Fieldwork health and medical issues, first aid and vaccinations

First Aid
Consider providing appropriate first aid kits and means of correct treatment of casualties.  Depending on the fieldwork activity you may need to identify an appointed person to monitor all first aid provision, and take charge of any situation that may arise.  A basic First Aid Kit should contain equipment (e.g. bandages, dressings, plasters etc.) in sufficient quantities appropriate to the number of participants, the duration of fieldwork and the planned activities.
Consideration should also be given to any specialist equipment not normally required in a basic First Aid Kit (e.g. hypodermic needles, syringes, sterile saline).  All participants should be informed of the arrangements for first aid, the location of facilities when on fieldwork, who the first aider(s) is / are and the reporting mechanism following an accident.

When visiting some areas of the world, consideration of emergency provision for injury or ill-health must be made.  It may be necessary to include some medications, sterile solutions such as water and sterile hypodermic needles and syringes in the emergency kit.  It is recommended that this is only done when absolutely necessary and following advice from the Occupational Health Service.

The University runs outdoor first aid courses which covers application of first aid techniques in the field, check the website or call the Health and Safety Training Manager on ext. 33697.

Health and Medical Issues
The fieldwork assessment should include an assessment of any health hazards associated with the fieldwork (e.g. exposure to diseases/ parasites) or minimum capabilities required of participants such as physical fitness.

The health of participants must be taken into consideration, particularly any pre-existing medical condition that may be exacerbated by fieldwork activity. The requirements for each individual will vary depending upon their own health and any hazards identified through the Fieldwork Assessment.

So that appropriate advice or controls can be provided for fieldwork the school/ service should consider putting in place a system to encourage participants to declare health issues or medical conditions.

Advice on equality issues can be sought from the University’s Equality Service

Where appropriate, the consequences of not giving information and consent should also be explained.

Speak to your Health and Safety Manager about the example Confidential Medical Request form which could be shared with fieldwork participants to request their medical information.

As part of the briefing on the Fieldwork Assessment, participants should be given information on:
  • Health hazards associated with the fieldwork activity or travel to certain countries.
  • Hazards associated with food, drink, hygiene, climate related illnesses e.g. dehydration, mountain sickness.
  • Advice on preventative medical treatment (e.g. vaccinations, malarial prophylaxis), any further training that might be required and availability of medical facilities whilst in the field.
  • Participants should check that they can take supplies of any required prescription medicines into the fieldwork location, especially if abroad, and should they run out or lose their medication, that they are able to obtain further supplies.
  • In some cases, in order to cross the border of some countries, a signed letter from a medical practitioner or vaccination certification may be required.
Further advice on health and medical issues can be obtained from the Occupational Health Service at the University of Leeds.

In some cases participants may potentially be exposed to infectious or contagious diseases such as Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and Malaria which may require immunisation or prophylactic medication to prevent infection or contraction.  They may also be required to have proof of immunisation for the country / countries that are to be visited.

Exposure to these diseases will depend on the area being visited.  Advice is available from the Occupational Health Service (for staff), the Student Medical Practice (for students) or from your own General Practitioner (GP).  See the extra weblinks attached to this protocol.

Any request for medical / health information from a participant, and its subsequent use, storage, consent for sharing, retention and destruction should follow the University’s Data Protection Policy.