Field activity standard


This standard applies to all staff members (including contractors, visiting academics and volunteers) and students at the University who plan or participate in field activity.



  • Ensure adequate planning has occurred to provide for the health and safety of all participants (staff members, students, volunteers and contractors)
  • Ensure that potential hazards have been identified and appropriate controls put in place
  • Capture appropriate information to improve future activities.


Field activity is a distinctive characteristic of University life and an essential part of teaching and research, which enables and enriches the academic development of staff members and students.

The University conducts multiple activities, across its many faculties and service divisions, which involve work, study or research outside the controlled environment of University facilities.

The University has a responsibility to all staff and students to ensure health and safety is a key consideration [to prevent harm] in the planning and operation of field activity, and that such activities are carried out in a manner that is environmentally responsible.

All field activity involving international travel must comply with the University’s Travel Policy and associated procedures. The traveller or travel organiser must review the current risk status of the destination through the official Safe Travel website

If the destination has a high risk rating, the High Risk Travel Form must be submitted to the Risk Office for approval before travel arrangements can be booked.

During field activity, if the risk status changes and is deemed high by the Risk Office, the University has the right to recall travellers.


The University takes a risk-based approach, based on minimum standards, to managing field activities and expects:

Roles and actions

1. Deans of faculties and directors of service divisions, through their organizational and planning structures, must be able to:

  • Identify field activities and implement a system to indicate who is involved, when/where the activities will take place, and the expected duration of the activity
  • Ensure field activity leaders, project supervisors and other key roles are identified and understood to be held accountable.


2. All field activity must be documented in a University-approved field activity plan, which includes consideration of the specific health and safety risks and hazards presented.

3. The plan must consider appropriate communication and tracking equipment, and a scheduled “check-in” process.

4. The plan must consider the selection of suitable vehicles for the terrain and participants’ competence to drive them.

5. The plan must consider the number of participants, along with their knowledge, qualifications, training, gender, experience, age, disability, medical conditions, physical ability and competence to undertake the activity.

6. The plan must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that participants have the opportunity to undertake the activity, unless the nature of the activity makes it impracticable or unsafe for them to do so. 

7. Participants must declare medical conditions that may affect their ability to undertake the activity, and provide a medical certificate if requested to do so.

8. Field activity participants who may be exposed to communicable diseases or occupational health hazards while undertaking a field activity, (locally or overseas), must be referred to a medical practitioner for assessment, immunisation and appropriate
medication prior to departure.

9. Field activity organisers must obtain approvals, permits and permissions from land/ property owners, employers, local and national authorities, iwi and indigenous peoples.

Note: This can be done in the ethics approval process and / or research plan to avoid duplication of time and effort.

10.  If a third party is involved, the field activity leader must make an assessment of the organisation’s health and safety suitability, in conjunction with the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Service.

11. For activities located overseas, appropriate insurance and/or health and safety documentation must be provided to the head of school/department/dean/director of service responsible for approval.

Note: Care must be taken to ensure that the University’s standards are not diluted.

If host country requirements fall below University expectations further advice should be sought from the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Service.

12. All field activity plans must include a comprehensive emergency plan that covers:

  • Emergency communication devices and procedures
  • First aiders and first aid equipment appropriate for the activity
  • Missing persons procedure
  • Emergency and survival equipment
  • Specialist training of participants to apply emergency response plan and survival

13. A pre-departure assessment must be conducted prior to undertaking any field activity. This will include, but not be limited to current conditions (including weather, environmental, cultural or political outlook) and capability of all participants (medical conditions, level of fitness, required training completed).


14. All field activity plans must be submitted at least ten working days in advance, allowing sufficient time for assessment and approval (unless exceptional circumstances apply).

15. All field activity must be approved by the head of school, head of department or an individual nominated by the Dean, responsible for the area of field activity.

16. Field activity plans for postgraduate students conducting research off campus must be submitted by the student’s main supervisor.

17. If the risk assessment identifies the activity as high risk after control measures have been applied, the field activity plan must be approved by the dean or director of service division. Expert reviewers must be consulted, if not undertaken previously.


18. All health and safety control measures and procedures identified in the field activity plan must be implemented.

19. All health and safety and emergency training needs identified in the field activity plan must be fulfilled and recorded.

20.  All participants must be provided with the appropriate information (i.e. contents of the plan) and briefed prior to the activity.

21. All participants must be provided with and use the safety or specialist personal protective clothing and equipment.

22. Field activity leaders must maintain scheduled communications with nominated contacts.

23. A ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ copy of the field activity plan, and any associated documentation, must be taken into the field so that significant changes can be recorded.

24. A ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ copy of the field activity plan is to be kept in the school/department.

25. If any participant(s) is missing or overdue, this must be reported to the school or department and to the University’s Health,
Safety and Wellbeing Service or Performance and Risk Office at the first reasonable opportunity.

26. Any incidents (including near misses) during field activity must be reported to the school or department at the first reasonable opportunity, for inclusion in health and safety reporting.

27. If a fatality, hospitalisation or serious injury/illness occurs, this must be reported to the University Health, Safety and Wellbeing Service immediately, as these are notifiable events.


28. The approved field activity plan must be reviewed following a notifiable event that occurs during the activity.

29. Where the field activity is undertaken on a cyclical basis, the approved field activity plan must be reviewed before each activity. Formal approval must be sought on an annual basis.


The following definitions apply to this document:

Field activity is any work carried out by staff or students for the purposes of teaching, research or representing the institution off-site, where facility for health and safety is not managed by other host institutions.

Examples of activity that are considered field activity:

  • Groups of staff, students and contractors who travel off campus as part of a University course of study. This includes both undergraduate and graduate classes
  • Groups of staff, students and contractors who travel off campus as part of a University research project that involves going to places other than those with existing health and safety policies and controls
  • Graduate students engaged in postgraduate research off campus.

Examples of activity that are not considered field activity:

  • Approved conference travel where participants can be expected to be responsible for their own wellbeing with University travel insurance coverage
  • Activities based at established University facilities - other aspects of the health and safety policy cover work at these places 
  • Students enrolled in other institutions as part of University Study Abroad courses or electives
  • Staff or students on off-campus placements (local or international).

Exceptional circumstances means an unforeseen or unusual event that may offer a significant research/teaching opportunity, but must be undertaken in a short timeframe, e.g. a whale stranding. In these circumstances, a field activity plan must still be prepared/adapted, and approval sought from the head of school/department/dean/director of service responsible.

Expert review is an appointed individual or group with the qualifications and experience to provide advice and support for the planning and assessment of field activity for the University.

Field activity leader is a person (academic leader for teaching and research, professional staff manager or contractor) with the authority and responsibility to make decisions on all aspects of the field activity. This term may apply to a variety of field activities e.g. taught courses, research and collaborative expeditions. The activity leader has the appropriate capability, qualifications and experience for this responsibility and has been designated this role by the dean or head of school/department. If a participant is undertaking a field activity on their own, then they are the activity leader. If the participant group is very large, a deputy field activity leader may also be appointed.

Deputy field activity leader is a person or persons to whom the activity leader delegates responsibility of a particular task or tasks during the field activity.

Field activity plan answers the why, what, where, who, and how of the activities to be undertaken, with consideration for the risk and plans for mitigation of those risks at a management level.

Notifiable event is a health and safety incident reportable to the regulator WorkSafe New Zealand. This function is undertaken by the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Service.

Participant is any person who is involved in the operation of part or all of a planned field activity. The participant may work independently on their own, without direct supervision (as an activity leader), or under direct supervision of taught undergraduate or postgraduate courses.

Risk assessment is the process of evaluating the risk(s) arising from
the hazard(s), taking into account the adequacy of any existing controls, deciding whether or not the risk(s) is acceptable, and taking further action as required.

Staff member refers to any individual employed on a full or part-time basis by the University.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

Volunteer is an authorised person to participate in the operation of part or all of a planned field activity.

Key relevant documents

Document Control
Version: 1.0
Last Updated: Dec 2019
Next Review: Dec 2022
Approver: Associate Director, Health Safety & Wellbeing