VIU Safety Communications and Hazard Assessment for Remote or Difficult Travel

safety in the field

November 5, 2019 - 12:45pm

By Kim Sharpe, Advisor, Health and Safety Services

It can be difficult to know whether or not you have taken all necessary steps to ensure proper safety and communication for any off-campus activities for VIU students or employees. This is particularly important for people entering remote, hard-to-reach, or out-of-country locations. The VIU Health and Safety Office has a variety of tools appropriate for a myriad of excursions to ensure you and your team are safe no matter where you go. The Q&A below will help you determine your needs and figure out how to fulfil them.

What communication system is required by VIU faculty, staff and researchers in the field? 

You need to have an "effective communications system" to provide VIU faculty, staff and researchers with a method of signaling their need for assistance. Even with the best communication equipment, there may be times when people are rendered incapable of using it. To ensure there is contact even in a case such as this, the communication system must include regular check-ins and be initiated by the employer (Dean, Director, etc.) or a designate at intervals appropriate to the nature of the hazard associated with the activity.

What's an appropriate check-in schedule?

Frequency of the check-in is dependent upon the nature of the hazard.  Are you working in an isolated area, is there chance of wildlife in the area, are you anticipating bad weather? The more hazards, the more often you should check in.

Who should faculty, staff and researchers be checking in with?

The check-in delegate should be available for the duration of the trip. This can often mean a 24/7 requirement.  Preferably, this is someone in your faculty or department.

What communication tool is required?

A communication tool that allows you to signal for help from within your group as well as with the outside (emergency medical support). This may be a cell phone (if it is known there will be reliable service), a satellite phone, a GPS satellite based messaging device (a SPOT).

Health and Safety Services has two GPS SPOT devices and two satellite phone available for use on a first come first serve basis. To reserve your device, please email

What else do you need to do for safe travel?

Assess hazards in advance. Using the VIU Hazard Identification, Assessment and Control process, ID all hazards that you may encounter in your travel, including the hazards of the specific tasks and activities you will be doing, and the equipment and materials that you will be using. Once you know the hazards see if/how you are already reducing exposure to the hazards and, if needed, implement any new prevention strategies for those that are not yet controlled.

There may be specific hazards associated with the region you are travelling to. Know what these are and plan your response before you go. In the near future, we will be releasing a set of tools to aid your risk mitigation efforts while off campus. Stay tuned to Health and Safety Services, VIU Voices and the VIU Digest for more details on these.   

Please email for assistance at any time.

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