Further reading links to supplement your studies.
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There is not much written specifically for students about health and safety in the field but two useful sources are:
- Higgitt and Bullard (1999) details why and how risk assessments are undertaken for undergraduate dissertations. Using two geography case studies, one human and one physical, the paper illustrates the types of hazards and risks that need to be considered.
- Nash (2000) is the first part of a guide to doing independent overseas fieldwork. It discusses where to go, what to do when you get there and also some of the health, safety and insurance issues that you should consider before setting off.
Many government websites present comprehensive information about travelling overseas including country by country guides to safety and security, local travel, entry requirements and health concerns. Some also include more general sections within the websites, such as travellers’ tips, how to get your mobile phone to work overseas and what to do if it all goes wrong. These sites are updated regularly particularly with regard to political disturbances and natural disasters. The sites for UK, USA and Australian citizens are listed below. Other nationals should consult the travel section of their home-government website.
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (UK): https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (health advice) (USA): http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/
- United States Department of State (travel advice): http://travel.state.gov/
- Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/
Up-to-date local weather forecasts are usually available in newspapers, by telephone (check local papers for the number) or from websites, for example:
- The Meteorological Office (UK): http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/
- National Weather Service (USA): http://www.nws.noaa.gov/
- Bureau of Meteorology (Australia): http://www.bom.gov.au/
If you are planning an expedition and need advice or want to develop particular skills before you leave useful contacts include:
- The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) (http://www.rgs.org/OurWork/Fieldwork+and+Expeditions/Fieldwork+Expeditions.htm) runs workshops and seminars on topics such as four-wheel drive training, people-oriented research techniques, risk assessment and crisis management, and produces publications offering advice on logistics and safety in a range of environments from tropical forests to deserts.
- The Explorers Club (USA) (http://www.explorers.org/) can provide expedition planning assistance and has a lecture series which occasionally features sessions on field techniques.
- The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (http://www.theuiaa.org/) and British Mountaineering Council (http://www.thebmc.co.uk) provide advice on all aspects of high altitude travel and safety.
Fieldwork opportunities arise from a variety of sources including not only educational institutions but also through working with charities or taking part in expeditions. The British Standards Institution first published ‘BS8848 Specification for the provision of visits, fieldwork, expeditions, and adventurous activities, outside the United Kingdom’ in 2007 and revised it in 2014. This document sets out the requirements to be met by those organizing adventurous trips in order to comply with good practice. BS8848 (which takes its name from the metric height of Everest) is aimed primarily at ‘providers’ but the 2014 revisions specifically highlight the responsibilities of participants to commit to “actively engage in:
- Taking reasonable care of themselves and others, including actions required of them arising from risk assessment;
- Following instructions from the leadership team;
- Bringing concerns about their own health, safety and well-being and those of others to the attention of the leadership team or supervisors;
- Complying with the code of conduct [as set out by the fieldtrip organizer].” (p.13)
If you are organizing an expedition or fieldwork, there is a useful checklist of things to consider included in the appendices to BS8848, which is available from libraries or from the British Standards Institute (http://www.bsigroup.com/en/).