School of Health Care Sciences
Fieldwork Lone Worker Policy
These guidelines outline the necessary steps to be taken for the safe management of fieldwork
activities which involve a lone worker.
This document should be read in conjunction with Social Research Association Code of
Practice for the Safety of Social Researchers.
Fieldwork is defined as practical work carried out by staff or students of the University for the
purpose of teaching and/or research in places which are not under University control.
In the context of research, it is the Director of CfHRR and the Management Board’s
responsibility to put in place policies and procedures to minimize risk concerning all aspects
of fieldwork. A risk assessment of planned fieldwork activities must be made using a
systematic approach and appropriate methodology; from which an individually tailored
system of working that minimises risk must be established. It is the Principal investigator,
research supervisor or course director’s responsibility to ensure that a risk assessment has
been undertaken and documented for each episode of fieldwork. Employees and students
must take reasonable care for their own safety and those affected by their acts or omissions.
Students who undertake research as part of a degree should agree their approach to managing
risk with their supervisor, in accordance with best practice highlighted in this policy. The
agreed approach should be documented and placed in the student record, and a copy retained
by the student.
A risk assessment using an appropriate methodology should be completed for every research
project undertaken in the school. The risk assessment should identify all hazards associated
with the planned work and document an assessment of the risks that these hazards present
under particular circumstances. It should take into account the nature of the work, the hostility
and nature of the site and the experience of the worker(s). The assessment should be reviewed
regularly by the fieldwork and the designated research supervisor or principal investigator.
Contingency planning for reasonably foreseeable emergencies must be made. This may
Provision of adequate emergency equipment (e.g. personal safety alarms, torches)
Means of summoning help (e.g. mobile phone)
Liaison with police and emergency services
It is the responsibility of the supervisor of students or the principal investigator concerning
funded research to satisfy themselves that an appropriate and feasible plan of action is in
place before the fieldwork commences. When the risk assessment and plan of action is
completed, commencement of the work should be officially authorised. It is the responsibility
of the research supervisor to authorise commencement of a student’s research; and the
CfHRR management board to authorise commencement of funded research. A copy of the
plan should be placed in the appropriate student/project files, and copies circulated to
Reporting Untoward Incidents
All untoward incidents that occur during the course of research, teaching or learning should
be documented and reported to the principal investigator, research supervisor, or course
director; who should take appropriate action. A template for documenting an untoward
incident can be found in Appendix 1.
Lone working should be avoided if possible although it is not always reasonably practicable
to avoid it. Lone working should only be undertaken after a thorough assessment of the risks
has been completed.
In preparing for fieldwork it is essential that the student and supervisor or principal
investigator and research team produce a safety protocol and a protocol for maintaining
contact, to ensure that all relevant issues are considered prior to each episode of fieldwork;
examples can be found in Appendix 2 and 3.
Issues of safety will inevitably vary according to who is undertaking the fieldwork and where
the fieldwork is being carried out (see Paterson et al 1999). Before leaving to commence
fieldwork the worker must put in place an individually tailored communication plan that
outlines the procedure for monitoring their whereabouts during a fieldwork episode. This
should include a named back-up person and their exact role in monitoring the fieldwork
episode, the named person(s) visited, the destination and any known contact numbers, the
nature of the work and an estimated time of return. The lone worker should advise the named
back-up person when the visit or fieldwork episode is complete. The method of
communication and the likely timeframe should be agreed before the commencement of
Depending on the circumstances, a back-up person may be a member of staff or if appropriate
a relative or person named by the fieldworker as having agreed to take on the role.
The scope of activities which may be undertaken alone should be identified by the department
and supervisory plans should be planned for the following:
checking in procedures,
emergency plan if lone worker fails to check in,
training and experience necessary to work alone.
Where possible lone workers must ensure that their daily itineraries are known in their usual
places of employment and if appropriate by their families. .
Preventative measures should be put in place to avoid human hazard. These might include:
Pre-visit appointments and checks
Ensure vehicles are locked
Carrying personal alarms
Carrying mobile phone
Training in dealing with aggression by non violent means
Monitoring and reporting systems
Regular planned reporting back
This policy should next be reviewed in November 2007.
Dutton, M. A., Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Jouriles, E., McDonarld, R., Krishnan, S., McFarlane,
J., & Sullivan, C. (2003). Recruitment and Retention in Intimate Partner Violence Research.
US Department of Justice. Document No NCJ 201943).
Paterson B, Gregory D. and Thorne S. (1999) A protocol for Researcher Safety. Qualitative
Health Research 9(2) 259-269.
SRA Code of Professional practice for the safety of Social Researchers.
Example of Untoward Incident Report Form
Grwp Thema Iaith a Chyfathrebu ac Ymwybyddiaeth o Ddiwylliant (IeCHYD) /
Language, Communication and Cultural Awareness
Canolfan Ymchwil Gysylltiedig ag Iechyd / Centre for Health Related Research
Ffurflen Cofnodi Digwyddiad / Incident Report Form
Lleoliad / Location
Unigolion a oedd yn bresennol/ Individuals
Datganiad byr am y digwyddiad/ Brief
statement about the incident
Llofnod yr Ymchwilydd/ Signature of Llofnod arweinydd y tîm/ Signature of team leader:
Enw/Name: _________________________ Enw/Name: _____________________________________
Y ffurflen i’w ddychwelyd at Cydlynydd y prosiect/ Form to be returned to Project Coordinator.
Example Safety Protocol
Face to Face Interviews
1. Carry a mobile phone on your person
2. Ensure arrangements for maintaining contact are agreed prior to commencing
fieldwork (see below)
3. Maintain constant vigilance of surroundings
4. If a situation feels uncomfortable or unsafe, for example, there is yelling or
intoxicated persons present, leave immediately
5. Make an effort to do face to face interviews during daylight hours
6. Park the car in a well lighted area
7. Wear sensible attire (with minimal jewellery)
8. Do not have anything of value (that is not necessary) on your person or on
view in the car
9. Try to be noticed by neighbours/shop keepers without breaking confidentiality
10. Maintain the demeanour of an invited guest when conducting interviews in
(* based on protocol by Judith McFarlane, cited in Dutton, M. A., Holtzworth-
Munroe, A., Jouriles, E., McDonarld, R., Krishnan, S., McFarlane, J., & Sullivan, C.
(2003). Recruitment and Retention in Intimate Partner Violence Research. US
Department of Justice. Document No NCJ 201943).
Example Protocol for Maintaining Contact
Researcher to send text message to the agreed contact person when entering
Researcher to phone the agreed contact person when safely out of the research
Researcher to send text message to the agreed contact person on reaching final
destination for the day.
Agreed contact person to telephone researcher n hours after entering research
site if no contact has been made by researcher.
If no response, agreed contact person should call research site to check if
researcher has left.
If the researcher is still at research site, agreed contact person must speak to
If researcher has left the research site, agreed contact person must speak to
local police to ask for any reports of road traffic accidents (RTAs).
If no report of RTAs, agreed contact person must telephone local hospital for
reports of emergency admissions
If he/she fails to establish contact with researcher, agreed contact person must
telephone next of kin of researcher and inform them of the situation.
If no contact made with researcher, agreed contact person must telephone
University security service to put crisis escalation procedure in place
If no contact made with researcher, agreed contact person must telephone
Head of Department to share worries.
Example of a project risk assessment template: Commissioning Children’s palliative Care Services
Descriptor Risk to project Likelihood Impact on Actions taken by University to mitigate risk
Project objectives Budget Low High Realistic/feasible research plan and timescales
deficit/slippage of developed. Peer review of proposal
project/failure to meet Research plan matched against actual personnel and
primary outcomes resource requirements.
Research plan costed appropriately and checked by
PI and research team experienced at project
Contingency plans in place to cover potential
sickness/absence of PI/researchers
Research staffing Insufficient Very low High Senior research team in place matched against
and competence knowledge/skills to requirements of research plan. Research Governance
complete research plan Framework in place. Action learning sets in place
Mental health of Distress due to Moderate High Four out of five fieldworkers are experienced and
researchers emotional demands highly trained personnel already working in this field of
child health. Appropriate model of supervision and
support built into research plan.
Lone working in Potential risk of harm Moderate High Lone working policy– modus operandi, mobile phones
community to researchers and contact policy in place.
Supervision and support of researchers, including
debriefing following interviews.
Child protection Risk of harm or Moderate High Child protection procedures in place in clinical settings
identification of risk – line of reporting established.
of harm to children Research staff require evidence of Criminal Records
Bureau check/clearance to work with children. Child
protections issues integral part of
Recruitment Insufficient Moderate High Key NHS managers are project partners/co-applicants.
Research implementation supported by leading
children’s charities and parents.
Realistic recruitment goals set.
Regular monitoring will be undertaken and early
warning system put in place.
If necessary contingency in place to work with more
children’s palliative care teams
For internet recruitment – reminders will be placed on
charity websites and in newsletters
Negative Withdrawal of Low Med Strong partnerships developed with parents/leading
participant children and families children’s charities
experience from study Child and family-focused participatory design which
appeals to families
Young person and parent representation on steering
group to ensure research is relevant.
Child and family-focused information sheets and
Engagement with children and their families as partners
in the research process.
Negative project Withdrawal of project Low Med Established collaborative relationships already in place
partner partners from study Project partners have vested interest in study
experience (time/effort etc).
PI experienced in managing such collaborations.
Centre for Health-Related Research
DETAILED LONE WORKING RISK ASSESSMENT AND AGREED ACTION PLAN
Name of lone worker: Project:
Name of supervisor/principal investigator
Description of each episode of Description of risk to Likelihood Impact on lone Existing controls (policies and Further actions required to tailor control Signed
fieldwork lone worker worker safety procedures in place) measures to each specific episode of lone Lone worker
High/Med/Low working Supervisor/PI