People standing next to kayaks holding paddles.

Field safety

Assessing risk in the field

Prior to any work or research conducted in an outdoor environment a risk assessment should be completed to identify any hazards and ensure appropriate control measures are in place. A copy of the risk assessment template can be found on the EHSO page for Field Safety on the UM Intranet. If you require assistance in conducting this risk assessment, please contact us.

All work and research that takes place external to UM facilities should include a UM staff member trained in CPR/First Aid. Please see the CPR and first aid program page for more information.

If you are working alone in the field you must develop a working alone plan as per the UM Working Alone Program.

Heat stress and UV protection

Heat stress occurs when the body cannot get rid of excess heat resulting in the rise of the body’s core temperature and an elevated heart rate. The three stages of heat stress include: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke (sunstroke). Learn more about the three stages of heat stress and how to treat them.

Another hazard to consider when working outdoors, is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Exposure to UV radiation can cause sunburns, premature skin aging, eye damage and skin cancer. These negative effects can occur and accumulate even when clouds, haze or fog are in the sky, including during our winter months.

Protection from these hazards needs to be considered when conducting work or research outdoors. You can learn more about Heat Stress and UV Protection in the guidance document found on the EHSO page for Field Safety on the UM Intranet, including actions to prevent health conditions and illness caused by heat stress and UV rays.

Cold stress

When conducting work or research in cold weather conditions we can become exposed to temperature levels that can reduce our core body temperature and lead to health and safety concerns such as windburn, frostbite or hypothermia. If working outside in cold conditions, please review the guidance document on Cold Stress found on the Field Safety page on the UM Intranet.

If working within indoor cold environments such as walk-in freezers, please find information on how to work safely on the Lab Safety page on the UM Intranet.

Weather events

Thunderstorms and lightning

Thunderstorms and lightning are a common event in Manitoba and North America. While working or conducting research outdoors, be mindful of lightning and how to prevent harm from a lightning strike. If you hear thunder, it is important to know that you are within striking distance of lightning and the first step should be to take shelter in a building or vehicle. If there is no shelter near you, stay away from tall objects (trees, poles, wires, fences) and take shelter in a low-lying area (e.g., a ditch).

For more information on Lightning Safety view this Government of Canada webpage or contact EHSO.


A tornado is a violently rotating column of air stretching between cloud level and the ground. They can develop suddenly, and it is best to monitor weather conditions and alerts provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada. When a tornado is present, take shelter immediately. When inside a building ensure all doors and windows are closed and remain in the lowest floor (away from any doors and windows). If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area and cover your head to protect it from any flying debris.

For more information on Tornado Safety view this Government of Canada webpage or contact EHSO.


Flooding can occur when the volume of water in a river or stream exceeds the capacity of the channel or along lake and coastal shorelines, when higher than normal water levels inundate low-lying areas. Stay away from flooded areas and do not cross flooded areas by foot or by vehicle. Be aware that any well water within a flooded area may be contaminated and ensure to move all hazardous materials to higher ground to avoid potential environmental contamination.

For more information on actions to take before, during and after a flood view this Government of Canada webpage or contact EHSO.

If you are conducting work or research in an area prone to other inclement weather events, please contact EHSO for any additional safety information you may require.

Flora and fauna

Various plants and animals can be considered hazardous or a threat to human health and safety.

Hazardous plants

Some examples of hazardous plants include:

  • Poison ivy
  • Water hemlock
  • Nightshade

Animals that pose a risk

Some examples of animals that pose a risk include:

  • Bears
  • Snakes
  • Scorpions

Seasonal concerns

Seasonal concerns within Manitoba can include:

  • Ticks
  • Mosquitos
  • Canadian geese

If you require information on plants or animals found in your outdoor environment, please contact EHSO for any risk assessment or further assistance/information needed.

Working near roadways

The buildings and various facilities at UM campuses are adjacent to roadways. Crossing streets with vehicular traffic is part of the daily routine of employees, students and other visitors, especially at the UM Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses. Whether as a pedestrian, cyclist or motorist on roadways, please be mindful of your surroundings and courteous to all those on or crossing roads.

Tips for pedestrians

  • Look all directions and check that it is safe to cross a street before you do so.
  • Utilize crosswalks as available and push the button at a crosswalk to engage the pedestrian crossing signal (only crossing when the signal allows you to).
  • Stay alert when on or near roadways by eliminating any distractions such as electronic devices (e.g. cell phones and headphones).

Tips for cyclists

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Wear brightly coloured clothing and ride during daylight hours to ensure good visibility.
  • Ensure the bike is in good working order.
  • Get acquainted with traffic laws; bicyclists must follow the same rules as motorists.
  • Ride single-file in the same direction as traffic.
  • Remain alert, keep your head up and look around; watch for opening car doors and other hazards.
  • Use hand signals when turning and take extra care at intersections.
  • Before entering traffic, stop and look left, right, left again and over your shoulder.

Tips for motorists

When in a motor vehicle, obey all traffic rules and ensure you are focused on driving only. Make sure you are aware of and courteous to others around you. You can find many safe driving tips from both Manitoba Public Insurance and from CAA.

If you drive other motorized equipment around roadways (e.g. golf carts, etc.) please watch for pedestrians and ensure to give them the right of way on sidewalks.

Employees or students conducting research

If you are an employee or student conducting research near a roadway review the following tips for safety:

  • If possible, keep work to daylight hours. (Introduce lighting as necessary.)
  • Wear clothing in bright colours to make you more easily seen by vehicles on the road.
  • Never work with your back to the road. Always face oncoming traffic.
  • Always remain as far from the road as possible to avoid interaction with vehicles.
  • Introduce barriers between you and the roadway as feasible.
  • Ensure you remain alert to the sounds and other indicators of traffic around you to prepare for any changes to your immediate surroundings.

For assistance with safe work procedures to work near roadways, contact EHSO.

Outdoor field equipment

Tractors and other agricultural or powered mobile equipment must be properly inspected and maintained. This includes the following controls:

  • Guarding for exposed, moving parts
  • A horn or other audible device
  • Portable fire extinguishers
  • Seatbelts or restraining devices
  • Suitable headlights and back-up lights for any equipment that is operated during hours of darkness or in an area that is not adequately illuminated
  • Appropriate rollover protection

All equipment operators are expected to engage in a walk-around check before moving equipment.

Serious injuries can result from agricultural equipment running over or striking nearby workers or visitors to the farm due to poor sight lines and lack of visibility, commonly known as “blind spots," that exist on many pieces of agricultural equipment. Workers are trained to recognize blind spots on agricultural equipment and to avoid entering these areas and untrained visitors are not permitted to enter any area where agricultural equipment is operating.

Please contact EHSO for more information or help with creating Safe Work Procedures for agricultural and other powered mobile equipment.

Off-road vehicles, boats and small watercraft

An off-road vehicle (ORV) can include all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and snowmobiles. All operators and riders must wear properly fastened safety helmets unless the vehicle is equipped with rollover protection and the occupants are wearing securely fastened seat belts. An ORV handles differently from motorcycles and cars and so training on proper handling should be acquired before using one.

Contact EHSO for support in obtaining training on the use of off-road vehicles.

Regardless of the size of the boat, a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) is required when operating motorized vessels on waterways in Canada. Manitoba boat operators caught without a PCOC can be fined a minimum of $250. The PCOC can be obtained online through Transport Canada and you can access an official online course that will issue a boating license after passing the test at the end of the course.

Chemicals in the field

Chemical safety procedures must be followed in the field as well as in the lab. This includes understanding safe handling, transport, storage, disposal and spill response for the chemicals you are using to conduct work or research. This is for your health and safety as well as for the protection of the environment. Please take all precautions to avoid any chemical spills. If any chemicals are accidentally spilled while in the field contact us. This information must be provided for reporting purposes. EHSO can also assist in spill response procedures.

Travel safety

Travel safety begins at the point you start planning travel for work or research purposes. While planning your travel, review the following aspects of your trip to mitigate risk as much as possible:

  • Are you travelling alone?
  • What is your mode of travel (e.g. motor vehicle, plane, train) and what are the risks inherent to that mode of travel?
  • Are there any safety concerns specific to your destination of travel (e.g. known political unrest)?
  • Are you familiar with the laws and expectations within the country you are travelling?
  • What sleeping arrangements have been prepared?

Learn more information on International Travel Safety.

Contact us

Environmental Health and Safety
Room 191 Extended Education Complex
406 University Crescent
University of Manitoba (Fort Garry campus)
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada

P310 Pathology Building
770 Bannatyne Avenue
University of Manitoba (Bannatyne Campus)