Keep yourself and your colleagues safe, at the site or in the lab!
Performing work in a safe manner is important to all. We encourage site teams to organize discussions about workplace safety and promoting safe practices, especially for field activities and laboratory work. Formalizing and preparing site safety plans is an excellent way to describe the work, acknowledge hazards, develop controls or mitigating measures, and prepare for an emergency.
The AmeriFlux Resource for Inclusive and Safe Fieldwork goes over the Why? What? and How? of developing a plan that addresses physical and psychological safety in the field. An example template for a site safety plan is provided as a starting point and reference. The University of California also published a comprehensive guide to field work safety (including example fieldwork safety plans). If you know of other helpful resources, please share them with us.
Due to the wide variety of work performed in the Network, site safety plans should be unique and tailored to the conditions at each site. In preparing for a site safety plan, here are some considerations:
- Define work
- Identify and analyze hazards
- Control measures to minimize hazards and impacts
- Emergency response
Safety planning is never complete. They should be reviewed regularly, especially if the work has changed. If you have feedback, comments, or concerns, please contact the AmeriFlux Tech Team.
A detailed description of the work tasks and duties to be performed. This should include names of all individuals performing the work, supervisors/managers, and relevant contact information. The work location(s) should be clearly identified so that someone unfamiliar with the work can find the area. Names and contacts of appropriate land managers/owners should be included.
Knowing what to prepare for and what to anticipate is the first step in developing safe work practices. Below are some hazards that may be relevant at AmeriFlux sites but it is not meant to be comprehensive.
- Heat stress and sun exposure
- Ice, snow, low temperatures, and hypothermia
- Extreme events and weather (e.g., flash floods, tornados, earthquakes)
- Insects (stinging and disease carrying)
- Venomous snakes
- Poison oak or ivy
- Bears, mountain lions, alligators…
- Cryogens (liquid nitrogen)
- Battery acid
- Compressed gas cylinders for calibrations
- Solar panel systems (high voltage or current)
- Driving is often the most dangerous aspect of field work
- This includes transport of hazardous material to work sites (e.g., cylinders, batteries, chemicals)
- Ensure vehicles are properly maintained, insured, and licensed
- Off-road and winter driving
- Navigation errors (getting lost)
- Moving large/heavy objects (e.g., gas cylinders, batteries)
- Foot travel of uneven terrain
- Ergonomic (e.g., repetitive tasks, poor/awkward positioning)
Working at height:
- Hazards associated with working at height are often compounded when other hazards are also present (heat stress, fatigue, poor weather, etc)
- Falling objects
- Threats from outside your team (hunters, trespassers, etc)
- Inappropriate actions from a team member (psychological/emotional safety)
Controls and mitigating measures
Where possible, steps to eliminate or minimize hazards should be taken. When developing controls for safe work place practices, site staff should also be aware of local, state, and federal laws or standards regarding workplace safety. This includes contacting your employer’s health and safety professionals for specific guidance. Some examples and recommended controls are discussed below:
- Conducting a daily briefing at the start of work is an excellent way to reinforce safe work practices. These meetings should cover the work goals, summarize the weather forecast, review emergency procedures, and discuss any safety related hazards or concerns.
- Have a means of communicating and consider backup measures. Do cellular phones work at the work site? Satellite phones or personal locator beacons (PLB) may be required.
- Wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) can be another control measure. This may include choices of footwear, clothing, and eye wear.
- Consider enrolling in training in basic first aid and CPR for individuals conducting remote field work. Many organizations offer these courses including the Red Cross. Depending on the site, a course in wilderness first aid may also be beneficial.
- Have fire extinguishers and first air supplies available. This includes at field sites and in vehicles.
- For individuals working at height, proper training for tower climbing and rescue can greatly assist in learning proper climbing technique and safety measures. The AmeriFlux Tech Team has enrolled in tower climber and rescue courses offered by Gravitec and Comtrain. These are commercial firms offering multi-day classroom and hands-on tower climber and rescue training. Workers at height should have appropriate PPE which includes full body harnesses, helmets, and lanyards attached to appropriate anchors. Tool lanyards are recommended. Helmets should worn by workers on the ground when fall hazards are present.
- Transport of hazardous materials in vehicles should comply with state and national Department of Transportation guidelines (proper labeling, securing, secondary containment, etc). LBNL has some guidelines available here but we encourage sites to discuss with your workplace health and safety professionals.
LBNL online training:
LBNL’s Environmental Health and Safety Division offers all of its online safety courses to the public. We highly recommend these specific online safety courses to AmeriFlux site staffers, but feel free to explore others:
- EHS0348: Chemical Hygiene and Safety
EHS0075: Heat Stress
EHS0171: Pressure Safety
- EHS0103: Gas Cylinder Safety
EHS0278: Ladder Safety Training
When you complete these courses, you can receive confirmation via email notification. To take advantage of this, enter your name and email address when prompted. You may be prompted either at the beginning or at the end of the course. If you see a screen prompting for LDAP login, select the option for non-LDAP. These courses are created for LBNL staff and facilities, so use common sense to apply to your work environment.
Site teams should discuss and prepare for emergency situations. Points to consider may include:
- Identifying the emergency first responders and contact information (911, law enforcement, fire department, EMS, land manager, search and rescue)
- For remote sites, consider contacting local emergency responders to share relevant information and location details so they are aware. Share relevant site access considerations and directions.
- For tower work, contact local emergency responders and inform them of these activities. Ask about high angle rescue and appropriate contacts in the case of tower emergencies.
- Emergency contact information for all site staff
- Location (and directions) to nearest hospital or clinic
- Evacuation routes (primary and backup) including emergency meeting area
- Primary and backup communication method (land-line phones, radios, cellular, satellite, PLB, etc)
- Location of first aid supplies and fire extinguishers