Introduction to Field Safety Leadership

Kevin M. Bohacs

This field safety program is straightforward, widely applicable, and scalable to a wide range of field activities, from short roadside stops to long, backcountry expeditions.


Learn how to prepare for, conduct, and document safe and effective field activities involving students (field camps) and/or local inhabitants (Geoscientists without Borders) by following SEG guidelines and generally accepted health, safety, security, and environmental (HSSE) practices. Learning activities include pre-course reading, quiz, and videos along with a live session of short lectures, discussions, and team problem-solving and application of concepts taught.


Review of pre-course reading and videos and responding to the pre-course questionnaire takes about 2.5 hours. The course is divided into two four-hour sessions, over two adjacent days.

Intended Audience


Prerequisites (Knowledge/Experience/Education required)

Familiarity with objectives, organization, and activities of geophysical field camps. Designed for those with a wide range of experience with HSSE programs.

Who should attend?

University staff, teaching assistants, and faculty members who plan, lead, support, and teach field camps. Graduate and undergraduate students who participate in and support field camps and take leadership roles sometimes.

Course Outline

This field safety program is straightforward, widely applicable, and scalable to a wide range of field activities, from short roadside stops to long, backcountry expeditions. The student will become familiar with proven-effective strategies and tactics to prepare for and lead safe and effective field activities. The course covers how to evaluate the range of risks encountered in the field, quantitative analysis of injuries and illnesses that commonly occur during field activities, why accidents happen (human factors analysis), and the field safety process in normal operations and emergency response through pre-course reading and videos, scenario analysis, and problem-solving. Participants will practice using field safety training materials and modules designed for field camp students and suitable for use in field methods classes; they will also begin the process of customizing the field safety process for their field programs.

In this class you will learn about:

  • How people get hurt during field activities
  • Why do people get hurt (including human factors)
  • Field HSSE process – Planning, Communication, Prevention & Mitigation:
    • Hazard identification, safety planning, & communication to participants
    • Risk Assessment, Safe Work Practices, Standard Operating Procedures, & Emergency Response
    • Roles & responsibilities of Field Activity staff and participants
    • Effective safety leadership, communications, group evaluation, & interventions
    • An effective response to field emergencies

Learner Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Construct a plan for incorporating HSSE practices into the conduct of a geophysical field camp or project, and execute the plan in the field with appropriate risk assessment and emergency response planning and training for participants.
  2. List the key components of a field HSSE plan. Explain how to develop an effective HSSE Plan document and align field-activity participants to the plan (pre-activity communications and acknowledgment, briefings, solicit feedback, make interventions).
  3. List the most common illnesses and injuries encountered during geoscience activities in the field.
  4. Discuss why participants get hurt (illness and injury) during field activities (human factors) and how to use that understanding to plan and conduct safe activities.
  5. Explain how to conduct an effective risk assessment for your planned field activities.
    1. Identify hazards that are of particular significance for geophysical survey activities.
    2. Describe additional risk factors that arise from involving students, local inhabitants, or participants with various native languages or cultures in geophysical field activities. Incorporate those factors into an HSSE plan and how activities are conducted.
  6. Analyze a field situation to identify serious hazards and significant risks.
  7. List key prevention and mitigation measures to be taken on your field activities and how these measures are communicated with participants. Make use of the risk management and safety resources of such organizations as SEG, IOGP, and IAGC applicable to your field activities.  
  8. Explain how to respond to an emergency in the field. List the key components of an Emergency Response Plan.

Instructor Biography

Kevin M. Bohacs