Field Research Safety Planning FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions regarding the UC San Diego-Scripps Institution of Oceanography requirement for Principal Investigators to submit a Field Research Safety Plan/Record prior to commencing travel for field research.

For research cruises on UC and non UC-owned vessels…

Q: Does a Field Research Safety Plan have to be submitted if the research team is on a UC or UNOLS ship?  What if nobody is departing the ship during the cruise until return to port?

A:   If any members of the research team (including volunteers, staff, anyone connected to UCSD) plan to step off the boat for field operations, then yes, a field safety plan should be prepared and submitted in advance.  If not, then it is not required.  Safety for ship-board activities is addressed by UNOLS Research Vessel Safety Standards and the checklist for scientists planning a research cruise

Q.  What if the field research is to be conducted using a chartered private vessel (not part of UNOLS or other US agency fleet)?

A. Yes, a field research safety plan should be prepared and submitted in advance of travel.  Also, non-UNOLS vessels chartered for marine research must meet required standards under Chapter 18 of the RVSS.   

Q:  What if a non-UC PI takes along a Scripps graduate student or technician using grant funds not issued to a UC institution?

A: A safety plan should be completed for any work involving Scripps faculty, staff or students.  If there is a PI at Scripps affiliated with the research, he/she should submit the plan for his/her staff assisting with the field research.  If there is no PI at Scripps involved, the grad student and/or the technician should complete a plan, preferably with the involvement of the non-UC PI (although that is not required).  The funding source or path is irrelevant.  The safety plan should be completed for all Scripps affiliates, regardless of whether they are the PI or whether the funding originated with Scripps or came via Scripps.

For field research in backcountry and other remote locations (domestic)…

Q: Are we required to carry a satellite phone since, at times, we may be many miles from standard phone service?

A: No, this is not a requirement, but it is ideal.  If this can’t be arranged for, then a back-up plan should be established.  For example, does the group return to a base camp each night?  Are there other people at the base camp that expect them to return each night at a certain time?  If they don’t arrive by that time, then what?  Or, do they return to a base camp each night where there IS cell reception, and if so, can they call someone to check in each night to verify that they are alive and well?

Q: Since we work in a geographic area covering hundreds of square miles do I need to make a list of all the emergency facilities in our work area, including travel routes to and from the various research sites?

A: If you are working in the US, a simple road map, or even an off-road BLM-type map would suffice. As long as people know where the emergency services are located, they should be able to use a map to navigate themselves there.  It is not necessary for you to put in writing the driving directions from each remote site to closest emergency services. So, yes, please make a list of the emergency facilities in your work area, but creating travel routes to and from each site is unnecessary.

Q: With regard to the Physical Demands and Risk Assessment portions of the Planning Record, we sometimes work at high altitude, and extreme cold and hot environments.  In some areas there is the possibility of encountering dangerous animals: bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widows, and tarantulas. The hantavirus is present in some of our work areas.  Are we required to provide formalized training by a certified instructor to staff with respect to these hazards, or, will training by a co-worker or supervisor suffice?

A: It is not required they be trained by a certified professional.  A co-worker or supervisor familiar with the dangers, the appropriate responses and ways to prepare is suitable.  Of course, the advice would need to be reasonable and based in current knowledge.  For example, telling someone to turn around and run away from a bear would not be considered reasonable training.  You can document WHAT was trained on each topic with a simple checklist.  Or you can create a checklist of these types of hazards with a list of websites for people to review and then have them sign their name stating that they reviewed the material on the website and understand the risk and how to mitigate it.

For example:


For additional information or clarification, please contact:
Lance Scott, Research Assistance Program Manager, UC San Diego Environmental Health & Safety
Tel.  (858) 534-7651 email: