Sample Field Hazards

Below are some ideas for hazards and control measures based on assessments prepared in the Department of Biological Sciences from 2002 to 2008. Thanks to all the graduate students and staff who came up with these. Use these examples to help you prepare your own hazard assessment and safety plan for field activities. Delete lines that do not apply and add new ones as required for your situation. Customize the content for your specific conditions.

Activity /Hazards Control Measures

Driving Vehicles on public roads:
slide off road,
drive off road,
driver not familiar with vehicle features or behaviour,
vehicle not safe to drive,
driving while impaired

  • All drivers will have completed the University of Alberta defensive driving course and passed a driver evaluation prior to driving
  • All drivers to display driving competency as reviewed by field supervisor
  • Crew will discuss driving/vehicle hazards, fatigue, wildlife on the road, road conditions, speed, log hauling trucks, stowage of field equipment
  • The vehicle will have proper safety equipment such as first aid kit, fire extinguisher, towropes, shovel, tire changing equipment and other tools all in good working order
  • All drivers to be knowledgeable with the manufacturer's manual
  • Park in a safe spot when using a cell phone or changing a tire. See the Tire Changing Procedure
  • All drivers must adhere to the posted speed limits and drive at a speed that is safe for the conditions
  • Daily vehicle check (fluid levels, tires, tire pressure, brakes, steering, lights, wipers, horn)
  • Drivers will be trained in use of 4 wheel drive and winches
  • Plastic jerry cans with gas for the ATVs will ALWAYS be removed from the back of the truck prior to filling them. The static of the gasoline flowing through the hose into a can sitting in the bed of a truck has been known to ignite vapors
  • No riding in the back of the pickup truck
  • No joyriding or driving in an unsafe manner
  • Be aware that a driver may be impaired by drugs, fatigue or emotional state. Assess your state before and while you drive
Traveling in areas with industrial activity and heavy equipment operations
getting run over
  • If any areas of industrial activity are encountered (e.g. sites with active logging, oil and gas exploration, or any sort of heavy duty equipment operating), all staff will be required to wear hard hats and high visibility vests when outside a vehicle
  • No staff will leave their vehicle in areas of active industrial equipment unless they have approval from someone at that site
  • Whenever large vehicles are encountered on roads (haul trucks, water trucks, low beds, oil tankers, etc.), staff will slow their vehicles to 50 km/hr to ensure safe passing
Driving on roads with active log hauling
run off road
  • Companies will be contacted prior to the field season to let them know we will be conducting research in their FMA
  • Staff should obtain a radio and monitor the communication frequency used by the logging trucks to know where they are on the road
  • Logging roads are private roads and ALL LOGGING TRUCKS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY. This means that if a logging truck is encountered, field staff will slow down and pull over to let the oncoming truck pass safely
  • When entering an active haul area, staff will try to follow a logging truck into the sites to ensure safe passage
  • Staff will be made aware of the hazards of logging trucks and will look for signs indicating active haul areas at all times
ATV (quad) use and Transport collisions,
  • Attend a 6+ hour practical ATV training course
  • Users will demonstrate knowledge and competency of proper use of quads
  • CSA approved helmets with visor or goggles and leather gloves will always be worn when driving
  • Proper footwear must be worn - hikers or rubber boots - no open toed sandals or running shoes
  • Users will do a mechanical inspection before each use. Ensure that loads are secure before driving
  • Driving quads in field conditions can be hazardous and safe-driving speeds must be maintained
  • If traveling for long distances (> 20 km) on quads, a minimum of 2 machines must be traveling together
  • No joyriding or driving in an unsafe manner
  • While loading/unloading a quad, it is preferred that a second person observes whether the quad is lined up with the ramps. If no one else is available, then the quad should be driven to the edge of the ramps with the driver walking around to the front of the quad to make sure the tires are lined up before going up/down the ramps
  • When transporting a quad, the quad must be tied down in four places with working tie-downs. Put the quad in first gear before turning off the ignition and put the emergency brake on. Turn off the gas vent on the top of the gas tank and turn the gas line valve to "off"
  • Before hauling quads on a trailer, the hitch, chains and electric connections should be double-checked
Boat Use and Transport
  • Operators of motorized boats must have a Pleasure Craft Operators Card in most parts of Canada
  • Drivers will demonstrate competency in safe boat operation
  • The procedure for loading and unloading boats from a trailer will be demonstrated. Before launching a boat ensure all security straps are removed, the plug is inserted, and that the bowline is held by an assistant or remains attached to the trailer winch
  • The driver should not leave the truck while launching or loading a boat unless the gear shift is in PARK and the emergency brake is applied
  • All boat occupants are to wear an approved and properly sized personal flotation device at all times; remain seated when the boat is in motion
  • The anchor is the first item to leave the boat and the last item to be retrieved. Ensure that the boat is secured before walking away from it. Secure loose items (e.g., paddles, life jackets) so they don't blow away
  • The motors are oil injected (i.e., do not use mixed fuel) so ensure each boat contains sufficient oil in the reservoir, fuel, paddles, fire extinguisher and first-aid kit before pushing off from shoreSafe fuelling procedures will be discussed to avoid sparks
  • Use of boats for joyriding or other intentionally unsafe purposes is forbidden
Overturning a canoe or kayak in the river
  • All participants will wear a personal floatation device whenever they are using a kayak/canoe/boat
  • Participants using a kayak must be deemed competent in all aspects of kayaking. All participants will be required to perform a swim test in the U of A pool while wearing clothing that they might wear on the river
  • Participants will receive training on proper swimming, rescue, and equipment recover techniques for moving water in case of an over-turned or swamped canoe
  • Participants will be provided with the opportunity to practice swimming in the river while wearing a wetsuit.
Towing Trailers
disconnects from vehicle,
fishtailing while driving,
load moves while driving
  • Trailers may be used for hauling ATV's, boats or cargo
  • Only staff who are experienced with towing of trailers, or have a practical trailer towing course will be allowed to drive a truck with a trailer
  • The hitch should be double-checked and safety chains crossed over and attached to the frame before towing. Check that trailer lights work before driving each day
  • Weight limits should be checked on both the trailer and truck before towing begins and limits must not be exceeded
  • Daily vehicle driving logs must be completed if the Gross Vehicle Weight including truck, trailer and load exceeds 4500 kg.
  • The trailer load must be properly located relative to the axle and securely attached to the trailer. Recheck the straps after driving a few kilometers.
  • Vehicle handling is markedly affected when pulling a trailer and stopping distance is increased.
Snowmobile use
roll over
  • CSA approved helmets and goggles must be worn at all times
  • All users will complete a snowmobile safety course offered by the Alberta Snowmobile Association
  • Drivers will demonstrate knowledge and competency of the proper use of snowmobiles
  • Driving snowmobiles in field conditions can be hazardous, and safe driving speed must be maintained; headlights should be on at all times
  • A mechanical inspection will be conducted before driving every day
  • If traveling for great distances (e.g. 15+ km) on snowmobiles, a minimum of 2 machines must be travelling together
  • Loading and unloading methods and proper securing of snowmobiles on vehicles or trailers (with tie-downs) will be demonstrated and practiced during the training session
  • Use of snowmobiles for joyriding or other intentionally unsafe purposes is forbidden
Exposure to wildlife
(bears, cougars and other large animals)
animal attack
  • Attend a bear/cougar awareness course
  • All workers will carry on their person deterrents such as pepper spray, bear bangers and an air horn in a readily accessible location
  • An electric fence will be established at all camps not located within public camping facilities
  • Once camp is established, coordinated hazing procedures will be discussed should a bear enter camp during the day or night
  • Camps are to be managed so that food and garbage is not accessible by wildlife; store food inside vehicles or hard-sided campers or hang it away from the camp. Regularly dispose of garbage in approved dumpsters
  • No food or toiletries to be stored in a sleeping tent
  • Avoid animal carcasses that may be protected by a bear/cougar
  • Travel in groups when hiking and use sound makers to advertise your presence
  • All workers will report animal sightings to the rest of the group. Problem animals should be reported to the local Conservation Officer or Park Warden
  • Other large animals such as moose, elk or bison may also pose a hazard especially during rutting season
Exposure to rattle-snakes
  • Although rattle-snake encounters are not very common, watch where you are walking and be alert for snakes
  • If you encounter a rattlesnake, try not to disturb it and keep yourself at least 2-3 m away. Continue your way slowly going around the snake. If you have to do some work near where the snake is, wait until the animal leaves or come back later
  • If bitten by a rattlesnake, immediately call for assistance. Get to a medical facility
Firearm injury
being shot
  • A 12-gauge shotgun will be stored in camp to protect the campsite from bears. The shotgun is a last resort after bear spray and bear bangers have been tried and failed to get an aggressive bear out of the camp
  • Only persons having passed a Canadian Firearms Training Course and possessing a firearms license (PAL) are allowed to handle the shotgun
  • The shotgun will be loaded at all time but with no shell in the chamber until it is used. Before firing, the gun must be pumped and the safety turned off
  • The firearm must be stored securely when people are not in camp
Slips & falls
bone breaks,
  • Recognize that there are inherent hazards associated with "bush whacking". Some common hazards such as: traversing steep sections on trails, slippery and sloughing bark on downed trees, hidden downed wood, thick shrubs, whip back of branches, impalement, twisting ankles, walking on uneven terrain will be discussed
  • Everyone will wear sturdy hiking boots or rubber boots
  • Everyone should have a current tetanus vaccination (good for 10 years)

Tree climbing

  • Climbing trees to check nests will only be done in pairs
  • Safe climbing procedure will be discussed and demonstrated to the crew
  • Sturdy boots and leather gloves should be worn and a climbing helmet is highly recommended
  • For heights above 3 m, a Type-A full body harness and fall protection system are required
    (AHS Code Part 9 section 138)

Exposure to Cold/Hot Weather
heat stroke

  • Workers will be trained about the hazards associated with working in hot and cold temperatures, how to recognize the early symptoms of over-exposure and the treatments
  • Workers are required to wear (or carry) insulated and waterproof clothing in good condition in order to keep dry and warm
  • Workers are to take adequate water to maintain hydration and take rest breaks as necessary
  • When away from camp, each worker should carry a type P (personal) first aid kit as well as fire starting tools, a light, a reflective emergency blanket, high energy food, band-aids, and a compression wrap
  • Sunburn avoidance will be discussed (wearing appropriate clothing, use of hats, bandanas and sunscreen)
Severe Weather Conditions
  • Workers will be made aware of tree falling hazards associated with high winds and ensure that tents and campsites are always a tree length or more from any unstable tree
  • If winds are extreme, work in treed areas may need to be suspended
  • During severe electrical storms stay away from high points on the landscape, get away from metal tools, metal fences, do not sit under tall trees, get off of or out of the water, remain in your enclosed vehicle or get into a building with electrical/plumbing services
Travelling in avalanche areas
getting buried in snow
  • During winter fieldwork, especially in the front ranges of Jasper National Park, personnel may be exposed to an avalanche hazard.
  • While travelling in the backcountry, at least one person will have formal avalanche safety training by recognized experts (A.C.M.G. Guide) and other crew members will be instructed in identifying and avoiding unsafe conditions
  • · All crew members to carry an emergency locator beacon and recovery tools (shovel, avalanche probe)
River crossing
being swept away
losing pack
  • If a creek or water body crossing is necessary, it will only be done when at least two people are present
  • Only one person will be in the water at a time, after a person has crossed, another person may follow
  • Unbuckle the waist strap on packs prior to crossing so the pack can be removed quickly in an emergency
  • Guide ropes will be set up when necessary
  • All personnel are required to know how to swim
Working Alone
requiring assistance because of injury,
exposure to animal attack
  • All workers will be trained in working alone procedures
  • Recognize that assistance may not be immediately available and that additional precautions may be necessary. Some activities will be restricted until another person is on hand
  • Workers must have an effective means of communication with other workers when alone (cell phone, radio)
  • Use a check out/ check in log book in camp to track people's whereabouts
  • Follow a prescribed travel plan after leaving camp. No deviations unless this is reported back to camp
  • See Communication and Emergency Response Procedures
Access to First-Aid trained personnel and supplies
  • Several workers should have current Standard First Aid Certification and Level A CPR. Worksite location and nature of the work dictates the number of trained First Aiders
  • There should always be a reasonable and safe means of transporting injured individuals to a health facility
  • Each worker will carry a Type P (personal) first aid kit while in the field
  • An Alberta #2 First Aid kit and blankets will be in each vehicle/boat or in camp
  • All workers will complete a confidential medical information form outlining any health conditions that might affect them during the project (e.g. allergy to bees, diabetes, etc). One copy will be kept in a sealed envelope with the field supervisor and the other within the department in a sealed envelope. These will be destroyed upon completion of the project.
  • Register your worksite with the STARS Emergency Centre to be able to request an air medical evacuation
Musculoskeletal injuries
strain, sprain
  • Be aware of proper lifting methods to avoid back and joint injury
  • Ask for assistance if a load is too heavy or subdivide the load
Getting lost in the field
  • All workers will be trained and must demonstrate competency in the use of a compass, GPS unit and map reading
  • All workers are provided with appropriate maps of the areas where they will be working. They will carry a compass and whistle
  • When working alone, each individual will be provided with a GPS unit and a suitable means of communication (cellular or satellite phone or a two-way radio) and spare batteries
  • In the event that you do become disoriented, STOP (Sit Think Observe Plan) so you don't make your situation worse. DO NOT PANIC. Attempt to assess where you are in relation to a major landmark: major seismic line, river, or highway. Listen for cars or boats in the distance. If you begin moving again pay very close attention to the direction you are traveling and where you have come from. Reassess your situation as you go and stop if you believe that things are getting worse
  • If we are working away from roads, a safety bearing to a linear feature will be identified each day. If lost, move in that direction until you reach the road/trail/river. If you are still lost, stay on the feature and wait for help
  • If you are lost and if a safety bearing/feature is not available then stay put. Do not wonder aimlessly without a plan. Try to contact coworkers using whistle blasts or a phone or radio. Make yourself visible and continue to use your whistle until you are found
  • refer to the Missing Person Procedure
Travelling in a leased aircraft
getting stranded
  • An Emergency Location Transmitter is carried on-board all aircraft (fixed wing and rotary wing) and check-in radio policies dictate standard Search and Rescue operations upon failure to check-in by the time specified in each individual flight log
  • Personnel will wear/carry field attire and equipment appropriate for field conditions in case of an emergency landing.
  • Survival gear (shelter, food, water) will be carried on-board the aircraft
  • Refer to Standard Operating Procedures from Wildlife Observation Services on file (Dupuis 1999).
Forest Fire
  • Field supervisor is to keep in regular contact with the district forest duty officer (forest ranger) or forest company representative to be aware of the local fire hazard
  • When the fire hazard is high, the field supervisor will check daily with the local authorities to determine the hazard in that area
  • All staff will be made aware of the fire risks associated with their activities: do not indiscriminately discard any burning material, do not leave open fires unattended, ensure all fires are cold to the touch when they are extinguished, do not park vehicles in tall, dry grass because a hot exhaust system can start a fire
  • The crew will discuss evacuation procedures in case of emergency
Fire in Camp
  • All workers know the location of the fire extinguishers in camp and in the truck
  • The proper use of fire extinguishers will be discussed by the crew
  • .All fuel is stored outside of tents or in the exterior (box) of a truck
  • All staff will be trained in the proper hook-up of propane cylinders and how to test for leaks with a soap solution.
H2S sites
deadly gas exposure
  • Sour gas plants are abundant in work sites throughout northern Alberta, and staff will be taught how to recognize these plants and the safety risks associated with them (training video & lecture)
  • Some oil and gas companies require all workers to have completed a safety course. Arrangements will be made with the company for this
Axe/hatchet use:
wood chips/splinters
  • Axe must be in good working condition (sharp, head secure)
  • Workers must have previous experience with an axe
  • Safety glasses or goggles and steel-toed boots must be worn
  • Blade to be sheathed when not in use
Chainsaw use
severe cut,
falling trees and branches
  • Workers using the chainsaw must be trained in a 6+ hour course and be able to demonstrate competency before use. Personal protective equipment is mandatory for all chainsaw use
  • This includes hard hat, safety glasses or goggles, wire face shield, hearing protection, leather gloves, chain saw pants and steel-toed boots
  • The chainsaw must be maintained in good working order before operating (chain sharp, idle correct, good supply of oil while running, safety kick bar working)
  • Any mechanical faults should be reported to the supervisor and usage curtailed until corrected
Ingestion of food/water/animal-borne diseases
other Zoonoses
  • Hand hygiene-ALWAYS wash hands well with soap and water before handling food, eating, drinking, smoking and after using toilet facilities or handling animals/samples
  • Cook food thoroughly and keep perishable items cool
  • Drink only bottled/treated water or boil water at least 10 minutes
  • Water containers should be cleaned with soap and hot water and rinsed with boiling water
Exposure to West Nile Virus
via mosquito bites
  • All workers will read the information provided on West Nile virus
  • Workers will take personal precautions against mosquito bites by choosing appropriate clothing and using insect repellent
  • Could be transmitted via cut or needle stick with infected blood
Exposure to Lyme disease
carried in various animals,
infection via tick bite
  • Some diseases may be transmitted by ticks
  • Participants will be trained in precautions for tick areas including tick removal methods
  • Could be transmitted via cut or needle stick with infected blood
Exposure to Hanta Virus
in deer mice,
inhaling dust contaminated with virus
  • Read the information provided on Hanta Virus
  • All staff shall avoid contact with rodents as well as avoid breathing in dust where rodent urine/feces occurs such as trailers, cabins, and sheds
  • See the SOP for cleaning and disinfecting camp facilities
  • Food will be stored in sealed rodent-proof bins and garbage will also be discarded in sealed containers
Diseases from Handling Small Mammals
Echinococcus (rodents)
Tularemia (various animals)
Hanta virus (deer mice)
transmission via ingestion, cut, inhalation
  • Small-mammal gear and decontamination areas will be set-up away from the house to minimize contamination from Hantavirus, Echinococcus, or unknown rodent vector diseases
  • This area will be equipped with disinfectants (Roccal, bleach, 70% ethanol) for sanitization of work clothes, equipment and traps
  • All small mammal workers will be provided with appropriate safety equipment, including HEPA filter masks, disposable gloves, cotton gloves and hand sanitizer
  • Workers will be trained in proper care and handling of rodents to minimize negative interactions between rodent and researcher
  • Workers will be informed of the signs and flu-like symptoms of Hantavirus. If symptoms arise, medical aid will be sought. Medical personnel will be informed that the patient has been in contact with deer mice, a species that is known to carry Hantavirus
  • Cotton gloves will be sprayed daily with Roccal and anything touched with the gloves on will be considered contaminated. As needed, other clothing will be decontaminated in a similar manner
  • Before eating or drinking: remove gloves and wash hands with soap and water to get rid of Echinococcus eggs (physical removal), then use alcohol wipes to disable Hantavirus if present.
  • All workers will receive training in handling biohazardous material, proper sanitation procedures, and procedures for storing small mammal carcasses safely
  • Small mammal carcasses will be placed in doubled heavy-duty Ziploc bags or whirl-packs which will be labeled with a permanent marker
  • Small mammal samples will be placed in a sealable Tupperware container, labeled as biohazardous and placed in a non-food freezer at -20C
Exposure to other diseases in animals:
plague (mountain lion, fleas, rodents),
anthrax (herbivores, soil),
rabies (carnivores, bats),
Salmonella (reptiles)
bovine tuberculosis (cattle)
Echinococcus (wolves, coyotes, rodents)
Prion diseases (deer, cattle, sheep)
avian influenza (some birds)
  • There are many potential diseases in the animals that you might be working with. These should be considered and discussed along with the means of entry into the body (ingestion, cut, mucous membrane or inhalation) and the procedures and protection that will help avoid infection
  • Exposure to agents that could cause disease in humans could occur when conducting an animal necropsy, collecting scat for diet or DNA analysis, handling animals when applying radio collars or collecting blood/tissue samples.
Diseases from handling potentially contaminated blood
West Nile virus,
other infectious agents,
entry via cut, injection or mucosal membrane
  • To reduce potential for transmission of West Nile virus, all workers will be screened for general health status and for any condition that might predispose them to be more susceptible to infection. All blood collection and associated handling will be performed by an experienced crew member
  • Care will be taken to reduce the potential for skin puncture with needle or capillary tube containing bird blood. Used needles will immediately be dropped into a Sharps container
  • A Sharps container is a hard-walled leak proof wide-mouth plastic jar with warning labels/symbols for "Biohazard" and "Sharps"
  • Eppendorf ™ tubes containing blood samples are capped and stored upright within a plastic hard walled leak-proof container (e.g., Tupperware fridge container). The container is labelled with a Biohazard word and symbol
  • Researchers will carry a Biohazard Spill clean-up kit containing safety glasses, latex gloves, clear autoclave bag, orange Biohazard autoclave bag, duct tape to seal bag, paper towels, 1 L of bleach solution (10% [v/v] household bleach in water; prepared fresh weekly) in a sprayer bottle, forceps, alcohol wipes, cardboard box to transport kit.
  • See the Biohazard Spill cleanup Procedure

back to top

The Hazard Assessment is one part of a Field Safety Plan. Some topics that should be included in a written safety plan are:
  1. Project title, author, date
  2. Project overview: a paragraph outlining what the project is, where are you going, where will you stay, equipment being used, what sort of measurements will be made or samples collected, how will they will be processed. This is the big picture of your project.
  3. Team members: who is involved with this project and what is their role: supervisors, graduate students, technicians, summer students, volunteers, collaborators.
  4. Hazard Assessment and Control Measures
  5. Communication Plan: how will you communicate among the group and to outside parties for routine purposes and in case of emergency? Do cell phones work in all areas? Does 911 work?
  6. Contact Information: (location and telephone numbers): team members, principal investigator/supervisors, local authorities such as the RCMP, municipal police, health services, hospitals, STARs Emergency Centre, Conservation Officer, Sustainable Development contacts, industry contacts, land or lease holders, U of A contacts (U of A Protective Services, Department people, Vehicle Pool).
  7. Working Alone Plan: how will you track where people are, what is the check out/check in procedure, when are they overdue, list activities that can be done when alone as well as those that cannot.
  8. Missing Person Procedure: when is it activated, who is informed, how is a search mounted? by whom?
  9. Accident / Injury / Illness Reporting Procedure: completing Workers Compensation Board and Incident reports, who to notify, when
  10. Safe operating Procedures for various activities
  11. Additional technical and background information on things like: Hanta virus, West Nile Virus, bear safety, avoiding chemical exposure, disinfection procedures, etc.