment (e.g., Laboratory Safety Manual, Boating Safety Manual, etc.).

Safety manuals on the EH&S website are prepared in accordance with federal, state and local regulations and policies.

Trainings

EH&S offers online and in-person courses that meet regulatory and policy requirements and support a culture of safety for the University of Washington. Visit the EH&S Training page to enroll in courses specific to your work.

Oversight

The Institutional Chemical and Physical Safety Committee has specific oversight responsibilities for chemical and physical hazards in all research and teaching activities conducted in University owned and operated laboratories, and in field research.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

UW faculty, staff, and students are welcome to submit drafts of risk assessments to EH&S for review, guidance, and feedback, but EH&S does not approve assessments for field operations. Approval is given by the responsible party for the operation and their department.

UW faculty, staff, and students are welcome to submit drafts of safety plans and relevant documents to EH&S for review, guidance, and feedback, but EH&S does not keep record of or catalogue safety plans. Safety plans should be kept on file by the responsible party for the operation and their department.