PLAYING IT SAFE: RECOGNIZING AND MINIMIZING RISK WHEN WORKING WITH STUDENTS IN THE FIELD
Medical emergencies: Carrying medical/emergency information forms for all field trip participants provides accurate information to EMTs, as well as contact information to reach a parent/guardian. Many departments now also require that faculty receive basic first aid/CPR training or take an EMT on the field trip. Some institutions require all field trip participants to show proof of medical insurance.
Contact information: A surprising number of field trips depart campus with only the field trip leader knowing the itinerary, the list of participants, and emergency contact information. Many institutions now require field trip leaders to file such information with a college office before departure and to carry a cell or satellite phone.
Vehicles and drivers: Most institutions have banned the use of 15-passenger vans, and many prohibit use of personal vehicles. Most require student drivers to be certified, some ban student drivers, and a few ban faculty drivers and require professional drivers. Some institutions require use of seat belts and set limits on how long an individual can drive in one stretch and what times of day driving is not permitted at all.
Department procedures: Some institutions require departments to adopt standard operating procedures (SOPs) specifically for field trips. In addition to issues discussed above, SOPs commonly address high wall safety, drugs and alcohol, informing students/parents of risks and responsibilities, instructing students about common field emergency situations, reporting procedures for incidents, minimum size for student field teams, designation of a second-in-command, etc.
Protecting yourself: A field trip leader may ultimately be called to court in the aftermath of an incident. If a lawyer can argue negligence, the institutions liability may not cover a resulting settlement. Prudent field trip leaders carry their own personal liability insurance.