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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

UK and international Travel on University business

Currently, the University expects all UK and international travel on University business to follow the Fieldwork Protocol. You will need to complete the Fieldwork Risk Assessment Form (in the ‘Forms’ folder under ‘Downloads’ at the bottom of the page) and read the information on this webpages. Speak to your Health and Safety team if you need help or support. 

International travel - If you feel your reasons for international travel are business-critical, contact your Executive Dean or Service Director. With their initial support, you must then follow this Fieldwork Protocol.

This requires the full fieldwork risk assessment process as well as – where the Government advises against all or all but essential travel - approval through the ‘Travel against Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice procedure’. As these details change so frequently (e.g. the Government’s traffic light travel system) please contact your Health and Safety Manager for further advice. 

Currently the Government advises against all but essential travel to most countries and of course, international travel may also be prevented at the last minute, due to fast-changing government (and local) rules.

UK travel is permitted where considered business-critical but must follow this Protocol. This means that a fieldwork risk assessment covering both general and covid requirements must be completed, reviewed by the Health and Safety Manager and approved by the Head of School/ Service.

UK and International Fieldwork

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

Fieldwork in the UK -  complete the fieldwork risk assessment. For taught student trips, planning can now begin.

International Fieldwork – with so many unknowns, we recommend that you plan UK-based fieldwork instead. Please also be aware that currently, travel to international countries must follow stringent approval processes – including both the fieldwork risk assessment process and – where the Government advises against all or all but essential travel - the Travel against Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) 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

  • Currently 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” must be followed.
  • 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 below, and mitigation measures for covid-19.  Please see the ‘Fieldwork Procedure covid-19’ (attached under ‘Downloads’ at the bottom of this webpage) and the additional information further down this webpage .
  • The fieldwork risk assessment must be reviewed by your Health and Safety Manager (or delegate), and approved by Head of School/ Service and/ or Executive Dean/ Director (or delegates).
  • Only staff and students with approved fieldwork risk assessments are permitted to carry out fieldwork.
  • Inform your line manager / academic supervisor of any personal circumstances (e.g. extremely clinically vulnerable to coronavirus) that need to be considered before carrying out any fieldwork, these should also be considered within the fieldwork risk assessment.
  • Where an overnight stay is required, you must be able to demonstrate that this is in covid-secure accommodation.
  • 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 when other transport methods are not appropriate – see the Government guidance on covid-safe travel.
  • You will be expected to observe social distancing; this includes journeys to and from the site.
  • You will be expected to follow third party, 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.