Click here to generate a text only version of this page
Click here to go to the Birkbeck, University of London home page
Click here for help with using the Birkbeck web site
Health and Safety Services

Faculty of Life Long Learning: code of practice for safety during excursions and fieldwork - April 2005


CONTENTS
1. College Statement of Safety Policy
2. Risk Assessment
3. Applicability of the code
4. Duties of staff
5. Duties of students
6. Travelling in private vehicles
7. Accidents/First aid
8. Medical considerations
9. Clothing
10. Excursion cards
11. Country code
12. Trees, rocks, cliffs, walls, etc.
13. Wetlands/off shore work
14. Specimen collecting
15. Entering property
16. Machinery & moving equipment
17. Entry into hazardous areas
18. Remote areas
19. Fire
20. Students undertaking individual fieldwork
Appendix One - Code of Safe Practice for Individual fieldwork
Appendix Two - Specific Instructions for Students
Appendix Three - Specific Instructions for Course Leaders

1. College Statement of Safety Policy. This code must be seen and interpreted as a supplement to the College Statement of Safety Policy, copies of which can be downloaded from the College Safety Office `s web-page: www.bbk.ac.uk/so/policies/safetypolicy

2. Risk Assessment. All fieldwork is subject to the process of risk assessment by the course leader. This Code will cover the hazards associated with most aspects of field course work but certain identified hazards and activities will require a supplementary risk assessment. See Appendix Three - specific Instructions for Course Leaders. Also Field risk assessment form.

3. Applicability of this Code. For the purposes of this code, field work is taken to include not only outdoor work in subjects such as archaeology, biology, geography and geology, but also, social science work such as conducting interviews/surveys in the street. Compliance with some sections of this policy will not be relevant to the latter type of work but full consideration must nevertheless be given to all hazards which may reasonably be encountered.

Excursions to concerts, theatres, galleries, etc., will usually involve only the normal hazards of life and no special safety controls will be necessary. However, consideration should nevertheless be given to such events in case circumstances exist which will require safety arrangements to be made. Examples are: events late at night, in unfamiliar areas and the participation of disabled students.

4. Duties of staff. All persons employed by the College (full-time and part-time) have a duty to take reasonable care to avoid injury to themselves and/or others resulting from their acts or ommisions.

5. Duties of Students. The College requires students to observe instructions given by staff and to take reasonable care to ensure that their acts or omissions do not result in injury to themselves or others.

6. Travelling in private vehicles. Staff and students using private vehicles for travel to fieldwork sites whether as drivers or passengers should check that they are adequately covered by insurance.

7. Accidents/First aid. Members of staff leading fieldwork parties must be qualified in first aid and take a suitable first aid kit with them on all expeditions into the field Prompt treatment must be obtained for all injuries. All accident, incidents and near misses mustbe reported to the College Safety Office on return to the College. Failure to report an accident could jeopardise an insurance claim. Accident report form here.

8. Medical considerations. All persons planning to engage in fieldwork must be physically fit to cope with the conditions to be encountered. Even modest walking can be unsuitable for those suffering from certain conditions. If in doubt, students should consult their doctor in advance of agreeing to take part in field work.. Students must inform their lecturer of any medical condition which might affect their ability to undertake field work.
It is especially important that those attending residential courses should ensure that any medical condition, including those requiring special diets, is revealed to the responsible officer of the Faculty in advance in order that adequate provision can be available. It is essential that those undertaking field work in biology, geology and archaeology have had a course of Tetanus injections.

9. Clothing. Adequate clothing and footwear for the type of weather and terrain likely to be encountered must be worn. Lecturers may, at their discretion, exclude students whom they consider inappropriately dressed.
Warm clothing, preferably in several thin layers which can be adjusted to conditions, a brightly coloured waterproof, windproof outer shell jacket, good socks and strong boots with rubber soles are essential. Trousers or skirts should be loose fitting. Jeans are NOT suitable. Walking boots with mountaineering soles are essential for rough terrain. Ensure that footwear is ´broken in' and waterproof. Wellington boots are NOT suitable for extended walking. ´Trainers' or other shoes with thin soles are NOT suitable. Adequate waterproof outerware must be taken on all outdoor visits. Always carry warm headgear and gloves, plus protective headgear for sun protection. Safety helmets must be worn in quarries and around cliffs and screes and wherever there is a risk from falling objects and on any occasion directed by the lecturer or person in authority.

10. Excursion cards. No party should go into the field without leaving an excursion card giving details of who is in the party, the proposed destination and route there and back, and the intended time of return and preferably a map showing the expected location of the work being undertaken. Arrangements to report the return of parties to local people should never carelessly be broken.

11. Country Code. The Country Code must always be observed and the law obeyed with respect to the countryside.

12. Trees, rocks, cliffs, walls etc. Trees, rocks, cliffs, walls etc are not to be climbed and especial care must be taken near cliffs and quarry edges. Avoid loosening rocks on slopes and shout ´BELOW' if you accidentally dislodge a rock however small. Do not work directly above or below any other person.

13. Wetlands/Off shore work Especial care must be taken in wetland habitats or when working off shore. Water is not to be ventured upon unless appropriate buoyancy aids such as lifejackets are worn. Small boats should only be operated by experienced/qualified and authorised persons. Aqualung equipment should only be used by experienced divers.

14. Specimens. Specimens must not be collected without permission from an authorised person. When breaking rock while collecting geological specimens protective glasses or goggles (ordinary spectacles are inadequate) must be worn.

15. Entering property. Always obtain permission, preferably in writing beforehand to enter private property and follow the recognised procedure for visits to quarries etc. Be careful to report after the completion of your visit.

16. Machinery and moving vehicles. Machinery or other equipment at a site must not be operated without permission from an authorised person and then only under supervision and in compliance with any safety rules made for workers or visitors at a particular site. Persons engaged in fieldwork should maintain an awareness of the movement of vehicles or other machinery. The work of those employed on the site must not be interfered with.

17. Entry into hazardous areas. Entry into hazardous areas such as mountains, cliffs, steep slopes, road and railway cuttings, caves, mines, quarries, building sites or where agricultural machinery is operating may only be made if the party is led by a person familiar with the hazards to be encountered and the precautions to be adopted to minimise risks. Such a person may be an employee of the mine, quarry or building site, an expert guide on natural features or the course leader if suitably experienced. The party leader will issue instructions on the safety procedures to be adopted and all members of the party are to strictly comply with such instructions. Hard hats and steel toecapped footwear are usually required for entrance to mines, quarries and building sites.

18. Remote areas. The present location on a map must always be known. All staff and students must know how Depending upon the environment these may include the wearing of hard hats and protective footwear, to use a compass and which is the nearest route to safety. Students are advised to carry a small first aid kit and learn how to cope with minor accidents, grazes, blisters, stings etc. Staff first vaid kits are dealt with above. Parties must be equipped with a means of signalling eg. whistle, torch, flares. The international distress signal is six blasts of a whistle ( or torch flashes) repeated after a pause of one minute. The answering signal is three whistle blasts. All members of parties must carry a reserve of warm clothing, high energy food, matches and a survival bag to counter the effects of exposure if incapacitated.

19. Fire. Party leaders must ensure that they are aware of the fire instructions pertaining to any residential centre and that these are communicated to their students.

20. Students undertaking individual field work. All students undertaking individual field work as part of their studies must adhere to the rules set out in Appendix One to this document - Code of Safety for Individual Fieldwork.

Appendix One - Code of Practice for Safety for Individual Fieldwork

The Faculty does not encourage lone working. Students engaged in fieldwork should work in small groups or with at least one other person known to you since groups of workers are at substantially less risk from personal attack or accident than those alone. Lone field work should never be attempted in remote or difficult country, or in high risk areas e.g., urban fringe, sea cliffs, remote mountain areas, deep water. Staff or students working in such areas may reasonably insist on being accompanied by a fellow student or colleague.

Rock-climbing, caving and underwater swimming may be useful in research activities, but are dangerous for the untrained or ill-equipped. They should be undertaken ONLY with the prior approval of your supervisor and of the Head of the Faculty and must not be undertaken alone (groups of three must be regarded as the minimum).

However, where lone working is a requirement of the course eg., lone mapping projects - the following Instructions must be adhered to.

1. The Faculty of Continuing Education's Code of Practice for Safety during Excursions and Fieldwork will be issued and must be read and understood.

2. Along with your supervisor, carry out a full risk assessment of the project well in advance. Take into account your experience and training, the nature of the terrain and the possible weather conditions.

3. Check equipment with your supervisor before departure or commencement of work..

4. Take precautions against molestation at all times. Carry a whistle or a personal attack alarm or a cell phone at all times. Make arrangements for regular contact with colleagues.

5. If working in the mountains, learn the mountain safety code and in particular the effects of overexertion or exposure. Be careful not to overestimate what can be achieved. Do not enter remote mountain areas.

6. Do not go into the field without leaving a note, and preferably a map showing the expected location of your work and the estimated time of your return. Never carelessly break arrangements to report your return to local people.

7. Check weather forecasts. Keep a constant look out for weather changes. Do not hesitate to turn back if the weather deteriorates. Local weather forecasts are more useful than general forecasts. See the local telephone directory for the correct number to ring.

8. Know beforehand what to do in the event of an emergency (eg accident, illness, bad weather, darkness). Know the international distress signal: 6 whistle blasts, torch flashes, shouts or waves of a bright-coloured cloth. Leave a one minute pause before repeating.

9. Camp near habitation if possible.

10. At all times carry a small first-aid kit and some emergency food (chocolate, biscuits, mint cake, glucose tablets). A survival bag, a whistle, a torch, a map, a compass and a watch will be required.

11. Obtain local information about tides and currents. Pay particular attention to tidal range, eg for sea cliff study; local advice can be obtained from HM Coastguard. Avoid getting trapped by the tide on intertidal banks or below cliffs. Take care not to get stranded on saltmarshes (remember that drainage channels fill before the general marsh is covered). Avoid quicksands.

12. If using a vehicle, make sure appropriate insurance cover is in force.

Appendix Two - Specific Instructions for Students

1. General. You are advised not to take part in any activities that do not appear in the final programme. These do not form part of the course and no liability can be accepted for accident, injury or loss.

2. Co-operation. Fieldwork often involves inherent risks and hazards resulting from the location and the weather. Field course leaders, in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act will take every reasonable care to ensure the safety of members of their parties. However, the potential dangers make it imperative that you co-operate fully with the course organisers on matters of health and safety and conduct yourself in a responsible manner at all times in order to reduce the risk to yourself and to others.

3. Risk assessment. Hazards which may be encountered on most fieldwork courses and the controls necessary to minimise the risks from them are covered by the Faculty's Code of Practice for Fieldwork. Special codes of practice exist for working alone, Course leaders will carry out a supplementary risk assessment for any hazard or activity not covered by the Faculty Code of Practice or a special code of practice .

Examples of where supplementary risk assessments will be made are: work on a research vessel, work abroad in tropical, desert or in arctic conditions, areas with political unrest, endemic diseases or especially difficult terrain etc..

You will be issued with a copy of the Faculty's Code of Practice for Fieldwork, special codes of practice and the significant findings from any supplementary risk assessment. You are required to adhere to the safety arrangements set out in these documents.

4. Following instructions. Obey all safety instructions given by party leaders. Anyone not conforming to the standards required will be dismissed from the field course. Stay with the party, except by clear arrangement with the leaders. Assemble, where and when told, to receive specific instructions regarding likely hazards. Observe instructions for reporting after completion of work.

5. Fitness. You must inform the leader before any field trip if you have a medical condition that could give rise to problems and discuss the matter with appropriate medical personnel. If you feel ill inform the leader at once. Tell the leader if you have any difficulty in keeping up with the party.

6. Transport to Sites. Unless transport by coach or minibus is arranged by the Faculty, all transport arrangements to and from the course are your responsibility and no liability can be accepted for any injury or loss. In particular you should take care to ensure that if you accept any offer of transport that appropriate insurance is in force.

7. Free time activities. Some 'free time' will be provided on the course. If you choose to go out you should do so in a group of not less than three. At least one person should have experience of the potential hazards of the area and the knowledge and competence (e.g. mountain navigation, survival skills) to deal with them. Follow the Faculty's Code of Practice for Safety during Excursions and Fieldwork .

8. Behaviour. You should make every effort to sustain the College's reputation for order and discipline. In particular you should have consideration for others in the field and in hostel, hotel and other accommodation and avoid actions (including excessive consumption of alcohol, which is banned altogether during working hours) or any action which may compromise the safety, well-being or enjoyment of others. A student who fails to maintain a reasonable standard of behaviour, as outlined above, will be dismissed from the field course and referred to the College Authorities. Should this become necessary the group leader will dismiss the student from the field course (giving a clear statement of the reasons for dismissal) and inform the Dean of Faculty, who will take further action as necessary.

9. Insurance. Please note that although the College has appropriate statutory insurance cover for employers' liability and for public/ products liability, this does not extend to health, travel or property insurance for yourself as a course participant. Neither the University, nor the College, nor the Centre, has insurance which covers you for death, injury, illness or disease, or for loss or damage to your property. You should therefore consider whether you wish to take out such insurance before the start of the course.

10. Record Sheet. You are required to complete a record sheet and you will not be permitted to take part in fieldwork activities until you have done so. The information is sought solely to assist staff members to ensure your comfort and safety and to enable rapid and correct action to be taken in the event of an emergency. All information provided will be treated sympathetically and confidentially. Please complete this online record sheet (a CCS username and password are required).  If you do not have a CCS username and password, please complete the following form and return it to:

Executive Officer for Environment, Faculty of Lifelong Learning, 26 Russell Square, London, WC1B 5DQ  Telephone 020 7679 1069

To: Executive Officer for Environment, Faculty of Lifelong Learning, 26 Russell Square, London, WC1B 5DQ
Telephone 020 7679 1069.


Fieldcourse......................................................................................

Course Leader..................................................................................

Supplementary Risk assessment required Yes/No (Course Leader to indicate)

Student Name...........................................................................................

Course..........................................................................................

Home Address...................................................................................

...............................................................................................

.............................................(postcode)........................................

Telephone number.............................(day)....................................(evening)

PERSONAL AND MEDICAL RECORD
Please supply the following information to the best of your ability. It is required so that we can be aware of any potential problems and respond appropriately in the event of any emergency.
NAME OF NEXT OF KIN or other person to be contacted in the event of emergency:

.............................................................................

ADDRESS if different from above ................................................................

................................................................................................

TELEPHONE NUMBERS (day/ night)..................................................................

Diet VEGETARIAN / OMNIVORE
(please indicate any special dietary requirements):

ARE YOU now or have you recently suffered from any condition which may be relevant to your safety or comfort during the week, e.g. epilepsy, giddiness, blackouts, fainting,, asthma, allergies, diabetes, heart or lung complaints, other physical disability, claustrophobia or recent surgical operations? If so, please give details:



ARE YOU presently under the care of a medical practitioner? If so, please state reasons and give details of any drugs currently prescribed:

NAME OF DOCTOR.................................................................................

ADDRESS........................................................................................

................................................... TELEPHONE..................................

Can you swim? Y / N

When did you last receive a tetanus booster? ........

(If 10 or more years ago you should have another one before fieldwork begins)
ANY OTHER INFORMATION (Please state below or supply on a separate sheet if necessary);

STUDENT DECLARATION
I have received, read, understood and will abide by the Faculty's Code of Practice for Safety during Excursions and Fieldwork including its Appendix One - Code of Practice for Safety for Individual Fieldwork.

I have received read, understood and will abide by the significant findings from the supplementary risk assessment for this particular fieldtrip. - If applicable. See overleaf.

I have disclosed above any medical or health conditions which may affect my ability to undertake fieldwork and/or my safety in the field.

I undertake to conduct myself responsibly with regard for the safety of myself and others.

I understand that I should make my own arrangements for travel and accident insurance.

Signature............................. Date.....................

Appendix Three - Specific Instructions for Field Course Leaders

1. CVCP Code of Practice. The Faculty's Code of Practice for Safety during Excursions and Fieldwork is based on the July 1995 Code of Practice for Safety in Fieldwork published by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom. All field course leaders should be familiar with this code of practice. Copies are available from the College Safety Office.

2. Personal responsibility and liability. The Health and Safety at Work Act requires group leaders to take all reasonably practical steps to ensure their own safety and that of members of the party. On their part, members have a responsibility for not endangering the safety of themselves and others: this is to be made clear to them.

3. Requirement for risk assessment. All fieldwork is subject to the process of risk assessment. Each event must be considered separately. If it is considered that the risks associated with the activities to be engaged in, persons involved and area to be visited are addressed suitably and sufficiently by the Faculty's Code of Practice for Safety during Excursions and Fieldwork then no further risk assessment is necessary. However if the area to be visited or the activities to be engaged in are not adequately covered by the Faculty Code then a written supplementary risk assessment must be carried out and controls devised to minimise all supplementary hazards identified. Blank risk assessment form here.

Examples of hazards and activities which will require to be addressed by a supplementary risk assessment are potential existence of Weil's Disease or Lyme Disease, working in forests, electric fishing, the use of traps and other catching devices for animals, rock coring and trips abroad to an area with political unrest, endemic diseases or especially difficult terrain etc.. Seek advice if necessary. A fieldwork risk assessment form for this purpose can be accessed at the Safety Office web-page.

Group leaders should be aware that extra consideration will need to be given to the needs of any disabled members of the group and that the issue of personal safety may need to be gone into in greater detail when there are female members of fieldtrip parties. In general, where there are female members of the group then where possible, a female member of staff should be one of the group leaders.

4. Provision of information to students. All members of the party must be provided with a copy of the Faculty's Code of Practice for Safety during Excursions and Fieldwork including its Appendix One - Code of Practice for Safety for Individual Fieldwork. All members of the party must also be issued with any significant findings from any supplementary risk assessment. Students must sign a declaration to signify that they have received this material, have read and understood it and agree to comply with it and also so that we have a record of medical conditions, next-of kin, &c in case of emergencies.

Group leaders must also point out specific risks and hazards immediately before the party encounters them. These hazards may include severe weather conditions, mountains, cliffs, steep slopes, road and railway cuttings, caves, mines, quarries, building sites or where agricultural machinery is operating. All members of the group must know where to report on completion of work.

5. Supervision of Students. Staff must ensure that persons working under their supervision comply with the safety procedures in force and that adequate instructions, even those perhaps seemingly obvious or elementary, are given to their charges to protect them from danger. It is not sufficient for a member of staff to assume that an act or manouvre is so manifestly dangerous that no-one would attempt it. Staff are especially cautioned against overestimating the skills and experience of their students in the field. Inexperienced students may find themselves unexpectedly out of their depth in some situations and yet be reluctant to admit their inadequacies even to themselves.

6. Hire of Minibuses. The College has a specific policy on the use of hired minibuses which covers roadworthiness, maximum hours of driving, driving licence requirements etc.. Before a member of staff hires a minibus for use on College business should consult and then adhere to the minibus policy on the Safety Office web-page or the College Safety Office (extension 6218).

7. Insurance. College third party insurance indemnifies its full and part-time tutors against liability to students or others for death, injury, illness or disease, and for accidental loss or damage to property, both in the UK and worldwide, undertaken in their capacity as employees of the College. The College indemnifies members of staff against claims such as negligence. The College does not insure students. Course leaders should advise students to make their own arrangements for travel and accident insurance.

For current STAFF travel insurance provision, contact the Finance department.

8. Fitness. It is the leaders responsibility to ascertain that all members of the group are fit and capable of working in the specific areas to be visited. Any members considered not to be physically fit must be refused permission to carry on with fieldwork. If a member of the group has a special medical condition the leader must be aware of what to do in the case of an emergency and discuss the matter with the University Medical Service.

Any illness should be treated seriously and a doctor called if in any doubt.

9. Medical precautions
Leaders must find out which medical precautions eg which vaccinations and inoculations are advisable and inform all members of the group well in advance. Advice on immunisations can be obtained from the University Medical Service.

10. Safety wear and proper clothing. Leaders must ensure that any safety wear eg. helmets, eye protection is worn. Group leaders must make sure that all members of the party have clothing suitable for the conditions likely to be encountered. Any members considered not to be inadequately dressed must be refused permission to carry on with fieldwork.

11. Accidents/First aid. Group leaders must be qualified in first aid and carry with them a first aid kit adequate for the size of the party and the hazards likely to be encountered. Prompt treatment must be obtained for all injuries. All accidents must be recorded upon return in the College or notified to the College Health and Safety Officer. This is essential to meet legal requirements and for information that may be needed for any insurance claims, should they be made. Accident report form here. All serious accidents must be reported immediately to the local office of the Health and Safety Executive.

12. Times. It is the group leader's responsibility to check, tides, weather, traffic etc and make appropriate decisions including the abandonment of the day's work if necessary. A constant watch must be kept on the weather and the approach of nightfall.

13. Stragglers. The leader must delegate a person to bring up the rear of the party at all times when on the move.

14. Inform others. The leader should make sure that a responsible person eg. hostel warden, reserve warden, coastguard knows of the planned programme for the day and expected time of return. Unscheduled changes of plan should be avoided. Every effort should be made to contact base if the group is delayed.

15. Conduct. The group should take pains to be courteous and considerate to local people. Course leaders have the authority to dismiss from their course any student whom they believe to be endangering others, good order or discipline.

16. Further information. Leaders of fieldwork parties are required to be familiar with the guidance on fieldwork published by relevant professional bodies and to adhere to such guidance. Examples of such guidance is available for reference at the College Safety Office.

CVCP Code of Practice for Safety in Fieldwork, 1995.
Committee of Heads of University Geology Departments - Advice to Students on Geological Fieldwork Safety and Behavious
Geologists Association - A Code for Geological Field Work
DES - Safety in Outdoor Education, 1989
Natural Environment Research Council - Safety in Fieldwork, 1992
AUCL - Guidelines and Code of Practice for Fieldwork, 1994
Mountain Safety: Basic Precautions. Climber and Rambler, Perth PH1 5TT or 36 Fleet Street, London EC4
Safety on Mountains (1975). British Mountaineering Council, Crawford House, precinct Centre, The University, Manchester M13 9RZ or Cordee, 249 Knighton Road, Leicester.
Institute of Biology - Safety in Biological Fieldwork - Guidance Notes for codes of Practice, 1983

top of page

Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: healthandsafety@bbk.ac.uk