Field Safety Information and Guidelines

Preparation and Safety Planning for Field Work – Instructors, Field Trip Leaders, Party Chiefs

Modified in part from Earth Sciences and Dalhousie policies, GSA field trip policies, and the AAPG/ExxonMobil geoscience field safety guidelines (Full version of guidelines - PDF, 626 KB)

Updated August 2023

Participant safety is Dalhousie Earth and Environemental Sciences’ highest priority. For well-being of all participants, and for maintaining the high-quality standard of Dalhousie Earth and Environmental Sciences field experiences, all participants, both staff and students, are expected to follow the laws and customs of the jurisdiction in which the trip is operating, and the rules and regulations of the properties, structures, areas and vehicles at and on which activities take place. Excursion leaders are responsible for ensuring a safe and positive environment for all participants at all times on the excursion.  

Forms' Checklist

All participants (students and staff) are required to sign and return Field Excursion forms provided by Earth and Environmental Sciences. The checklist below can be used as a guide to the forms and documents to be completed, signed and returned to Earth and Environmental Sciences prior to departure. They are included in this document. Excursion leaders (primary instructor in the case of field schools and course trips) are responsible for ensuring all documents and forms are completed and submitted to the department. In addition to developing an emergency preparation and response plan, the Excursion Leader should also develop and communicate a set of rules for all participants.

Items and Forms to be Discussed with Participants Document/Form
Field Arrangements
(localities, times of departure, return, special equipment)
Emergency Response Form*
Designation of excursion leader, deputy leader, and assistants Emergency Response Form*
Ensure all participants will have suitable personal field equipment (clothing, footwear, other equipment) Field Excursion Hazards Checklist
Ensure appropriate safety equipment/supplies for the activity (first aid kits, high visibility markers/vests, hard hats, goggles, etc.)  
First aid training of staff – check if valid (standard/wilderness) Emergency Response Form*
Communications plan – list cell numbers of staff; VHF radios (communicate this with all participants. And develop protocols for how to chain of communication in case of emergency) Emergency Response Form*
Affiliation of participants. Friends, visitors or other non-affiliated people are generally not permitted  
Medical conditions. Consult with all participants well in advance of trip
-Voluntary disclosure of medical conditions that could jeopardize the individual or group while in a remote setting during strenuous physical activity. Participants can choose not to share medical information.
Individual Information Form
Must be kept confidential.
Excursion leader and deputy.
Notify participants of any specific safety concerns.
-Note: if individuals are concerned about certain field activities, they have the right to refuse to take part in these particular activities.
Field Excursion Hazards Checklist
Acknowledgement of Risk Form. All participants must sign
-This form should be explained in person with all participants present.The trip details, rules, general and specific safety concerns should be explained.
Acknowledgement of Risk*
Recording information related to an accident or incident
-Filled out in the event of an accident. Submit to Chair, Field Safety Coordinator and Risk Management Coordinator within 48 hours
Accident/Incident Report
Media Consent Forms
-Optional. Permits Dalhousie to use images of and by participants for promotional purposes
Media Consent Forms A and B
*Required for all field excursions sanctioned by Dalhousie Earth and Environmental Sciences. Submit to Department Office prior to trip

Chain of Command

The excursion leader (primary instructor for field trips/schools; party chief for fieldwork) is in charge. They should develop and clearly communicate roles and responsibilities for each staff member. An excursion leader should have another trip leader who is designated second-in-command (deputy leader). One trip leader should not be the only person who knows the itinerary, emergency contact information, location of first aid supplies, and emergency response procedures. 

Avoiding missing persons

Each time a trip leader departs from any location, he/she should do a head count to ensure all participants are present and safe.

Reporting of accidents, injuries, or illnesses

In the event of an accident/injury/illness during a field excursion, a trip leader should first ensure the safety of all participants, while making the necessary arrangement to tend to the injured. A leader should then get in contact with a Dalhousie representative (see below), and fill out the Accident/Incident Report. Within 48 hours of the incident, submit to the Environmental Health and Safety Office (if incident was on campus) or the University Risk Management Coordinator (if incident was off campus), and Earth and Environmental Sciences Chair and Field Safety Coordinator.

Personnel in 2023/24  
Chair of Earth and Environmental Sciences:  Mladen Nedimović 902- 494- 4524 mladen@Dal.Ca
Departmental Administrator: Danielle Wood 902-494-2358
Field Safety Coordinator (EES): Mike Young 902-494-2364
Safety Committee Chair (EES): John Gosse 902-494-6632
Environmental Health & Safety Office:   902-494-2495  
Risk Management Coordinator: Karen Foster 902-494-8356 or


Participants in field work/trips should be made aware of any risks (e.g. unsafe cliffs, hammer chips, environmental conditions, etc.) beyond those encountered in everyday life. Necessary rules, appropriate to the situation and experience level of participants should be made known and enforced.

1.Determine risks beforehand and establish procedures to be followed.
2.Safety equipment, if necessary, should be provided and instruction given in its use if necessary.
3.For field work or a field trip to be covered by a university liability insurance policy, it must be formally sanctionedby the university. This means the Departmental Chair should be informed of all field trips; and the Chair shouldclear any unusual trips with the university administration. Examples of unusual trips include going down minesor to offshore rigs, etc. Normal trips, even along cliffs, are deemed usual.
4.Each field campaign or trip should have a designated leader and deputy leader(s). Field trip leaders areresponsible for determining and communicating the field trip rules, safety precautions, and emergencyresponse plan. It is recommended that field trip leaders have valid first aid training. Wilderness First Aid isappropriate where trip localities are remote with limited cell phone service.
5.If the trip is international, trip leaders must ensure all participants follow the Dalhousie University Policy onInternational Travel.
6.Vehicles: Care should be taken when planning field work and field trips when personal or rental vehicles areused. Drivers should have sufficient experience for the planned activities. Defensive Driving courses arerecommended. It is advisable that drivers and navigators consult maps prior to departure and stay in convoy asmuch as possible. Communication by VHF or CB radio is recommended. Check tire pressure (and spare as well)and oil levels early and often. Each vehicle should have a first aid kit. Maximum vehicle capacity is 8 people,except for chartered busses with professional drivers.
a.Private Vehicles:
i.The university does not provide insurance coverage for private vehicles. The private insurancepolicy of the vehicle owner would come into effect if necessary. Therefore, if private vehicles areused, ensure there is adequate insurance – at minimum there should be $1 million Third Party
Liability and Accident Benefits coverage. Some private insurance policies would be nullified if used for work purposes. It is up to the vehicle owner to ensure their insurance policy is valid.
ii.For obvious reasons and those listed above, the use of private vehicles by students is notrecommended.
b.Rental Vehicles:
i.Only Dalhousie employees can drive rental vehicles. They must be authorized drivers according tothe rental agency policies (eg. driver's license, age restrictions, etc). The university liability insurancecoverage is only valid if an employee is driving. Purchasing supplemental liability coverage does notsupersede the university coverage (see below). Teaching assistants are considered employees interms of insurance coverage as long as their TA duties form lists driving rental vehicles as one oftheir duties.
ii.When renting a vehicle for University business, make sure that you have Dalhousie’s name recordedas the business, i.e., your name, c/o Dalhousie University.
iii.It is recommended to use the university Travel Card provided by BMO when renting vehicles. Thecoverage benefits are generally better (wider range of vehicle use and greater scale benefits) thanwhat can be purchased from rental companies. It is important to read and comply with the TravelCard policies and limitations. You must decline all available insurance provided by the rentalcompany for the BMO insurance policies to come into effect. One rental car per card holder and allemployees can drive that vehicle as long as the card holder is present on the field trip/school.
iv.If purchasing insurance from a rental car agency, do not accept Supplemental Liability Insurance(SLI). As of 2013, Nova Scotia law states that all universities are ‘first-to-pay’ in liable claims andtherefore, any third party liability insurance would be invalid.

Precautionary Behavior and Code of Conduct

1. Although each excursion leader/team will develop their own rules, a few general Code of Conduct principlesare listed below. Participants should be informed that if they do not observe these rules, they may faceconsequences such as verbal and/or written warnings, loss of points on a particular assignment or coursecomponent, or removal, at the participants’ expense, from the excursion. Setting the rules and enforcing theconsequences are at the trip leader’s discretion, but they must be explained in writing prior to commencing the excursion.

Participants should be made aware of the trip rules and regulations. Each person should agree to the rulesand follow them throughout the duration of the excursion.
Each participant should never initiate or be involved in any activity that is dangerous to themselves orothers.
If alcohol is allowed on a trip, it should not be consumed during field activities, during transit to/from fieldactivities, and it should be used in moderation such that each participant is able to control their action atall times and able to participate safely in all field or camp activities.
Participants must never participate in sexual misconduct of any form. Sexual harassment is defined as anysexually-oriented behavior of a deliberate or negligent nature which adversely affects the working orlearning environment. It may involve conduct or comments that are unintentional as well as intentional.
    Sexualized Violence Policy (adopted in June, 2018)
Participants will show respect to others, including non-participants and the general public, at all times.
    Personal Harassment Policy of Dalhousie University:
Participants must not leave the group or the accommodation/camp unless they have the permission of thetrip leaders.
Participants should respect the properties, structures, areas and vehicles at an on which activities occur. Allrules and regulations of those properties, structures, areas and vehicles must be observed.
Only authorized drivers can operate field trip vehicles. And they should be used only for official field trippurposes other than as permitted by trip leaders.
Participants must not be in possession of illegal drugs while on the trip.
Participants must not possess weapons, including firearms. Trip leaders of excursions to remote locationsmay deem firearms a necessary safety precaution against potentially dangerous wildlife. In these instances,all applicable laws related to storage, transport and operation must be observed and only people withappropriate licenses and experience shall possess firearms.
Each participant must bring and wear appropriate clothing and footwear at all times. Trip leaders will informparticipants of appropriate clothing and footwear for the type of field excursion, location and expectedweather conditions prior to the trip.
Participants will have appropriate behavior at all times, including in the evening hours.

2. Roadcuts: Avoid crossing highways to examine roadcuts; examine only the side on which you are parked. Onmajor highways pull right off the road, do not park on the hard shoulders and do not allow participants to walkon the hard shoulders. It is recommended to use road cones and have each participant wear a high visibilityvest.
3. Falling rocks: Falling rocks are a major hazard on field trips. Every situation should be individually assessed, butthe following are useful guidelines:

Avoid obviously unstable or overhanging cliffs;
Do not hammer above your head, or above anyone else;
If a slope is to be climbed, do not allow participants to climb while others are below. Plan slope-bottomactivities away from slope-top activities.

4. Cliff tops/slopes: falling off the top/slopes of cliffs is a major cause of accidents for Earth Sciences excursionparticipants. Where possible, avoid cliff tops and ascending/descending steep slopes, particularly with largegroups.
5. Tidal sections: take great care on sections that are cut off at high tide. Plan the excursion using tide charts.Designate a trip leader or staff member as Safety Watch who should monitor tide conditions, and stays at theback of the group thereby keeping track of all group members.
6. Old mines: do not enter old mine workings or caves, except by arrangement, and always in company. Use properlighting, headgear and clothing. Ensure that someone knows where you are, when you went underground, andwhen you are expected back. Ensure the old mine working is well ventilated.
7. Do not pick up explosives or blasting caps.
8. Meet legal requirements. Examples are illegal parking, speeding, trespassing and other situations where leadersmay behave in a potentially illegal manner.
9. If students have split into groups, establish a time to return from the field and arrange an effective method ofensuring all have returned. Work in pairs or larger groups; no one should work alone.
10. Communication protocols by cell phone and/or VHF radios should be established.

Distribute a phone number list to all participants. Some general numbers are included in the template forthe Emergency Response Plan. Local emergency medical personnel and facilities should be included alongwith their locations.
If using VHF radios, establish procedures and rules regarding use, testing, storage and charging protocols.
Satellite phones should be considered if you will be far (e.g., day-long trip) from cell service for extendedperiods (e.g., multiple days) during the excursion.