notes 2 - reducing
risks on field trips
Using the environment for educational
purposes is a well established practice, but the teacher or group
leader has special responsibilities as regards safety, respect for
the interests of others and the conservation of the areas used.
This sheet is an introduction only and does not replace any guidelines
provided by your school, the Local Education Authority or your group
organisation. The following sources give more details:
• Organisation of Outdoor Studies and Visits from National
Association for Environmental Education
• Safety in Outdoor Education Department of Education and
Science, available from HMSO
• Education on National Nature Reserves: advice to group leaders
from the Nature Conservancy Council
• County guidelines available from the education office
• Outdoor studies or environmental education adviser
• Special requirements given by your organisation if you are
not a school group
• The local contacts mentioned in the CD
Proper planning, including a visit beforehand,
good supervision and clear insructions for the group will ensure that
there is little chance of any unforeseen incident occurring. Remember,
the main purposes of fieldwork are to inspire, learn, do, experience
and contemplate. Fieldwork should not be confused with outdoor activities
that offer a physical challenge. There are unlikely to be any very
hazardous situations to deal with, but leaders cannot afford to be
complacent, especially when working in water environments. So:
• Visit the site beforehand to identify any potential problems
• Check the insurance requirements and any special safety procedures
required by the school, Local Education Authority or group organisation
• Check if you need parental permission for the study
• Discuss the project with the group carefully and agree the
standards of work and behaviour expected
• Ensure that the group comes properly clothed for the activity
and the time of year. They should all bring dry socks and shoes to
change into and a towel (see T4
Teachers Notes - Organising Mini-beast
• Take a First Aid Kit to cope with any minor accidents and
someone who knows how to use it
• Leave details of the fieldwork excursion with an appropriate
person. Inform them when you leave and tell them when you expect to
• At the site group members should work in pairs or small groups.
A ratio of adults to young people of 1:15 is normal, but check the
requirements to be sure. You may feel happier if there is one adult
attached to each sampling group
• Check the depth of any water before venturing into it. Avoid
steep banks, turbulent water, soft mud and places where it is impossible
to see the bottom. Avoid swollen rivers or streams (see T3
Teachers Notes - Safety First)
• Stay close to the bank
• Weils Disease - see Safety Extra! Below
• If in doubt, stay out!
• Report your return
N.B. Schools and other
organisations must be responsible for their own insurance.
WEILS DISEASE : WATER-BASED OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Attention is drawn to this disease which has received recent publicity.
Weils disease is a bacterial infection carried in rats' urine which
contaminates water and wet river banks. The bacteria does not survive
for long in dry conditions. It can occur in any water, including
swift streams and rivers, but the likelihood of becoming infected
is greater from stagnant or slow-moving waterways. The disease itself
is relatively rare, thus overall risk of contracting it is small.
However, it can be a serious illness requiring hospital treatment
and can lead to kidney or liver failure, and so it is important
that all reasonable precautions to avoid infection should be taken.
Pupils who have engaged in water-based activities who fall ill with
the symptoms, particularly from three to nineteen days following,
should be urged to see their doctor immediately. The most common
symptoms are a temperature, a flu-like illness and joint and muscle
pains. The individual should inform his/her doctor of the activities
in which he/she has been involved.
The following action is therefore
1. Activities where children are
repeatedly immersed in stagnant or slow-moving water, should be
2. Washing or showering after water-based
activities is desirable
3. Minor scratches on exposed parts
of the body should be covered with waterproof plasters. Any cuts
or grazes sustained during activities in water should be immediately
disinfected and covered by a waterproof plaster before re-exposure
to the water (using disinfectant and dressings which must be taken
to the activity site by the supervisor)
4. Footwear should be worn to avoid
5. If staff or pupils develop a
flu-like illness after water-based outdoor activities, they should
consult their GP as early as possible
The precautionary measures detailed above will reduce the risk of
infection to a degree where it is entirely acceptable.
General Health & Safety Guidelines
The following information has been compiled for
teachers in preparation for field visits to rivers, streams, lakes
and ponds as part of the Westcountry Rivers Trust education programme.
Field trips are safe and fun, but it is important
that teachers/group leaders read this information before a visit,
and pass on information to pupils.
Pupils remain in the care of the teacher during
the visit. Pupils should also be aware that they have a responsibility
to follow instructions to ensure their safety and the safety of
those around them. We recommend that valuable belongings are not
taken on visits, all materials should be provided, but bags containing
packed lunch can be taken when necessary.
Health & Safety
The teacher or group leader should give a brief
health and safety reminder before the fieldwork activities begin.
It is assumed that teachers have gained parental
consent for all pupils attending a fieldtrip session prior to the
visit and that teachers are aware of any special medical needs of
individuals in the group.
The teacher should hold contact details concerning
the nearest doctor, hospital and pharmacy to the site visited, in
case of emergency.
In the event of a fire the class should
follow the teacher to the nearest point of safety. Lighting
fires is not a part of the activities. Matches/lighters etc.
should not be brought on the walk.
Activities are carried out near rivers,
streams, lakes and ponds. Pupils should follow instructions
carefully and not attempt to enter the water.
On some occasions pupils will need to
sample rivers, streams, lakes or ponds for water life. When
appropriate pupils may have the opportunity to enter small,
slow moving streams and rivers to collect scuffle samples.
This is only carried where it is safe to do so and not when
there is a risk of the river being in spate.
|Take great care when getting into/out vehicles and on roads,
keep to paths
Slips and falls
Wear strong footwear with a good grip.
Pupils are not required to walk on steep sloping riverbanks.
Extra care should be taken after rainfall. On some sites pathways
may not be distinct, everyone should take extra care where
there are tree roots and uneven ground along a route.
|Wear a hat and plenty of sun screen. Drink plenty of water
and advise the leader/teacher if you are thirsty
Bring warm clothing suitable for outdoor
activities (coats, wellies/boots, shower proof clothing).
If someone gets cold tell the leader and get warmed up. Pupils
should wear trousers and not shorts for visits.
|It is advisable to leave animals alone. In areas of open access
dog mess is a potential problem that pupils should be aware
Pupils and accompanying adults should
let the group leader know if they have a condition that could
affect their health and well being on the visit.
Areas Some fieldtrips will take place
in areas where there is open access for the general public.
Pupils should be aware of, and respect other walkers or cyclists
also using the footpath or bridle way. Pupils should follow
instructions and not stray from the group. Teachers should
be aware of issues relating to pupils’ personal safety
in open access areas.