Spring.wmf (18300 bytes) Plant Physiology (Biology 327)  - Dr. Stephen G. Saupe;  College of St. Benedict/ St. John's University;  Biology Department; Collegeville, MN  56321; (320) 363 - 2782; (320) 363 - 3202, fax;    ssaupe@csbsju.edu

Field Safety

A. Potential Hazards:

    I am very serious about safety. We will always work in a safe manner in the field (and lab). Working in the field presents numerous potential hazards to personal health and safety. Fortunately, the risk of injury is very small if we use common sense and follow some simple guidelines. Some potential hazards include:

1. Weather. This is probably the biggest danger in field work. Among the concerns are: (a) Sunburn - don’t forget your sunblock; (b) Heat stroke/exhaustion - watch out when working in hot weather. Be sure to drink often; (c) Hypothermia/frostbite - Be sure to wear appropriate clothing; (d) Tornado - obviously, avoid going into the field if conditions look threatening; and (e) Electrical storms.

2. Biological Hazards. A variety of organisms can harm you. Using a little common sense, the risk is extremely low. Among the concerns are: (a) Poison ivy and other contact allergens - learn to recognize poison ivy, stinging nettle, etc. Change your clothes after exposure and wash up. If a rash breaks out, contact your physician; (b) Lyme's disease - always do a thorough tick search after fieldwork. Minimize problems by using insect repellent and tucking your pants into your socks. If you see a red halo around a tick bite and/or experience flu-like symptoms following a tick bite, contact your physician immediately; (c) Hantavirus - this is a serious, rodent borne respiratory virus - avoid contact with rodents in the field; (d) Rabies - avoid handling any animals, and if bitten, contact your physician immediately; (e) Bee sting and other allergies - be sure to bring your proper medications and alert your instructor to your condition; (f) Encephalitis - a minimal risk, but avoid mosquito bites; (g) Giardia - an intestinal parasite - never drink untreated water in the field; and (g) Animal bites, including poisonous snakes - not a major concern if you are careful. There are no poisonous snakes in central Minnesota.

3. Transportation Concerns. Getting to and from a field site can present some very real hazards. These include: (a) Getting hit by a car - walk against traffic, well off road, look both ways when crossing streets, etc.; (b) Car accident - drive safely!; (c) Getting lost - stay with the group, but if you do get separated, don’t move around; wait for assistance. It is always best to work with a partner (the buddy system). If not possible, always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

4. Accidents. There are an incredible number of ways that you could accidentally become injured on a field trip. The bottom line is that you must always work safely, act wisely and use common sense. And remember, you are also responsible for the safety of those around you. If you plan to be away from "civilization", be sure to take a first aid kit.

5. Water Safety. Be especially careful around water. Aside from the obvious, always wear a life jacket when in a boat.

6. Anthropogenic Threats. Other humans can present a hazard to your well being in the field. Trips during deer hunting season should be planned carefully. Getting hit by a stray bullet or a near-sighted hunter is a real possibility. Wear blaze orange. Make a lot of noise. Leave the premises if shots are heard. And, even though you may be in the "boondocks", don’t forget to use your "street smarts". Sadly, there are all too many "wacko’s" in the world.

7. Tool/Chemical Safety. It may be necessary to use various tools and chemicals in the field. Chemical use should follow all departmental guidelines for on-campus use (i.e., goggles, gloves, proper attire). Be especially careful when using any tools and follow all instructions carefully.


1. General: If you are on a field trip organized by the Biology Department then you must make sure that the leader is aware of any actual or potential difficulties you may have in the field. Safe practice largely amounts to using common sense appropriate to the situation and being aware of any special hazards that could arise from your actions. You must follow the instructions of the leader at all times.

2. Health: If you have any medical condition, temporary or permanent, that might in any way affect your ability to carry out the work intended, it is your responsibility to inform the leader in advance. Equally, if you or someone else is unwell or injured while working, you must do what you can to inform the leader.

3. Working Alone: It is never a good idea to work in the field on your own. Whenever you go into the field always go with a buddy. If this is not possible, be sure to let someone (family member, friend, partner) know where you are going and when you plan to return. Carry a cell phone for emergency use.

4. Clothing/Equipment: Be sure that your gear is appropriate for the situation and the range of conditions that you are likely to meet. It is inadvisable to wear blue jeans; once wet, they stay wet and keep you cold. Field leaders will always provide suggestions of appropriate gear. Mosquito repellent, sunscreen, water, rain gear, and warm clothing (depending upon season) are always advisable.

5. Group Activities: It is your responsibility to stay with the group. No one should leave the group without the permission of the leader. If you are ill or there is an accident, let the leader know immediately. And, be aware of the problems that arise simply because of the group setting. For example, roadside sites present a traffic hazard to a group but not to an individual. Or, the actions of an irresponsible individual may endanger the group perhaps by climbing some rocks and dislodging material that may fall on others.

6. Special Considerations: It is impossible to elucidate and anticipate all possible hazards. Please use common sense and work safely. You are responsible for your safety and those around you. Individuals who - (a) fail to comply with these instructions, and any additional instructions that are provided by the leader, either orally or written; or (b) do not obey the instructions of the leader or another individual whom the party leader delegated for this duty; or (c) is not properly equipped - are subject to exclusion from field work in the course.

Link to
Safety Contract

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Last updated:  01/07/2009     � Copyright  by SG Saupe