Field Safety

 Safely working and conducting research outdoors, off-campus, and abroad.

 For more information or questions, please contact Pamela See at EH&S at (951) 827-5528.

The field safety program serves to promote safe, successful field courses and research trips. It includes guidance on planning, training, incident response, risk assessment, effective communication, campus resources, and common field hazards.

Principal Investigators (PIs) and supervisors are responsible for ensuring that their employees and students have the training and supplies needed to perform their work and studies safely.

Researchers should work with their supervisors to develop a plan that details how to prevent and respond to emergency situations. The process of writing your plan together may make you aware of hazards that you had not considered before. Every researcher or student participant should be familiar with the plan before starting field research or studies to be better equipped to stay safe.

Cal/OSHA has guidelines and requirements for heat illness prevention, Injury and Illness Prevention Plans (IIPPs), access to first aid or medical care, and emergency communications. Depending on the nature of your work, there may be additional requirements for special training, safety equipment, and other preparations. Developing and reviewing your Field Safety Plan is a good way to ensure that you meet those requirements.

When Do I Need a Field Safety Plan?

Do I Need a Field Safety Plan image


Some risks can be avoided when identified and proper planning is done before the trip. Some risks are unavoidable (such as heat exposure when hiking in a desert) but can be mitigated so that the trip participants have the tools needed to make the trip safer.

Steps to Avoiding and/or Mitigating Risks

•    Evaluate Accident Potential of a situation
•    Use and develop conservative judgement
•    Use the risk equation to make decisions (likelihood x consequence)

Evaluate the Accident Potential of a Situation

Two forces overlap when most accidents occur: Objective Factors and Subjective Factors

Objective Factors: Environmental hazards presented by the natural world (eg: weather, darkness, falling rocks, moving water, lightning, snow, exposure, avalanche, cold, hot, or deep water, etc.)
Subjective Factors: Human characteristics that can play a role when accidents occur (eg: complacency, overconfidence, distraction, differing perception of risk, expectations and peer pressure, fatigue, stress, haste, and lack of competence)
Accident Potential: This is the interaction that occurs between these objective and subjective factors.

Objective Factor: Slippery terrain
Subjective Factor: Acting in haste
Accident Potential: Slipping from not having carefully gained secure footing on slippery terrain.

Use and Develop Conservative Judgement

Judgment is the logical reasoning used in combination with past experience to help decide what to do in a situation. Experience alone does not develop conservative judgment. Plenty of people take the same extreme risks over and over again. Reflection from one’s experience that leads to a modified future action is just as important as experience.

Also - use the “Post-Mortem Test”: Always ask yourself: If we get into an accident right here, could I justify my actions and decision-making to my supervisors when I debrief this back home?

Risk Equation:



Once all risks have been analyzed and there are plans in place for avoidance and mitigation, it is important to communicate these plans with the trip participants It is also important to make a list of any important documents that may be needed.


It is good practice to meet with the participants before meeting them in the field. The participants need to be physically, mentally, and logistically prepared for their field experience. Here are some important things to consider to prepare participants:

  • Schedule an orientation meeting before heading out in the field.
  • Provide participants with information regarding the trip to help them prepare. This can include a personal equipment list, a description of what to expect, participant medical recommendations, and important contact information.


First aid kits are only as effective and helpful as the user’s ability to use it. It is recommended that anyone spending time working in the outdoors receives Wilderness First Aid training.

It is good to either purchase or build a first aid kit tailored to the work and environment of the trip. It may also be good to have more than one first aid kit in the event that the group may have to split in an emergency.

Ready-to-Buy Wilderness First Aid Kits:

•    NOLS (full kits, specialized kits)
•    Adventure Medical Kits (activity/environment specific kits)

People with known severe allergic reactions may carry their own EpiPens, but some people may not be aware that they may have allergic reactions or may not be aware that their past mild allergic reactions may develop into more severe allergic reactions. Some groups may find benefit in obtaining an EpiPen for their first aid kit, which is possible through California Section 1797.197a.

If you are interested in obtaining an EpiPen for your first aid kit, please contact Pamela A. See at

For more information on UCR EpiPen Approval Process, click here.


The UC Natural Reserve Systems provide natural and preserved ecosystems where California’s major habitat types are represented, from coastal tidepools to inland deserts, and lush wetlands to redwood forests. These natural reserves are available to field scientists, researchers, and students, but an application must be submitted to gain entry and for use.

Reserves can be located by name or by affiliated campus at this link:

Spotlight on Safety
Additional Resources