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Fieldwork introduction



Fieldwork is an essential part of University teaching and research, which inspires and enables academic and personal development.  People organising fieldwork need to use an effective risk assessment process to ensure that as a University we fulfil our duty of care to protect staff, students and other affected people.

Current situation: COVID-19 Update

The University continues to support essential fieldwork activities for research and some teaching activities and has the following requirements:

Fieldwork for teaching in the UK - planning for Fieldwork teaching in the UK can begin, using the fieldwork risk assessment, and the additional information at the bottom of this webpage.

International Fieldwork (research and teaching) – planning for essential international fieldwork (both for research and for teaching) can now begin, although with so many unknowns, we recommend that you plan UK-based fieldwork instead. Should international fieldwork be considered essential, please be aware that currently, travel to international countries must have followed stringent approval processes – including both the fieldwork risk assessment process and the Travel against FCO advice procedure. Of course, international travel may be prevented at the last minute, due to fast-changing government (and local) rules.

If you have any initial questions, please contact your Health and Safety Manager.

International Fieldwork

  • At the current time international fieldwork can only go ahead after following an enhanced risk assessment approval process (outlined below).

  • Where the fieldwork is subject to FCDO travel advice (against all or against all but essential travel) the full “Travel against FCDO advice procedure” is applicable.

  • Due to the changing covid-19 situation, you may need to pause or stop the trip prior to travel, or return to the UK while overseas.

Requirements prior to all Fieldwork

  • A full fieldwork risk assessment must be carried out, considering the aspects listed within this guide, and mitigation measures for COVID-19.  Please see the ‘Fieldwork Procedure COVID-19’ (attached under ‘Downloads’ at the bottom of this webpage).

  • The fieldwork risk assessment must be approved by your Health and Safety Manager (or delegate), Head of School and Executive Dean (or delegates).

  • Only Staff and PGR students with approved fieldwork risk assessments are permitted to carry out fieldwork.

  • Inform your line manager / academic supervisor of any personal circumstances (e.g. clinically vulnerable) that need to be considered before carrying out any fieldwork, these should also be considered within the fieldwork risk assessment.

  • If you have approval to carry out fieldwork, you must limit the length of time you need to be away from home.  Where possible this should be restricted to single days, however where an overnight stay is required, you must be able to demonstrate that this is in COVID secure accommodation.

  • If you have approval, travel arrangements are to be booked through Key Travel.

  • If you, or a member of your household displays any symptoms of COVID-19, you must follow existing Government guidelines for self-isolating and immediately inform your line manager/ academic supervisor.  In these circumstances you must not complete any fieldwork.

  • If you need access to campus to collect / return field equipment or to store samples on return, this must be identified in the fieldwork risk assessment.  You will need additional permissions to access campus.

  • Where possible use your own vehicle; this will require business insurance cover.  Public transport is permitted but as a last resort when other transport methods are not appropriate.

  • You will be expected to observe social distancing –maintaining 2 metres distance from others, this includes journeys to and from the site.

  • You will be expected to follow local, regional or national government advice and restrictions, e.g. this would include any local lockdowns or changes that may be put in place.  This must be considered for the travel to and from as well as being at the site of the activity.

  • Where the fieldwork requires human participants, this must be clearly identified in the risk assessment. This must include any known personal circumstances or situations where participants may be considered more vulnerable.  Where possible this should be avoided and alternative research methodologies used.

  • Any activities that require close contact must be identified in the risk assessment and must be essential to the fieldwork either practically or for safety reasons e.g. preventing lone working in a remote environment.

If you have any initial questions, please contact your Health and Safety Manager.

While on Fieldwork

  • If you become unwell while in the field, inform your line manager/ academic supervisor as soon as possible and if you have COVID-19 symptoms, you must return home, self-isolate and not continue the fieldwork.

  • You must follow any additional requirements identified in the fieldwork risk assessment and notify your Health and Safety Team, if you are unable to follow any of the identified control measures.  This includes any requirement to wear Personal Protective Equipment.

  • Personal hygiene measures, appropriate to the location you are working in must be implemented.  Where possible the use of welfare provision is preferable.  However, it is recognised that in remote locations these may not be available.  Hand sanitiser use will be a minimum expectation, to be both carried and used while undertaking any activity in the field.

  • You must take adequate provision of food, drinks etc. and not rely on local amenities.

Overseas Travel

Travel outside of Fieldwork is like any other hazard and would usually be covered by a risk assessment, which should include the details of the trip.  However due to the rapidly evolving situation regarding coronavirus-affected countries, the University has changed its requirements around overseas travel.  Please see  or contact your Health and Safety Manager for the most up-to-date information on overseas travel.