Field Health and Safety Plan

To be sure you are in compliance with regulatory requirements, refer to the EHS Virtual Manual and EHS Safe Operating Procedures.


The purpose of a health and safety plan is to provide a means for minimizing accidents and injuries that may occur at a specific location or while working on a specific project, and to communicate to all involved what safety procedures are to be followed. Research site locations and histories vary across the state and from project to project. Each site will be thoroughly investigated and its history documented. All pertinent information about safe working conditions will be documented in a work plan or field safety plan and discussed in health and safety meetings. Constant attention will be given to protecting on-site personnel from the potential physical and chemical hazards that could be encountered during the investigation. The evaluation of potential hazards is based on site histories containing information generated during previous field investigations conducted at the site and other similar sites. The physical hazards that could be encountered during the field activities described above include:

  • Noise exposure
  • Climbing hazards
  • Heat stress
  • Cold injury
  • Other weather-related stress
  • Lacerations and contusions
  • Lifting hazards
  • Underground utilities
  • Electrical Hazards
  • Confined spaces
  • Operating heavy equipment and Drilling
  • Vehicle hazards
  • Chemical hazards
    • Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Decontamination Procedures

Field health and safety plans describes procedures and actions to be taken by SNR personnel to ensure the safety and health of workers and the general public during field investigations. Elements are based on requirements described in the OSHA Guidance Manual for Hazardous Waste Site Activities (October 1985) and the final (March 1989) OSHA rules (29 CFR Part 1910). All reasonable precautions will be taken to ensure the safety and health of workers and the general public.

A field health and safety officer will be designated from among project or field personnel before initiating field activities; he/she will have received/completed UNL Injury and Illness Prevention Program prior to field work. Depending on the project requirements, the following additional training will be conducted before initiation of field activities at a site:

  • Hazardous Waste Site Investigation Training Program
  • Red Cross Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Training (CPR)
  • Red Cross Basic (or Advanced) First Aid Training
  • Respiratory Protection Training
  • Air Monitoring Equipment Training

The field safety manager/officer shall develop, implement, monitor, and enforce the field health and safety plan. The site health and safety officer has the option to implement requirements in addition to those described herein on a case-by-case basis. Should an unforeseen or site-specific safety-related factor, hazard, or condition become evident during the field work, the safety officer will take action to reestablish safe working conditions and to safeguard site personnel and the environment. The site health and safety officer will immediately contact the project investigator and update him/her on the current situation and alternatives.

Noise Exposure

Employees may be exposed to excessive noise levels during the operation of some field equipment. Ear protection approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for sound levels exceeding 85 dba must be worn when excessive noise is evident. Hearing protection also should be available during all field activities.

Climbing Hazards

In the course of field activity, it may become necessary to work on equipment by climbing on the vehicles or climbing over inclines, mounds, or other obstacles to attain access to some areas. Fall protection is required when working in areas that are more than 4 feet higher than the next lower level. The employee will ensure that climbing activities will conform to any applicable EHS and OSHA requirements. Unnecessary risks should not be taken.

Heat Stress

In the event that work activities take place outdoors during periods of high temperature or in high temperature environments, or require protective clothing that can cause or contribute to heat stress, employees should monitor themselves and each other for signs of heat stress. Employees should take proper precautions, including consumption of additional fluids and frequent breaks to forestall the onset of heat stress or more serious conditions. Work and break schedules should be set depending on the work load and the outside temperature.

Generally, workers conducting field activities in protective clothing need a break in the shade at least 10 minutes out of every hour during elevated temperatures. Rest time should also include fluid replacement with electrolytes. It is the responsibility of the site supervisors to provide appropriate liquids for drinking and, during hot weather, to encourage employees to drink more than the amount required to satisfy thirst. Also, during hot weather, rest periods will be provided as needed to allow personnel to cool down. These breaks will be taken in a shaded area or inside a building with air conditioning, if possible, and employees should remove protective clothing.

Heat stress is most likely to occur if heavy work is performed under high air temperatures, particularly when protective clothing inhibits the body’s ability to cool itself. Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur.

Heat exhaustion is less severe than heat stroke. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include pale and moist skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. The symptoms of life-threatening heat stroke are hot, red skin, very small pupils, very high body temperature, and a cessation of sweating.

Cold lnjury

Prolonged exposure to excessive cold or wet conditions can cause excessive loss of body heat (hypothermia) and/or frostbite. Employees working in these conditions should be properly outfitted with warm and/or water proof/resistant clothing and proper footwear. Employees should be monitored for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. At the outset of signs of either, proper steps should be taken to see that the affected person gets proper attention. Persons working outdoors in temperatures at or below freezing can experience two types of cold weather-related injuries: frostbite and hypothermia. Ambient air temperature and the velocity of the wind are the two factors that influence the development of a cold weather-related injury.

Frostbite is a cold weather-related stress. Areas of the body having high surface-area-to-volume ratios, such as fingers, toes, and ears, are most susceptible to frostbite. Frostbite of the extremities can be categorized into three types:

  • Frost nip or incipient frostbite, which is characterized by skin blanching or whitening
  • Superficial frostbite, in which the skin has a waxy or white appearance and is firm to the touch but the tissue beneath is resilient
  • Deep frostbite, an extremely serious injury, in which the tissues are cold, pale, and solid

Hypothermia is the second type of cold weather-related stress. Systemic hypothermia is caused by exposure to freezing or rapidly dropping temperatures. Its symptoms are usually exhibited in five stages:

  1. shivering
  2. apathy, listlessness, sleepiness, and sometimes rapid cooling of the body to less than 95°F
  3. unconsciousness, glassy stare, slow pulse, and slow respiratory rate
  4. freezing of the extremities
  5. death

The term wind chill is used to describe the chilling effect of moving air in combination with low temperature. For instance, 10°F with a wind of 15 miles per hour (mph) is the equivalent in chilling effect of still air at -18°F. As a general rule, the greatest incremental increase in wind chill occurs when a wind of 5 mph increases to 10 mph. Because of the effects of wind chill, there is a greater danger from cold-related stress on cold, windy days than on cold days when there is little or no wind.

Water conducts heat 240 times faster than air; therefore, the body cools more quickly when damp or wet. Care should be taken to minimize the possibility of workers becoming damp or wet. If workers do become damp or wet, efforts should be made to minimize the time that the worker is exposed to the cold. If clothing beneath the personal protective clothing becomes damp, the field supervisor will assess site specific weather conditions to determine if it is appropriate for workers to remove protective clothing outdoors.
Other Weather-Related Hazards

It is recognized that other serious hazards could result from adverse weather. A decision to discontinue field activities because of severe and threatening weather conditions (e.g., lightening, strong wind, heavy rain, very cold temperatures, etc.) will be made by the immediate field supervisor.

Lacerations and Contusions (Cuts and Bruises)

Employees may cut or bruise themselves while conducting tasks associated with field or lab work. Sampling activities could involve contact with moving machinery and physical objects. A first aid kit and personnel trained in first aid should be present on-site so that these injuries can be properly treated. In the event of more severe injuries, proper medical attention must be sought out immediately.

Lifting Hazards

Workers could be injured by lifting heavy objects. All employees should know, understand, and use the proper method to lift heavy equipment and should be cautioned against lifting objects that are too heavy for one person. When in doubt, seek the proper aid.

Underground Utilities

Whenever the ground is penetrated, the potential for cutting into buried hazards exists. A contact person, or person in charge of the project, should consult with the proper authorities and/or landowners about the location of underground utility lines (water, gas, electrical, telephone, cable TV, etc.), before digging.
Electrical Hazards

Overhead power lines, buried cables, extension cords, and equipment wiring pose a danger of shock or electrocution if workers come into contact with or sever them. All potential electrical hazards should be identified before and upon arrival at a site.

Confined Spaces

Almost all work will be conducted at the ground surface. If work must be done in confined spaces, the buddy system will be used, and someone will remain outside the confined space in constant visual range and with the ability to contact emergency personnel.  


Heavy equipment such as forklifts, excavators, loaders, tractors, and drilling rigs should only be operated by persons who have demonstrated the ability and necessary skills to operate the equipment safely. Ground-based workers should be trained in how to work safely around the equipment, and how to stay clear. The following are general guidelines for safe operation of heavy equipment and drill rigs:

  • Check the work area for underground utilities and overhead power lines before beginning work.
  • Wear your hard hat, hearing protection, and safety goggles while operating heavy equipment
  • Wear the seat belt when operating scrapers, loaders, tractors, and graders
  • Do not allow passengers on heavy equipment
  • Keep windows and windshields of heavy equipment clean
  • Do not use any heavy equipment if its horn or backup alarm does not sound
  • Do not crawl under the raised dump body during inspection of a dump truck
  • Turn the engine off before leaving heavy equipment unattended
  • Do not jump off of or onto any heavy equipment
  • Do not stay in the cab of haulage vehicles while the payload is being loaded or unloaded by cranes or loaders
  • When you have finished using a grader or a loader, land the blade on the ground, set the brakes, turn the power off, and shift the gear lever into neutral
  • Keep heavy equipment in gear when going down grade; do not use neutral
  • Display the “Slow Moving Vehicle” sign when operating heavy equipment on roads
  • Inspect the equipment to ensure that it is in good working condition before beginning a job, and ensure that regular inspections and maintenance are conducted as appropriate
  • Do not stress or overload equipment
  • Check the work area for underground utilities and overhead power lines before beginning work
  • Do not attempt to lubricate or adjust a running engine
  • Turn the engine off before refueling

Utilize safety features and heed the manufacturer’s warnings:

  • Safety features such as kill switches, guards, shields, reverse alarms, roll bars, or control bars must not be modified or removed
  • Keep power transmission shafts covered
  • Shield power takeoff shafts properly
  • Disengage and turn power supply off to all power takeoffs, blades, or other moving parts before handling equipment
  • Do not use hands to clear jammed equipment
  • Keep hands and feet clear of moving parts
  • Inspect controls and parts for loose nuts and bolts before each use
  • Avoid working alone; use the “buddy system” (your buddy will be able to get help immediately in case of an accident)
  • Remove or secure loose or baggy clothing and long hair; it can be dragged into machinery
  • Never get on or off moving equipment

Ensure the following before leaving equipment unattended:

  • All elevated work surfaces such as buckets and lifts are lowered.
  • All moving parts are disengaged and their motion has stopped.
  • Transmission is in appropriate parking position.
  • Engine is off, or vehicle is secure.
  • Equipment is secure against movement.

Be aware of area and terrain:

  • Look for stumps, rocks, and hidden debris, which can cause overturns
  • Watch for low tree limbs, which can knock an operator off equipment
  • Inspect banks and slopes for stability
  • On steep slopes, plan your path of travel downhill
  • Be cautious on wet or icy surfaces; they reduce traction
  • Never take shortcuts



Only trucks with appropriate towing packages shall be used for towing. Cars and vans will not be used for towing. The following general guidelines must be followed:

  • Do not load trailers beyond the rated capacity (i.e., GVW, or gross vehicle weight) of the truck and trailer
  • Ensure that tow vehicles have a towing package that matches the class of the trailer hitch
  • Use trucks that are properly equipped for trailer brakes to tow trailers that have electric brakes
  • If the trailer has electric brakes, always use them
  • Familiarize yourself with the trailer’s height and width clearance
  • Practice backing up with the trailer before you take a trip
  • When backing up a trailer, have someone watch for obstacles whenever possible
  • Identify blind spots

The following guidelines must be followed when towing on public roads:

  • Inspect trailer brakes and lights
  • Always use attached safety chains and/or electric brakes.
  • Use extra care when towing a trailer in strong winds
  • Exercise extreme care when passing with a towed trailer, give yourself extra time
  • Increase stopping distance
  • Increase following distance

Caution will be used during the operation of all vehicles. All occupants will be required to wear seat belts. (See “In Case of Vehicular Accident” at

All-Terraine Vehicles (ATVs)

All faculty, staff and students intending to operate ATVs must receive training on the safe use of these vehicles and adhere to all of the procedures specified in the SOP. Supervisors must document that training was provided to all operators and operators must sign a statement indicating that they have received training. Supervisors must ensure that operators have the proper clothing and safety equipment specified in the SOP before the equipment is used. In addition, supervisors must make certain that operators are following all safety procedures in operating the vehicle.

Air Boats

Environmental Health and Safety does not have specific SOPs developed regarding Air Boat Safety, but does require field supervisors to incorporate the following items into their Safety Plan.

All passengers/operators must be trained in CPR.

  • Driver Responsibilities:
    1. Prior to launching, conduct an inspection of the boat.
    2. Required equipment:
      • Cell phone accessible to all occupants (marked with local emergency phone numbers)
      • 2-way radio
      • First aid kit
      • Fire extinguisher
      • Oars or paddles, in case of power loss.
      • Throwable floatation device
      • Equipped with life vests, hearing protection, and eye protection for all occupants,
    3. State that horse play will not be tolerated.
    4. Provide a mandated maximum travel speed.
    5. Hand signals should be used to communicate within the boat when the noise level/hearing protection make it difficult to carry on a conversation.
    6. Operators should be familiar with navigational markers (if present) and boating laws of the State of Nebraska and adhere to such.
    7. The driver of the air boat is responsible for the safety of the passengers and equipment on the craft. This includes being aware of the area around the boat and maintaining a high level of alertness.
  • Passenger Responsibilities:
    1. Required to watch for hazards in and around the boat and alert the driver to these conditions.
    2. Required to use life vests, hearing protection, and eye protection.


Chemical Safety training is required for all who use chemicals. If chemicals will be used at a site, the supervisor will inform field personnel and subcontractors with all available information on the characteristics of the compounds they may encounter. In the event that a site is suspected of contamination, the supervisor will evaluate the situations, and take whatever actions are necessary to assure the health and safety of employees and visitors and the integrity of the site.

In order to detect potential health impacts resulting from exposure to chemicals, a health-monitoring program may be implemented in which all individuals associated with the field activities are encouraged to undergo yearly physical examinations.

The following potential chemical hazards may be encountered during field work at the site:

  • Ingestion of contaminated waste (accidental/poor hygiene)
  • Inhalation of contaminated particles, vapors, or gases
  • Dermal contact with contaminated waste, equipment, and/or structures.

These hazards will be minimized by using the proper personal protective equipment as described in the following sections.


A personnel protection program should be established and maintained for all personnel. EHS will provide any necessary health and safety training to personnel assigned to perform or oversee work-, health-, and safety-related functions at jobsites. Safety meetings should be held before the on-site work begins. A separate protocol will be followed for site visitors, as described in a later section.

Levels of Personal Protection

In general, Level D should be used for most field and intensive labor-related activities. Personnel should take precautions to avoid dermal and inhalation exposure at all field locations. Surgical and/or nitrile gloves should be worn during all routine sampling tasks involving potentially hazardous materials to avoid dermal contact with potentially hazardous materials and to avoid cross-contamination of samples.

The levels of protection and associated equipment are as follows:

  • Level D:
    • Hard hat and hard hat liner (if needed)
    • Safety glasses
    • Long-sleeved shirts and pants
    • Steel-toed steel shank boots
    • Hearing protection (if needed)
  • Level C:
    • Hard hat and hard hat liner (if needed)
    • Steel-toed steel shank boots
    • Full face air-purifying canister-equipped respirator
    • Chemical-resistant clothing
    • Inner and outer chemical-resistant gloves

Air Monitoring

Monitoring of organic vapor levels in the breathing zone should not be necessary because there are no activities anticipated where action levels will be encountered. All field activities will occur in open areas. A photoionization detector (PID) or a flame ionization detector (FID) should be used for the measurement of organic vapor levels if organic vapors are anticipated. The air-monitoring equipment should be calibrated daily according to manufacturer instructions. Readings should be taken during sampling activities to ensure that organic vapor readings are at the background levels. The site health and safety officer may alter this schedule as new information is obtained regarding health hazards at the site. Results of this monitoring together with knowledge of potential chemical hazards at a work site should be used to determine when an “action level” for a particular location has been reached. The action level, 5 parts per million (ppm), is the level of organic vapors that indicates a need to upgrade the level of PPE being used by personnel. If vapor concentrations approach action levels, continuous monitoring should be conducted. All calibration and measurement information should be recorded in a logbook.



A complete personal decontamination will be performed by all site personnel before moving off-site and at the end of each day. When contamination of clothing is suspected, this will consist of:

  • Disposal of outer latex booties (if used)
  • Cleaning of outer gloves (if used) in laboratory-grade detergent wash (gloves will be discarded if too soiled to clean thoroughly)
  • Washing rubber boots in laboratory-grade detergent boot wash
  • Disposal of coveralls (if used)
  • Disposal of surgical gloves (if used)
  • Washing hands in hand wash
  • Washing face and neck in face wash
  • Cleaning and sanitizing respirator (if used)


When equipment contamination is suspected, decontamination consist of removal of external contamination using a wire bristle brush. A rinse with laboratory grade detergent and methonal may also be necessary. Specific decontamination procedures will be addressed in the Field Health and Safety Plan. Special care will be taken that sampling equipment is thoroughly cleaned before moving to the next sampling location.

Disposal of Investigation-Derived Materials

Information concerning the disposal of investigation-derived materials will be presented in the Field Health and Safety Plan or the Sampling and Analysis Plan.


All SNR employees who participate in field activities or visit hazardous or potentially hazardous waste sites must be properly trained for the potential hazards. Employees must attend training as per their job requirements and must adjust their training when necessary to fit with additional requirements. In certain instances, course training to satisfy training requirements of 29 CFR 1910.120 (OSHA regulation of hazardous waste site activities) may be necessary. Managers and supervisors may need to receive additional health and safety training as required.

Additionally, personnel must have adequate qualifying experience before their participation in field activities. In general, training in Red Cross basic first aid and adult cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is recommended for all personnel working in the field and remote areas.

Before initiating work at potentially hazardous material sites, all site personnel will be required to attend an orientation session given by the designated site health and safety officer. This session will take place at the site before the start of work each day and will include, but not be limited to, the following topics:

  • Site history
  • Scope of field work
  • Specific hazards (toxicological data, heat stress/exposure, other physical hazards)
  • Hazard recognition
  • Standard operation procedures, including no smoking and no hand-to-mouth contact within the work areas or before completing decontamination
  • Decontamination (personnel and equipment)
  • Emergency procedures.

At the conclusion of the briefing session, all attendees will sign the Health & Safety Meeting Form, which lists the safety topics presented.


In order to detect potential health impacts resulting from exposure to chemicals, laboratories should administer a health-monitoring program. In conjunction with this program, all individuals associated with the field activities are encouraged to undergo yearly physical examinations. The examinations should include a medical and work history.

The following medical parameters may be evaluated during the physical examination:

  • Complete personal, family, and environmental history
  • Comprehensive physical examination
  • Complete laboratory blood screen
  • Urinalysis
  • Chest X-ray (once every 3 years)
  • Resting electrocardiogram
  • Pulmonary function testing
  • Tonometry (35 years of age and older)
  • Audiometric screening
  • Vision and color blindness testing
  • Hemocult testing


Field work will be conducted only during daylight hours unless adequate artificial lighting is provided. The “buddy” system will be observed at all times if site personnel are required to wear respiratory protection, and it is recommended in the case of remote sites.

Eating, drinking, chewing gum or tobacco, smoking, or any practice that increases the probability of hand-to-mouth transfer and ingestion of material is prohibited in any hazardous material work area. Hands and face must be thoroughly washed upon leaving the work area and before eating or drinking. The entire body should be thoroughly washed as soon as possible after leaving the site.

No excessive facial hair, which interferes with a satisfactory fit of the mask-to-face seal, is allowed on personnel required to wear respiratory protective equipment. Contact with contaminated or suspected contaminated surfaces should be avoided. All personnel assigned to on-site activities must be adequately trained and thoroughly briefed on anticipated hazards, equipment to be worn, safety practices to be followed, emergency procedures, and communications.

Site Visitor Protection

Visitors to the site will be instructed to stay outside of the work area. Visitors will be cautioned to avoid skin contact with contaminated or suspected contaminated surfaces. The use of alcohol before or during site visitation is prohibited. Authorized visitors on medication should request prior approval from the acting site health and safety officer before entering designated work areas.

Authorized visitors requiring observation of the field activities at hazardous material sites must be informed of the safety protocol and sign a form stating that they understand the safety protocol and will abide by it. All visitors entering the work area must wear appropriate personal protective gear. Should respiratory protective devices be necessary (Level C), visitors who require entrance to the work area must produce evidence that they have had a complete physical examination, have received respiratory protection training, and have been certified by a physician to use a respirator.


The site health and safety officer will be notified of any on-site emergencies and will be responsible for ensuring that the appropriate procedures are followed. An emergency report must be completed by the site health and safety officer for each instance of employee injury or possible exposure. Each injured employee must complete a UNL First Report of Alleged Occupational Injury or Illness form and a Worker’s Compensation Accident/Incident Report.

Emergency Phone Numbers and Hospital Location

A list of emergency phone numbers will be carried by the field sampling team at all times. The site health and safety officer will be responsible for ensuring that all field personnel are familiar with the location of hospitals and know where the emergency phone list and directions to the hospital are located. Before commencement of the field activities, the site health and safety officer will locate the nearest telephone. The field team will be informed of the location of and directions to this phone.

Personnel injury

In the event of an injury, the site health and safety officer will evaluate the nature of the injury, initiate appropriate first aid, and, if necessary, call 911 or the ambulance service. No person will reenter the work area until the cause of injury or symptoms are determined.

Fire and Explosion Emergency Procedures

Although fire hazards are not likely during field activities, the field team will be prepared to fight small fires with an extinguisher. In the event of a large fire, the field team will contact the appropriate authorities and report the fire. The site health and safety officer will check to see that the fire extinguisher in each vehicle is appropriate for the fire hazard presented by the project. Generally, Type A, B, and C extinguishers are appropriate.

The site health and safety officer will take the following actions in the event of a fire:

  • Notify all site personnel and appropriate authorities that a fire exists
  • Shut down site activities
  • Account for all site workers
  • Evacuate the site, if necessary

Environmental Health & Safety Link

EHS provides a number of Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs) that provide additional and useful information.

View SOPs