June 7, 2023
Safety first! New Field Safety Standard unveiled
The University of Calgary has introduced a new Field Safety Standard to promote the safety of researchers, students, faculty and staff participating in field research and field school activities.
The new standard identifies field hazards and suggests controls required to mitigate or manage associated risks. Part of UCalgary's commitment to care for all members of its campus community, it identifies five easy steps described in procedures aimed at managing risk out in the field.
One factor in UCalgary's decision to develop the new standard was a fall 2019 bus accident on the road between Port Alberni and Bamfield Marine Research Station in British Columbia, a facility jointly operated by several B.C. and Alberta universities, including UCalgary. The accident resulted in the death of two University of Victoria students and injuries to several others. The new standard's goal is to prevent such incidents from happening when UCalgary staff, faculty or students are in the field.
Previously, there was a lack of standardized protocols at UCalgary addressing field safety risks. A Research Advisory Committee and a Field School Advisory Group were formed to collaborate with Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) on developing just such a standard. Once completed, the Faculty of Science had its students, faculty and staff pilot, test and review the standard and provide feedback.
The standard includes details and procedures from pre-trip planning and meeting, documentation approvals, daily on-site field activities, and post-trip debriefing. The new field safety online training is required by all participants of field research and field schools that have activities in remote, isolated or wilderness areas.
Daniel Larson, BSc'00, a technician with the Faculty of Science specializing in environmental science, has actively been involved in the pilot and sees great benefits so far. It ensures all students have a common level of risk and safety knowledge when participating in activities, he says. It helps students to be more mindful about safety, which is important for future employment in industries where safety is rigorous.
Levelling up safety skills
The next step is for all faculties across campus to embrace and implement the standard in all field activities for the sake of the well-being and safety of everybody involved in field activities..
That's why UCalgary will provide training and support for the implementation of the new standard, including online field safety training and interactive workshops with Molly Chisholm, EHS systems and compliance specialist.
The standard has already contributed to a safer work environment for instrument design and maintenance engineer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy Luke Vollmerhaus, who was part of the early stages of implementation.
"It has increased our safety awareness," says Vollmerhaus, BSc (Eng)'17. "We can think diversely and plan ahead of time to have a complete approach to safety in our work. The new standard has forced the team to pay closer attention to detail."