Stanford University

Field Research Safety

Field research is integral to many of the research and academic programs at Stanford. Your field activities may be for the day or for extended lengths of time and may take you to urban or to wildland environments, a few miles from your office or across the globe.

Like working in a laboratory, field research has certain hazards associated with it. The dynamic nature of field environments may present risks due to your research activities as well as from the physical, political, social, cultural, or economic environment of the location you are working. Much of the risk can be greatly reduced through careful planning, awareness of potential hazards, and exercising good judgement.

Stanford has a wide variety of resources to help you in preparing for your field research. EH&S is available to assist in determining your field safety needs (e.g., training, planning, permits and approvals) and connecting you to the appropriate campus resources. Contact EH&S at ehs_field_safety_support@lists.stanford.edu or 650-723-0448 to schedule a consultation.

Planning
  1. Careful pre-trip planning reduces your risk and facilitates emergency response for incidents that may occur in the field.  Field safety plans should address:

    • Research location and description
    • Site travel and access
    • Participants and contact information
    • Tasks and procedures for work
    • Potential hazards applicable to the work and the surrounding environment (e.g., physical hazards, poisonous plants, animals, insects, terrain, weather conditions, transportation, crime, disease, political unrest)
    • Appropriate supplies and safety equipment (including PPE)
    • Required training for participants
    • Locations and contacts for nearest rescue and medical facilities
    • Stanford contacts (e.g., Principal Investigator, Lab Manager, Stanford Travel Office, Occupational Health Center, Office of International Affairs, International SOS service)
    • Local contacts (e.g., collaborators, landowners, relevant government agencies, U.S. Consulate)
    • Emergency response procedures
    • Communications and check-in procedures while in the field. Text-based communication devices are available for loan from EH&S.

    Review your safety plan with your PI or supervisor. Always keep a copy of your field safety plan and itinerary with you while traveling and leave a copy on campus with your emergency contact.


Training
  1. All research, whether conducted in a laboratory or in an outdoor field setting, requires safety training. The Principal Investigator (PI) may authorize another knowledgeable person to conduct the training on their behalf, but it remains the PI’s responsibility to ensure that all personnel in the lab have received appropriate training for their field activities. Trip participants must be trained on all components of the field safety plan. This training is analogous to lab-specific or job-specific training for working on campus. Training courses for specific hazards may be required depending on the nature of your work.

    In addition to training on hazards of the planned activities, federal and state regulations require that first aid supplies and persons trained to render first aid are present in the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital, in near proximity to the workplace. This applies to most field locations. CPR and Wilderness First Aid training is highly recommended for those conducting work in remote or uncontrolled environments.

    Contact EH&S for help in identifying applicable safety training courses or training resources.


Travel Medicine
  1. The Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC) provides health evaluations and advice to Stanford faculty and staff planning work-related travel. Travel medicine consultations should be scheduled at least one month prior to the departure date. This consultation is recommended for location-specific recommendations, vaccinations, and prescription medications.

    Before your travel medicine consultation:

    • Check with your healthcare provider to obtain records of your current vaccinations
    • Schedule a travel medicine consultation with the SUOHC via phone (650) 725-5308 or email stanfordohc@stanford.edu
    • Complete the travel questionnaire and email it to SUOHC prior to the travel medicine consultation

    Post-travel consultations are available and encouraged if you are experiencing an illness or fever within three months after returning, have had a possible exposure to a potentially serious infectious disease while traveling, or have any medical questions that arose during or upon return from travel.


Permits & Approvals
  1. A number of permits and approvals may be necessary, depending on the nature of your field research. Obtaining the appropriate permits and approvals is the responsibility of the lab, but EH&S can assist in identifying what may be required.  These could include but are not limited to:

    • Site access permits
    • Sample collection permits
    • Import/Export documentation (e.g. infectious agents, animal/plant/soil materials)
    • Working with/collecting endangered or invasive species
    • Transport or shipping certifications
    • Public health permits
    • Vector control permits
    • Environmental permits
    • Construction permits
    • Cultural resource/archaeological permits
    • Stanford review board approvals (e.g. animal work, human subject, infectious agents)
    • Background checks (e.g. working with minors)

    Specific states, regions, or countries may require additional permits or approvals.


Incident Reporting
  1. Just like on campus, incidents (injuries, spills, equipment damage, or near misses) occurring in the field must be reported.  This includes those involving staff, faculty, students, volunteers, contractors, or local research partners. Incidents should be reported using the SU-17 incident reporting form within 24 hours or as soon as communications can be established.

    IMPORTANT! Any injury resulting in death, permanent disfigurement, dismemberment or hospitalization expected to last more than 24 hours shall be reported to EH&S immediately (650-725-9999).


Equipment Loan Program
  1. Garmin InReach communication devices available for loan to field researchers who will be traveling to areas without reliable cell service.  These devices allow for GPS location/tracking, two-way texting via satellite, weather updates, and an SOS feature in case emergency response is needed.  The devices work worldwide and are available on a first come basis.  Please contact EH&S at ehs_field_safety_support@lists.stanford.edu or 650-723-0448 to request a device.


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