New safety procedure for field work – risk assessments, a few words on flossing and spreading information

Last changed: 08 May 2024
Field workers walking with equipment in a sparse forest. Photo.

Now that May has arrived across the country, many of us at the faculty are spending time out in the field. SLU’s most important asset is its staff. Without you, the university would consist only of a (admittedly quite large) pile of paper and computers. Your safety is our top priority.

To prevent and, as much as possible, avoid accidents during fieldwork, I have developed, together with the field supervisors in your departments, safety procedures for fieldwork at the Faculty of Forest Sciences. The document is available in English and Swedish, and all staff doing field work are required to read it. I say required because what's stated in it is so important. By following the procedure, you reduce risks and show care for both yourself and your colleagues when you're out in the field.

In the procedure, we emphasise the importance of conducting a risk assessment before fieldwork. Conducting a risk assessment may sound a bit bureaucratic, and it can be challenging to establish it as part of your routine. It's a bit like dental flossing – I know it's really good for me and will prevent problems at the dentist, yet, it's incredibly difficult for me to include it in my daily brushing and do it as often as I should.

If, like me, you struggle to establish this routine, let me try to strengthen your motivation by emphasising how important this step is – because it is. In fact, risk assessments are among the most important things you can do to enhance safety and prevent serious accidents at work. If you're prepared and have conducted a risk assessment, you and your colleagues have a better chance of handling risky situations well.

Simply put, a risk assessment involves considering the risks associated with your fieldwork during the planning phase, as well as how to address these risks. A common risky aspect of fieldwork is crossing watercourses. If you and your colleagues need to do so as part of fieldwork, you have identified a risk. The next step is to plan how to do this as safely as possible. Measures to manage this risk may include ensuring you bring extra clothes and store your phone in something waterproof. Two other possible measures are ensuring that you cross the watercourse one by one and that everyone knows where the car is parked and who has the car keys. Another scenario that should be discussed is what to do if a colleague falls into the water.

It's not always the case that there are several people out in the field who can help each other. Working alone means more risks, and for those situations, you need to pay extra attention to safety and take additional measures. Read more about this in the safety procedures.

Also, it's not just SLU fieldworkers who are out in the woods and fields. We all find ourselves in nature at some point, and therefore, I urge everyone at the faculty to familiarise themselves with the safety procedure to enhance your own and everyone else's safety. Some suggestions may seem obvious or even trivial, but when we work outdoors, we need to identify the risky moments in advance. I encourage all of you to make these preparations for your own and your colleagues' safety.

Find out what’s on at the staff web

Spreading information is a challenge – how can we best make sure everyone finds out what’s going on at our campuses, our faculty, SLU and in the world in general? The need for information is huge, and it grows when we want to include as many colleagues as possible. As an SLU employee, you are also responsible for finding the information you need to do your job. A lot of information comes through newsletters, emails, department meetings and workplace gatherings. Large volumes of information flow to all of us in our daily work, and it can be difficult to sift through the influx.

Faculty management is currently looking at how we can best use our information channels. One challenge is being careful about what to send, when, how often and to whom. If we don’t do this well we risk developing ‘information resistance’, where the influx is just too big to take in.

One way to stay updated on what's happening is to regularly visit the staff web and the faculty's web pages. There, you'll always find news, calendar events and other important information.

In a large and geographically dispersed organisation like ours, information dissemination will likely always be a challenge. Therefore, remember to actively seek information through the news and calendar posts on the staff web and from your line manager.

Pernilla Christensen, deputy dean


Pernilla Christensen, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Forest Sciences. Analyst
Department of Forest Resource Management/Division of Landscape Analysis, SLU, 090-786 85 27, 070-633 73 86