Fieldwork Policy


Fieldwork, by its very nature, can be extremely varied and can cover many disciplines. Universities must exercise a "duty of care" to employees and those that they supervise, no matter what the fieldwork activity entails. Whether it’s a trip to a city center museum in the UK, or the collection of sediment from a lake in Greenland. This duty is recognized in both criminal and civil law. (See 2.”Legal requirements”). It is therefore necessary for Schools and Departments to ensure that fieldwork is properly planned, approved, risk assessed and that a safe system of work is established for, and communicated to, all relevant staff and students.

This policy and guidance provides a framework for establishing a process that will enable staff, students and others to undertake fieldwork safely. It provides a way of demonstrating that Loughborough University is following best practice to manage fieldwork, thereby facilitating it in the most challenging of environments and circumstances.

It also reflects the standards set out by the current UK health and safety guidance on fieldwork; “Higher Education Sector Guidance on Health and Safety in Fieldwork and Travel”, as published by the Universities Safety & Health Association (USHA). (Go to the University Health and Safety website for the USHA and University fieldwork guidance; USHA Guidance)

Legal Requirements

  • Primary responsibility for the management of health and safety for a member of staff and for any post doctorate researcher or postgraduate student while on fieldwork lies with the University under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (“HASAWA”)).
  • The University also has a duty in respect of students and non-employees (HASAWA and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (“Mngt Regs”)).
  • All employees have a responsibility to follow instructions and act sensibly to protect their own health and safety and that of others. Those holding more senior positions also have specific responsibilities under the HASAWA.
  • Fieldwork must be risk assessed under the Mngt Regs and other relevant statutory provisions, e.g. the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (CoSHH).
  • Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 an organization is guilty of the offence of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organized by its senior management causes a person’s death, and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organization to the deceased.
  • All fieldworkers must be adequately and appropriately insured. The University provides both Employers Liability, (under the Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969) and Public Liability insurance.
  • Individuals and institutions are also subject to the laws of the countries in which visits take place. Criminal prosecutions or civil actions can also be brought under those jurisdictions


It is the policy of Loughborough University, that all fieldwork is planned, approved, organized and managed so that it;

  • complies with all health and safety legislative requirements relevant to fieldwork.
  • protects the health and safety of all staff, students, visitors and any other persons who may be affected by the fieldwork.
  • assists Schools and Departments in achieving continual improvement in the management of health and safety in fieldwork.


Fieldwork is defined as “Any practical work carried out by staff or students for the purposes of teaching, research or other activities whilst representing the University in locations or at premises not under the managerial control of the University”.

In view of the wider definition of fieldwork, there will examples of fieldwork which can be demonstrably assessed as ‘low risk’, (for example attending a conference or recruitment fair in a local town or city) and can therefore be excluded from the requirement for a written detailed risk assessment.


All activities should be considered for risk by the person planning them. However, for low risk activities, this may be a ‘dynamic risk assessment’. This means that risks should be considered, but that a written detailed risk assessment would only be required if higher risk activities are identified.

Duty Holder Responsibilities

Below are definitions of the responsibilities of all duty holders.

Deans and Heads of Departments

  1. The implementation of the fieldwork policy;
  2. Ensuring that the risk assessment of the fieldwork is made and to ensure that a safe system of work has been established for all staff and students;
  3. Ensuring appropriate approval has been given for the planned fieldwork;
  4. Ensuring that the organizers of fieldwork are competent to lead and have sufficient awareness of their legal obligations to those under their supervision;
  5. Ensuring that the organizational structure within the School / Service is appropriate to manage fieldwork; 
  6. Ensuring that adequate resources e.g. finance, personnel, time etc. are provided to meet the requirements of the fieldwork policy;
  7. Ensuring that the same management standard is applied to fieldwork as to other management functions;
  8. Ensuring that fieldwork supervisors and leaders are aware of their responsibilities and are sufficiently empowered to undertake those responsibilities;
  9. Agreeing who will carry out the fieldwork and ensuring that those involved are suitably competent so that they can carry out all their responsibilities;
  10. Ensuring there is a consistent approach across the whole School or Department regarding fieldwork;
  11. Monitoring and reviewing the School or Departments health and safety performance regarding fieldwork

The Fieldwork/Expedition Leader or Supervisor

The person with delegated operational responsibility for all aspects of the fieldwork, specifically the overall supervision of the activity and ensuring compliance with the legislation and this policy, is responsible for:

  1. thoroughly planning the fieldwork.
  2. ensuring that the necessary approvals are sought and that health or safety hazards are risk assessed and that any preventative or precautionary measures are put in place, communicated to all participants, monitored and adhered to for the duration of the activity.
  3. ensuring adequate levels of supervision are provided which need to be assessed as appropriate for the activity and environment. There should be flexibility to deal with any potential changes in fluid situations. This will include, if necessary, ceasing the activity if it cannot be completed safely.
  4. ensuring that those undertaking fieldwork have received adequate information, instruction, training and are adequately supervised.
  5. ensuring adequate and appropriate insurance cover is provided for the activity.
  6. ensuring they are explicitly empowered to discharge the responsibilities stated here and to implement emergency or contingency plans where needed.

All Participants

All staff and students are required to comply with the University fieldwork health and safety policy

They must ensure they understand and comply with any instruction given to them by the fieldwork leader or supervisor, as well as reporting any potential hazards, defective equipment, incidents etc.

They must accept responsibility for their own health and safety and that of everyone’s who may be affected by their actions.

Independent Fieldworkers or Those Travelling on University Business

They are responsible for taking reasonable care in their activities. In practice they will assume many of the duties of the fieldwork leader and must ensure that their work has been approved by their line manager / scientific supervisor.