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Field Safety Guidelines


Some laboratory courses at UHD are field based courses.  Some research projects are also field based.  In these cases it is important that field safety guidelines are followed. 



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Activities to be Conducted Before Leaving for the Field Site

Considerations Prior to Leaving

  • Learn about potentially hazardous plants, animals, terrain, and weather conditions in the areas where field work will take place.  This information can usually be obtained from sources such as state/national park websites, local collaborators, local residents, etc.
  • Assemble safety provisions such as first aid kit and first aid manual (see below for recommendations), medications, allergy treatments and vehicle emergency kits.
  • Try to recruit helpers.  Using the “buddy” system in field work will greatly increase your safety.
  • Ask your health insurance provider about coverage in the area you will be working.

Assemble a First Aid Kit and Medical Information

  • A first aid kit should be taken on any off-campus field trip.
  • A list of nearby hospitals should be obtained and taken into the field.
  • The first aid kit should include the following: bandages, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic swabs, mosquito repellant, medications (e.g. acetaminophen, aspirin, antihistamines) and sunscreen.


  • Every faculty member and student planning to travel to the field must have completed all necessary travel arrangements in NS.  All approved drivers should have a valid driver’s license and insurance information should be provided in vehicles.
  • All vehicles should be equipped with working seat belts and mirrors and any other safety equipment/features required by law.


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Dealing with Potential Pests in the Field

A variety of pests might be encountered in field work.  Below are guidelines to minimize encounters with harmful pests.

  • Keep garbage in rodent-proof containers and stored away from your campsite or work area. 
  • Shake all clothing and bedding before use.
  • Do not set up camp near animal nests/dens.
  • Look for pests before touching areas where they might live (wood piles, crevices).
  • Avoid contact with sick or dead animals unless properly trained on how to handle them.
  • Clothes with a tight weave should be worn and pant legs should be tucked into boots
  • Use insect repellant.
  • If bitten by a poisonous animal, seek medical treatment immediately.
  • Educate yourself on local pests and poisonous animals/plants before leaving.


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Potentially Hazardous Animals and Plants

There are several species of poisonous or harmful plants and animals in Texas.  Below is a summary of many of the common species likely to be encountered near Houston.  If traveling outside of Houston or Texas, you should research other species you are likely to encounter at your destination.

  • Spiders: black widows and brown recluses are poisonous.  They can be found in shady, protected areas such as rock piles, under logs, outhouses and old buildings.  The bite of these species will cause sweating, nausea, muscle cramps, fever and chills.
  • Scorpions: these animals are usually active at night.  Many are known to venture into campsites to feed on bugs attracted by light.  They can be found in lumber piles, firewood, or old tree stumps.  The sting is painful and can even be deadly.
  • Bees and wasps: some species can be attracted by scents or food.  They can inflict stings that can cause serious allergic reactions in some people.
  • Ticks: the bites of ticks can spread diseases.  To avoid ticks, wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible.  Avoid brushing up against vegetation when possible.  Always check yourself for ticks at the end of the day.
  • Centipedes: these can be found under boards, in cracks and crevices and moist locations.  They typically emerge at night.  They can inflict a painful bite but it is not typically harmful.
  • Snakes: there are several species of venomous snakes in Texas.  To avoid most snakes, walk in open areas and do not put your hands under boards or in crevices where you cannot visually determine that there are no snakes present.  If bitten by a poisonous snake, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Poison oak and poison ivy:  learn to identify these plants.  They are very common problems in Texas and many people have an allergy to them.  To prevent exposure, wear long pants and long sleeves.  If exposure is suspected, wash the area with cold water and soap.


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Potential Diseases​

Exposure to certain pathogens is possible during field work.  Below is a list of possible diseases that can be encountered and how to prevent them.

  • Tetanus: puncture wounds, lacerations or burns can create a pathway for exposure to tetanus.  Field workers should be sure their tetanus boosters are up to date and should treat wounds to prevent tetanus.
  • Rabies: several species are known to transmit rabies in Texas.  Bites from infected animals can transmit this disease to humans.  To prevent exposure, avoid contact with wild animals, particularly sick or dead ones.  If your field work involves risk of being bitten by animals, you should consider getting immunized against rabies before the field work begins.  If bitten by an animal, seek medical attention immediately, even if you have been immunized.


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Last updated 10/20/2020 4:03 AM