CSM student and staff handbook

9.3 Safety and ethics in CSM fieldwork

Fieldwork is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable parts of a geology degree and safety in fieldwork is of paramount importance. You will take part in organised one day and residential field courses during your time with the University of Exeter but you may also need to organise your own field research for your summer vacation project and/or dissertation. You will be given guidance about the safety issues surrounding planning and undertaking a piece of independent field research. During field courses organised and led by members of staff you should always take note of the following guidelines.


Safety in Fieldwork

The conduct of fieldwork during field courses is governed by the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).  Under the provisions of this Act, students are required to take full account of instructions and warnings issues by members of staff. Furthermore, all students are required to conduct their work and activities in such a way as not to expose themselves or others to unnecessary risks, including physical injury and getting lost. These requirements apply at all times during the field course (i.e. including during leisure time). Failure to meet them may result in suspension from the field course which may result in non-fulfilment of module and programme requirements. Specific requirements and instructions will vary according to the nature of the fieldwork and the venue, and will be provided by members of staff leading the field course. Some important general rules enforceable under the Act are listed below:

  • Appropriate clothing and footwear must be worn and ill-equipped students will not be permitted to participate in field courses. During cold weather or in harsh environments, a reserve of warm clothing should be carried. Some form of headgear is also essential under these conditions. Footwear should be suitable for the terrain. In most cases the ideal footwear is good walking boots although other suitable footwear with good tread and support may be permitted by the leader.
  • A safety helmet conforming to British Standard 5240 must be worn by workers near cliff bottoms or quarry faces, in mines, tunnels, caves and other places where there is risk to the head.
  • Safety goggles conforming to British Standard 2092 must be work when chipping rock, although note that you are notexpected to own or carry a geological hammer during our supervised field courses.
  • Workers in remote areas must always carry a map and compass, know how to take a bearing, keep known landmarks in sight, be accompanied whenever possible and be aware of the weather forecast.
  • If you need to enter a field containing animals, be aware that some animals can be aggressive. If in doubt do not place yourself at risk.
  • Do not climb over or through hedges or fences. Always use gates and/or stiles.
  • Always wash your hands when returning from fieldwork where you have handled soil, sediments, vegetation, river/lake water.
  • Those working among or near dry vegetation, such as gorse or dead bracken, must not smoke or undertake any other operation that might cause fire. All objects that might subsequently cause fire, such as glass, should be removed from the site.
  • Those working on or close to rivers, lakes and the sea shore must wear waterproof and/or buoyancy clothing appropriate to the circumstances and take adequate advance precautions if working under abnormal conditions (e.g. floods, storms).

Remember, the Health and Safety at Work Act clearly indicates that responsibility for safety is yours.  Please be responsible and thoughtful in your actions.


Ethics Guidelines for Undergraduate Students

All students must familiarise themselves with the CEMPS Ethical guidelines. Ethical principles are concerned with the rights, dignity and welfare of participants and other stakeholders in research. To this end, research with humans, in particular vulnerable people, and animals in CEMPS generally requires the approval of the CEMPS Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee comprises a group of academic staff who meet at regular intervals to receive applications from students and staff of EMPS and to consider any ethical issues that might arise from the research. In general: 

All undergraduates undertaking a third- or fourth-year dissertation must receive approval from their supervisor before commencing their study. In cases where ethical issues are deemed to be of concern, the supervisor will to refer the case to the EMPS Ethics Committee.

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