Field Research Safety

Field Research Safety

The University of Arizona’s department of Research Laboratory & Safety Services (RLSS) offers a wide array of services readily available for our research community. Working in field environments is vital to research and education, and RLSS aims to aid these researchers before the inception of fieldwork.

Not sure where to start? Reach out to us at (520) 626-6850 or and schedule a consultation, or visit our other links for resources, guides, and plans.

The key to a safe field research project starts with planning. Recognizing risk and the possibility of loss or injury is integral to experiential learning. A field instructor or researcher must also be an effective risk manager who understands and anticipates risks and acts appropriately to reduce the likelihood of negative consequences. Assessment of hazards that may be encountered, identification of strategies for dealing with those hazards, and appropriate planning in the event of any emergencies will help ensure your project will be successful.


Principal investigators are required to develop a plan detailing how field researchers should respond to emergency situations. Please use the 

to manage responsive procedures for researchers specific to your field location.


It is important during the planning process to budget for appropriate safety measures. List required PPE, equipment, and recommended clothing/gear in your field safety plan.


Communicate with field team before the trip. Your field team are essential in keeping the trip as safe as possible. Before going on the trip help prepare the participants by

  • Scheduling an orientation “pre-trip” meeting before heading into the field.
  • Sending/giving your participants information regarding your course or project.

Reviewing your field safety plan, expected hazards and conditions, and travel

Field research hazards may be presented by research activities, as well as the physical, political, social, cultural, and/or economic environment of the field location. While some events may be unpredictable and may be unavoidable, the risks associated with field research can be greatly reduced through training, awareness of hazards and exercising good judgment. Working in the field can require knowledge of many outdoor skills, such as map-reading, compass use, camping, cross-country navigation, cooking over a fire, field sanitation practices, and treating drinking water.


In order to make accurate risk assessments in the field, you need knowledge about specific hazards. Get the training you need in the specific skill areas where you’ll need to do risk assessment. Even a little training can go a long way towards making more accurate assessments and performing safer actions in the field. Brief your team often- at the beginning of a n activity and as conditions change.


First aid training is appropriate for working off campus at remote field sites because medical services may be limited or delayed. Wilderness first responder training is highly regarded and will prepare individuals to manage a broad range of emergency situations, illness, and injuries. For first aid and wilderness first responder training, contact the University of Arizona Campus Recreation Center to participate in these trainings. The Campus Recreation Center also offer SCUBA training if research is conducted underwater.

Being safe at the University of Arizona requires a positive safety culture where we learn from mistakes and near misses to improve and prevent future occurrences. It is impossible to foresee all injuries or incidents that may occur when working in uncontrolled environments, but first aid skills and having emergency plans in place will help manage situations effectively and potentially mitigate negative consequences. Once a situation is stable and urgent medical care needs are met, report incidents to Risk Management Services and RLSS.

If the incident is a true emergency requiring immediate action, you dial 911 at any time and seek medical care. See the RLSS “Exposure and Injury Guidance” webpage for more information.

It is vital that you report all “incidents” including near misses, injuries resulting from your activities, non-compliance with safety and environmental rules, and general unsafe work conditions so that we can learn and grow.  Please report them to RLSS and we will investigate the cause of the incident, implement corrective actions, and share lessons learned with others in a similar type of activity.