This webpage provides an outline of risk-related items that should be considered as part of the planning and preparation for field work by faculty and staff leadership. Field work varies in complexity and risk. The following list of levels is meant to provide a general description and rating level for field work. This toolkit focuses on Levels 1 & 2. Level 3 has other resources (see link), but is referenced in the toolkit when it may have application.
Level 1 Field Course: Long duration (perhaps days or weeks), remote wilderness locations, satellite or GPS communication necessary, far away from emergency responders, and higher risk field activities.
Level 2 Field Program: Moderate duration (perhaps overnight), wilderness location, cell phone communication likely, emergency responders likely available (perhaps slow to respond), and moderate risk field activities.
Level 3 Field Trips: Short duration (day trips), local or in-state, cell phone communication, close proximity to emergency responders, and lower risk field activities. Risk management considerations for field trip activities can be found here.
*NEW* Information: COVID-19 Field Course Protocols Scroll down to bottom of Provost’s web page. This supplements existing field course risk management protocols that may be in place by the field course leaders.
Faculty and staff leaders should consider the level of preparation they will need that is appropriate for their level of field work, keeping in mind that they may be separated from emergency responders and University resources by substantial distance and time in the event of an accident or incident. Effective communication may also be limited or non-existent.
1. Obtain relevant technical and personal skill development for your role as leader
2. Obtain necessary safety equipment and supplies
- Emergency Field Communication Device:
- – Cell phones – Suggested for Level 3 and, if adequate, Level 2.
- – Satellite phones, satellite communication devices and GPS trackers – Suggested for Levels 1 & 2. Examples include SPOT devices or Delorme inReach Explorer Satellite Communicators. Depending on your needs, pre-paid SIM cards may be less expensive than yearly or monthly subscription service for satellite phones.
- First Aid Kit:
- – Wilderness – Suggested for Levels 1 & 2. Consider including medicine like an Epi-pen for serious allergic reactions, but first contact Student Health Center x3400 for advice.
- – General Purpose – Suggested for Level 3.
- Other safety equipment and supplies that is appropriate for the level of field work and activities.
3. Complete first aid training
- Wilderness First Responder (WFR): Suggested for Level 1.
- Wilderness First Aid (WFA): Suggested for Level 2.
- Employment CPR/FA/AED: Suggested for Level 3.
WFA and WFR training is available through Western’s Outdoor Center x3112 at various times throughout the year. Historically, courses have been attended by students and community members, but faculty and staff are certainly welcome to attend. The course fee is discounted for faculty and staff. Another resource is NOLS Wilderness Medicine Education. Courses are held in Seattle and a little more expensive. NOLS also has free online and downloadable Wilderness Medicine Resources that can be used for reference. Employment CPR/FA/AED training is provided to University employees by Western’s Environmental Health & Safety.
4. Develop a risk management plan – A Risk Management Plan provides assistance with identifying, assessing and responding to potential hazards, organizing emergency contacts, developing itinerary and evacuation plans. A copy of the plan can be left with the department for University reference in the event of an emergency.
5. Conduct pre-departure preparations and orientations for participants – Although field work is located off-campus, the students remain subject to the Student Conduct Code (WAC 516-21) and other University policies. Other suggested topics of discussion may include:
- Academic priorities and expectations
- Student health issues, perhaps considering a presentation by a physician from the Student Health Center
- Wilderness safety and security information
- Living and studying in remote, wilderness locations
- Travel logistics
- Clearly identified periods of time for “free time” and established expectations for their conduct and behavior during those times
- Information about foreseeable risks and discuss methods for minimizing risks and maximizing safety
- Sexual and other forms of harassment
- Student conditions of participation (including code of conduct)
- Personal back-up plans and other emergency plans
6. Manage transportation – There are various University requirements related to transportation, including the use of vehicles – basic driver safety program and large passenger van safety training – and the use of aircraft and watercraft.
7. Report accidents and incidents – Leaders should always first attend to the immediate needs of the affected participant(s) in the event of an emergency. That includes administering first aid, contacting emergency responders, and planning for evacuation. As soon as practical, leaders should contact their departmental leadership (chair) and/or college leadership (dean) for available assistance. A University accident report should be completed after returning home. Also, a University near miss/hazard report is helpful to record incidents that could easily have resulted in injury, but did not.
For Levels 1 & 2 field work, students will need to be able to handle the demands of living and studying in a very challenging physical environment for long periods of time. The challenges can be considerable and students need the emotional maturity to make good decisions and use good judgment. The following registration process will help inform leaders and prepare students for the challenge.
1. Develop a student registration process
- Acknowledgment of Risk/Hold Harmless (AOR/HH) Form – Includes health insurance coverage confirmation and details.
- Conditions of Participation (including Code of Conduct) Form – Establishes behavior expectations for students while participating in the field work.
- Confidential Student Health History Form – Please consult with Student Health Center before using this form. Students should complete the health history and schedule a medical screening with the Student Health Center at least thirty (30) days in advance of the course. Instructions for students, physicians and departments regarding the form’s use are provided in the document. This form is strictly confidential and the personal health information should be protected.
- Compile Student Background Information – Contact:
2. Create a student participant list – A Student Participant List helps to organize information that is gathered from the registration process above. It can be tailored to a program’s specific needs as well. A copy of the list can be left with the department for University reference in the event of an emergency.
3. Mandatory Participation in the pre-departure preparations and orientations
Note: This toolkit is for use by Western Washington University only. Neither WWU, nor any officer, employee or volunteer of WWU warrants the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of any information shown on this toolkit, nor endorses any content, viewpoints, products, or services linked from this toolkit, and shall not be held liable for any losses caused by reliance on the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of such information. Portions of this toolkit may be incorrect or not current. Other than WWU employees, any person or entity that relies on any information obtained from this toolkit does so at his or her own risk.