Welcome to the ESE Fieldwork Safety Webpage

College procedures, College guidelines for best practice and College downloadable forms on many aspects of safety for offsite working have been brought together at the Imperial College Safety Website. Fieldwork, which many of you engage in, is one type of offsite work which requires planning, safety management together with a specific fieldwork risk assessment approval process, as described here

The purpose of this page is to give more detailed and helpful guidance (below) on current best practice for fieldwork safety management, as operated in the ESE Department. First, in the list below, we provide the most useful links starting with the fieldwork risk assessment form, FW1. We hope you find the Fieldwork Flowchart‌ especially useful as there are many possible types of fieldwork activities requiring an FW1 e.g. research, teaching etc.

The Principle Investigator (PI) will oversee the planning and completing of the FW1 for such research trips,  while the FW1 on taught field classes which often includes many U/G students, is overseen by the Person in Charge (PIC) or the PI who will be the appointed trip leader. Also included in the links below are reminders of emergency procedures to download and take with you in the field.

Insurance cover is provided for travel on college business when offsite work details are entered by completing the approval process and ESE OSW sharepoint travel questionnaire as described here. However, there is a list of countries which insurers have concerns in respect of kidnap, extortion and ransom.  These are currently Colombia, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Venezuela and Yemen.  In addition there are some countries which have sanctions applied to them such as Iran, North Korea or Sudan.  In essence this means that if a medical expenses claim is made and payment needs to be made in that country that the person paying the money will be doing so against the sanctions of the EU or government.  It is advisable that if these countries are to be visited, you have referred to our Insurance Expert, (currently Lesley Bravery) in Finance, before requesting HoD authorisation for the trip.  

It is also recommended that travellers register on the travel oracle app from Apple App store or Google Play for easy access to the 24 hour helpline Healix Travel Oracle instructions(pdf).  Registration is easy – you just need your College email address and the policy number RT306251 to register and you will receive a login password.

In extreme cases, bloodcare service that provides clean supplies of blood to its members, anywhere in the world, is used by certain ESE staff doing remote fieldwork.

Important Documents/Links 

FW1 Form (Dec 2015)

Fieldwork Flowchart (Dec 2015)

Types of Fieldwork Activities in ESE Requiring an FW1

Field Research Excursion (MSci, PhD, PDRA, Staff) – PI’s guide to preparation and FW1

Taught Field Class Excursion (UG, PG) - PIC/PI's guide to preparation and FW1

Emergency Aide Memoire

Emergency Carry Card




When planning to undertake fieldwork, whether U/G student, P/G student, Post-doc or Staff, links specifically relevant for you have been provided here on the web. The guidance is designed especially to help you manage your safety and in the case of staff, the safety of others that may be under your supervision while acting as the Person in Charge (PIC) i.e. the fieldtrip Leader. The downloadable Risk Assessment Form FW1 provides one document where all relevant planning information for high quality risk management can be brought together. Several examples of recent completed FW1 forms can be downloaded using the links to the right.

All students and staff on fieldwork are considered to be offsite workers with associated responsibilities for safety. Contact details for all offsite workersare required on form FW1 Form (Dec 2015). Next of Kin details are required to be available to the PI or Field Trip leader. Whether staff or student, please familiarise yourselves with the ESE department policy information which sets out how we share responsibilities between staff and students. Then use the links for what to do in your own particular circumstances.


Overview of ESE Departmental Fieldwork Safety Policy

1. Persons Involved

HOD  Head of Department
DSO  Departmental Safety Officer
OSC Off Site Coordinator
FO  Fieldwork Officer
PIC  Person in Charge (Field Trip Leader, Principal Investigator, Research Supervisor)
PI  Principal Investigator (PIC, or if PhD/MSci/MSc fieldwork not continuously supervised,  Independent or Research Project Supervisor)
FAA First Aid Assistant
PGD  Postgraduate Demonstrators (PhD students, Post-docs)

Off Site Workers:

  1. U/G (BSc and MSci when on field trips, independent e.g. mapping projects, research projects)
  2. P/G (MSc when on field trips, research projects, PhD on research projects)
  3. Academic Staff 

Currently, 2017-18, these roles are held by

HOD    Mark Sephton, m.a.sephton@imperial.ac.uk X46542
DSO    Simon Davis, simon.davis@imperial.ac.uk X46544
FO       John-Paul Latham j.p.latham@imperial.ac.uk X47327
FAA     Rob Lowther r.lowther@imperial.ac.uk X47428 

Senior Tutor        Dr Emma Passmore, or Dr Ian Bastow, i.bastow@imperial.ac.uk  X42974     


2. Responsibilities in Fieldwork

Responsibilities are set out in the college offsite working policy. Here, we elaborate w.r.t. ESE.


Head of Department (HOD)

HOD has overall responsibility for risk assessments and their approval, especially taught fieldwork. It is the responsibility of the HOD (or his appointee, the FO or DSO), to have ensured that students and supervisory staff are trained appropriately in risk and safety management and fieldwork first-aid. The HOD or his appointee has responsibility for ensuring appropriate next of kin contact information for staff and students are maintained and are accessible on a 24 hour basis. Via the Off-Site Working (OSW) ESE sharepoint site, HOD has 'at a glance' access to view the current off-site status of staff in cases of an emergency.

Off Site Coordinator (OSC) and Departmental Safety Officer (DSO)

The OSC role in ESE is performed by the DSO and FO who advise the HOD of the adequacy of arrangements to control health & safety risks. All staff and students away on off-site activity (fieldwork, scholarly research, conferences, hosted research, teaching etc), need to have their trip details logged. This is also necessary in order to validate their 'on college business' travel and health insurance.

Off-Site Working (OSW) ESE sharepoint site: Within ESE, notification of travel details for insurance purposes and record keeping has been automated on the Off-Site Working (OSW) ESE sharepoint site. The traveller with responsibility simply enters the key information once, together with attachments that are automatically emailed to the appropriate approver. The sharepoint site together with the College Outlook system provides a documentation of the approval process and an information retreival system. 

FW1 Fieldwork Off-Site Record Keeping: Form FW1 is automatically emailed to the Fieldwork Officer (FO) - there may be some iteration before it is finally approved.  Approved FW1s have filenames beginning with FW1 and PI's name, ending with _JPL.  On approval, these are automatically sent by email to HOD's PA (Daphne Salazar) and cc'd to HOD and the PI concerned. The FW1s are filed electronically in the ESE sharepoint database (chronologically, but they can be searched with other filters).

Hosted and Conference Off-site Record Keeping: Forms 'Hosted1' and 'Off-site contact record' are automatically emailed to the appropriate research group leader or PI. This will be for simple notification rather than approval, as in the majority of circumstances, the trip dates etc. will have already been discussed in sufficient detail with the senior staff involved.

Next of Kin record keeping: The DSO and Academic Tutor will ensure appropriate next of kin contact records for staff and students are maintained and are accessible on a 24 hour basis. For UG students, all details of next of kin are kept on ESESIS (departmental database and VLE). These will accompany the FW1 form in the field, and are kept up-to-date on ESESIS by the Academic Tutor and UG Office Team.

Health/fitness and special requirements record keeping: these are kept by DSO for staff the Academic Tutor and UG Office Team for students and are only provided to the Person in charge (PIC) and Principle Investigator (PI) before each trip.

Field Trip Leader responsibilities: The field trip leader in overall control of a taught field class is the PIC. This person will also act as the PI and take responsibility for the declaration in Section 9 of the FW1, for cases of taught field trips. They should make sure all the offsite workers (i.e. students) and assistants (PGDs) have had their briefings and training organised by the department, that FW1 forms are completed with personnel list, that contact information and expected dates of return are included and that offsite incidents including near misses are reported on SALUS if necessary while still in the field. During UG fieldwork, the PIC will have hard copy of an up-to-date FW1 form together with all next of kin details both when directing UG student fieldtrips, and when supervising independent mapping trips.

The PI for a fieldtrip research activity is usually but not always the PIC. For example, the PI on a research grant requiring fieldwork has PI status for the FW1 and therefore takes responsibility for risk assessment and for the declaration in Section 9, but the PI in such a research group may delegate the leadership of the fieldwork to another academic staff who has principle investigator level training, who then takes on the role of PIC.

3. Safety training for undergraduate students

Fieldwork has an element of risk to the personal wellbeing of the students undertaking it, but working in the field is an integral skill to be acquired during degree training in subjects related to geosciences. The department takes responsibility to train students in the management of safety and risk reduction in fieldwork. This training is achieved through student participation in sessions mainly in their first and second years led by a specially appointed fieldwork risk and safety management consultant (currently Stuart Marshall). Student training includes tasks set in the writing of risk assessments for upcoming field classes and activities such as the independent mapping project, and through supervision and briefings issued while on field classes. Students that do not demonstrate competence in fieldwork safety through risk assessment tasks and/or attendance of safety seminars are not admitted onto forthcoming field classes or independent projects. 

Where it has not been possible for a student to attend the scheduled safety seminar, under certain circumstances, they may be allowed to attend the fieldwork activity provided alternative training has been arranged.

Once appropriately trained, it is then up to students to exercise their learned skills. They should conduct group and independent fieldwork in a manner designed to mitigate and limit the risks that could arise from a combination of hazard likelihood and severity of possible outcomes. Students are constantly encouraged to participate in a fieldwork party ethic which will enable the staff and demonstrators to “hold back the strong and pull forward the weak”.

Students have a responsibility to

  • Comply with control procedures.
  • Seek medical advice as directed or when necessary.
  • Advise the fieldtrip leader of personal circumstances or restrictions that might limit your fitness or put you at increased risk of harm.
  • Report accidents and dangerous occurrences to the fieldtrip leader and discuss any matters of concern with staff e.g. through your representative on the Staff Student Consultative Committee.
  • Not engage in activities or horseplay that might jeopardise your personal health and safety or that of others.