Welcome to the ESE Fieldwork Safety Webpage

Ensuring safety during offsite work is our top priority. This page serves as a resource for understanding and implementing safety policies and protocols during fieldwork activities.

For detailed steps on fieldwork planning and requirements, visit our Fieldwork Requirements page.

 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 Department Offsite Working Website.

ESE has developed its own 5-Step-To-Do list for all offsite workers to follow when planning conference and hosted visits but it is especially designed for Fieldwork. It provides a unique safety management paper-trail with instant data retrieval of contact details and risk assessments for those requiring access e.g. HOD.

Important Documents and Links 

FW1 Form - Jul/23

Fieldwork Flowchart

Research Fieldtrip Flowchart

PI&PIC Guide for Taught Trip 2024

PI Guide for Research Trip 2024


Emergency-Carry-Card-12 2024



When planning to undertake fieldwork, whether UG student, PG student, Post-doc or Staff, links specifically relevant for you have been provided here on the web. The guidance is designed specially 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 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. The fieldwork safety officer may be able to provide a recent FW1 example.

The Principal Investigator (PI) will oversee the planning and completing of the FW1 for research trips, while the FW1 on taught field classes, which often include many UG students, is overseen by the Person in Charge (PIC) or the PI who will be the appointed trip leader.

All students and staff on fieldwork are considered to be offsite workers with associated responsibilities for safety. Contact details for all offsite workers participating in the trip are required on the FW1 form. 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 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:

  • UG (BSc and MSci when on field trips, independent e.g. mapping projects, research projects)
  • PG (MSc when on field trips, research projects, PhD on research projects)
  • Academic Staff 

For 2020-21, these roles are held by:

2. Responsibilities in Fieldwork

Responsibilities are set out in the college offsite working policy. Here, we elaborate with respect to 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 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 retrieval 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, Senior Tutor, with assistance of FAA, 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 Senior Tutor and UG Office Team.

Health/fitness and special requirements record keeping: these are kept by DSO for staff and by the Senior Tutor and UG Office Team for students. These records are only made available 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 10, 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.