Field Research: COVID-19 Prevention Best Practices

Applies to all Field Research activities unless otherwise stated

  1. General Precautions
  2. Before conducting field research
    1. COVID-19 Hygiene Best Practices online training
    2. Symptom Self-Check and Reporting Illnesses
    3. Pre-Fieldwork Isolation, Symptoms Monitoring & Testing
    4. Written Health & Safety Field Plan
  3. During field research
    1. Physical Distancing
    2. Personal Hygiene Practices
    3. Face Coverings
    4. Cleaning and Disinfecting
    5. Vehicles
      1. University-owned and personal vehicles
      2. Public transit
      3. Rideshare, Taxi, Limo For-Hire Vehicle
      4. Shared Bikes, Scooters, Skateboards, and Other Micro-mobility Devices
      5. Rental Vehicles
    6. Shared Equipment
    7. Buddy System
    8. Public Spaces
    9. Other Considerations

 

1.0 General Precautions

  • Researchers, and all personnel should regularly check the Stanford Health Alerts website for updated information (https://healthalerts.stanford.edu/)
  • General information about Stanford’s recovery process, including the staged approach to recovery, can be found at Cardinal Recovery (https://cardinalrecovery.stanford.edu/)
  • In addition to added precautions required to minimize the risks of COVID-19, fieldworkers must take all normal precautions to remain safe in the field. Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is normally required for the activities being performed.
  • These practices apply to all field work, regardless of location. There may be additional guidance and restrictions for field research that involves travel (>50 miles from campus or current residence). Check Stanford Health Alerts website (https://healthalerts.stanford.edu/) and Cardinal Recovery (https://cardinalrecovery.stanford.edu/) for more information about travel. Off-campus research should be registered in MyTrips.

2.0 Before conducting field research

2.1 COVID-19 Hygiene Best Practices online training

COVID-19 Hygiene Best Practices (EHS-2470-WEB) online training is required for all personnel before returning to work onsite (including work at field locations).

2.2 Symptom Self-Check and Reporting Illnesses

  • Complete daily the Health Check Tool prior to arriving onsite: https://healthcheck.stanford.edu
    • Required for all personnel working on campus or other field research site
    • 1-2 hours prior to arrival onsite each day
    • Completion of the Health Check tool is not required on days personnel work exclusively from home
    • Paper copies of the Health Check Tool are available on request.
  • Notify your supervisor if you experience any changes in your health condition while onsite
  • Stay home if you suspect you may have contracted COVID-19, and contact your regular healthcare provider for guidance
  • Report to your HR manager if you are sick and were recently onsite/expected to be onsite, awaiting test results or have tested COVID-19 positive

2.3 Pre-Fieldwork Isolation, Symptoms Monitoring & Testing

3.0 During field research

3.1 Physical Distancing

  • Maintain a minimum of six feet distance between co-workers not part of your household at all times, including during travel
  • Modify work practices and physical work spaces to maintain physical distancing
  • Stagger shifts to maintain physical distancing

3.2 Personal Hygiene Practices

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • Before, during, and after preparing food
    • Before eating food
    • After touching commonly used surfaces (e.g., door handles, elevator buttons)
    • After using the toilet
    • After blowing nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
    • After touching garbage
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are unavailable
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cough/sneeze into your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Wash your hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Have adequate hygiene supplies. Pack sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (in case you are unable to wash your hands at your destination).
  • When traveling, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, before you depart and upon arrival at your destination.
  • Do not wear gloves when touching common surfaces like door knobs or light switches. It is highly recommended that you use paper towels or other disposable items when you need to touch these common surfaces, or to wash your hands after touching them.

3.3 Face coverings

  • Face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing nor hand hygiene
  • Have a face covering with you at all times
  • Face coverings must be worn:
    • In buildings
    • In vehicles at all times, unless alone or with individuals from the same residence
    • When working outdoors if unable to maintain 6 feet physical distancing
  • Face coverings should:
    • Cover the nose and mouth
    • Fit snugly but comfortably against the face
    • Be secured with ties or ear loops
    • Include multiple layers of fabric
    • Allow for breathing without restriction
    • Be laundered and machine dried frequently
  • When removing cloth face coverings:
    • Do not to touch eyes, nose, or mouth
    • Wash hands with soap and water or apply hand sanitizer after removing face covering

3.4 Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects frequently, at a minimum daily
  • Clean to remove visible soil from objects and surfaces
  • Dispose of used cleaning materials and immediately wash hands
  • Use EPA-registered disinfectants (e.g., Lysol and Clorox wipes) to eliminate pathogenic microorganisms on surfaces
  • https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
  • Use disinfectants according to appropriate contact time for maximum effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2

3.5 Vehicles

3.5.1 University-owned and personal vehicles

  • When operating university-owned or personal vehicles for research purposes:
    • Practice social distancing. Consider limiting the number of passengers in the vehicle to only those necessary. If possible, limit vehicle capacity to 1 person per vehicle unless individuals are from the same residence.
    • Improve ventilation in the vehicle if possible by opening the windows or setting the air ventilation/air conditioning on non-recirculation mode.
    • Consider using alternative modes of transportation including walking and biking.
    • Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down high touch surfaces regularly (e.g., steering wheel, parking brake, gear shift, arm rests, etc) to prevent the spread of pathogens.
  • Where practicable, encourage hand hygiene by providing hand sanitizer
  • Participate in self-cleaning of the vehicle at the end of your work session:
    • Commonly touched surfaces (e.g., handles, steering wheel, radio) should be wiped down before and after use with appropriate disinfectants as detailed in the self-cleaning guidance and appropriate for the type of surface.
    • Be sure to build in time at the end of each shift for self-cleaning.
    • See section 3.4 Cleaning and Disinfecting for details on how to clean and disinfect surfaces and objects.

3.5.2 Public transit

  • Practice personal hygiene habits above, plus:
    • Stay up-to-date. Check with local transit authorities for the latest information on changes to services and procedures, especially if you might need additional assistance.
    • Avoid touching surfaces. Limit touching frequently touched surfaces such as kiosks, digital interfaces such as touchscreens and fingerprint scanners, ticket machines, turnstiles, handrails, restroom surfaces, elevator buttons, and benches as much as possible.
    • If you must touch surfaces, as soon as you can, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or rub your hands with sanitizer containing 60% alcohol.
    • Use touchless payment and no-touch trash cans and doors when available. Exchange cash or credit cards by placing them in a receipt tray or on the counter rather than by hand, if possible.
    • Practice social distancing guidelines:
      • Consider traveling during non-peak hours when there are likely to be fewer people.
      • Avoid gathering in groups, and stay out of crowded spaces when possible, especially at transit stations and stops.
      • Consider skipping a row of seats between yourself and other riders if possible.
      • Enter and exit buses through rear entry doors if possible.
      • Look for social distancing instructions or physical guides offered by transit authorities (for example, floor decals or signs indicating where to stand or sit to remain at least 6 feet apart from others).
    • Practice hand hygiene. After you leave the transit station or stop, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. When you arrive at your destination, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as soon as possible upon arrival.

3.5.3 Rideshare, Taxi, Limo For-Hire Vehicle

  • Practice personal hygiene habits above, plus:
    • Avoid touching surfaces frequently touched by passengers or drivers, such as the door frame and handles, windows, and other vehicle parts. In circumstances where such contact is unavoidable, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol as soon as possible afterwards.
    • Avoid accepting offers of free water bottles and avoid touching magazines or other items that may be provided for free to passengers.
    • Use touchless payment when available.
    • Practice social distancing. Limit the number of passengers in the vehicle to only those necessary. Avoid pooled rides or rides where multiple passengers are picked up who are not in the same household. Sit in the back seat in larger vehicles such as vans and buses so you can remain at least six feet away from the driver.
    • Improve ventilation. Ask the driver to improve the ventilation in the vehicle if possible, e.g., by opening the windows or setting the air ventilation/air conditioning on non-recirculation mode.
    • Practice hand hygiene. After leaving the vehicle, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. When you arrive at your destination, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as soon as possible upon arrival.

3.5.4 Shared Bikes, Scooters, Skateboards, and Other Micro-mobility Devices

  • Practice personal hygiene habits above, plus:
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces, focusing on frequently touched surfaces on the device (e.g., handlebars, gears, braking handles, locks etc.) or shared equipment before you use it. Use disinfecting wipes, if available.
    • Avoid touching surfaces. Use touchless payment when available and if applicable.
    • Practice hand hygiene. After completing your trip, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. When you arrive at your destination, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as soon as possible upon arrival.

3.5.5 Rental Vehicles

  • Practice personal hygiene habits above, plus:
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly, e.g., the steering wheel, gear shift, door frame/handles, windows, radio/temperature dials, and seat belt buckles.
  • When using parking meters and pay stations, consider using alcohol wipes to disinfect surfaces or use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol after use. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as soon as it is possible.
  • Practice social distancing. Consider limiting the number of passengers in the vehicle to only those necessary.
  • Improve ventilation in the vehicle if possible by opening the windows or setting the air ventilation/air conditioning on non-recirculation mode.

3.6 Shared Equipment

  • Whenever possible, tools and equipment should not be shared. Equipment should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected before and after use.(Include link to re-start guidance site when available)
  • Individual PPE, field equipment and supplies should be marked and assigned to each crew member whenever possible. If equipment must be shared, it should be disinfected before and after it is used.
  • If tools and equipment must be shared, see section 3.4 Cleaning and Disinfecting for details on how to clean and disinfect surfaces and objects.

3.7 Buddy System

Working alone in the field should be avoided if possible and mitigated if not. The dynamic nature of field environments present increased risks, and these risks are heightened when working alone because help may not be not readily available.

A buddy system reduces the risk of certain tasks by ensuring another person is capable of assisting if someone becomes injured or incapacitated in the course of their work. There are several methods for implementing a buddy system in the field, even while maintaining social distancing. One of the following buddy systems should be used based on the risk level of field locations and planned tasks. You may want/need to utilize different buddy systems at different points in your fieldwork based on the activities you’re performing. For example a researcher may use an asynchronous buddy system for on-trail work, but a live remote buddy system while off trail or performing higher hazard activities.

  • In-person buddy system*: For most field work, another person should be within earshot, but >6 feet away. If tasks require people to be less than 6 feet away, face coverings should be worn.
  • Live remote buddy system*: For some low risk tasks and locations, if there is another person nearby (can get to you in an hour) AND you have a reliable means of instant communication with them (e.g., radio, walkie-talkies, cell phones + cell service) you may coordinate to serve as one another’s buddy. Check in with your buddy regularly (e.g., every hour).
  • Asynchronous remote buddy system*: For a small subset of very low risk tasks and locations, it may be acceptable to have a designated “check in” buddy whom you tell where you are working, what you are doing, when they should expect you to check in, and what to do if you do not check in at the appointed time. If you do not check in, you may instruct your buddy to call you, call a member of your household, or call an appropriate authority such as your PI (all emergency contact names and telephone numbers should be listed on your field safety plan).

*Similar to work in laboratories, a written safety plan is required for any fieldwork. This plan must include provisions for a reliable means of communication (cell phone, sat phone, or satellite texting device), an emergency response plan, and risk assessments for critical tasks (consider what can go wrong and how adverse impacts can be eliminated or reduced). Review the safety plan and choice of buddy system with the Principal Investigator/Laboratory Supervisor prior to conducting the field work.

Types of Locations Example Activities
Moderate to High Risk:

Use In-Person Buddy System

Remote locations >1 hr total (hike + drive out) to emergency services

Overnight stays outside of developed areas (e.g., remote camping)

Locations with unpredictable/ inclement weather

Locations with security concerns

  • Private homes
  • Areas with civil unrest
  • Animal Handling
  • Work near heights (>6 ft)
  • Using power tools or blades (e.g.,chainsaws, machetes)
  • Swimming/snorkeling/most boat-based work
  • Work at altitude
  • Confined space work
  • Any other moderate to high hazard activities
Low Risk:

At minimum use Live Remote Buddy System

Moderately remote (<1 hr to emergency services) or moderately hazardous field locations

  • Intertidal zones
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Easily wadeable/ slow moving water (e.g., shallow lakes/streams, beach areas on low surf days)
  • Work with hand tools
  • Working from small boats within visual/voice range of shore.
  • Hiking off-trail (e.g., out of sight of trail, vehicle, or road)
Very Low Risk:

At minimum use Asynchronous Remote Buddy System

Local field locations in developed areas

  • Stanford lands (Lake Lagunita, the Dish)
  • Public parks/beaches on well maintained trails.
  • On/adjacent to paved public roads (in sight of vehicles)
  • Photographing
  • Surveying/GPS
  • Collecting samples
    • Water grab samples
  • NO handling of animals or hazardous chemicals

3.8 Public Spaces

Efforts should be made to minimize contact with the public and precautions such as face coverings and hand washing/sanitizing, should be taken in public areas. (gas stations, grocery stores, etc)

3.9 Other Considerations

  • Researchers are strongly encouraged to bring their own drinking water (at least 2 L/day).
  • Researchers are also strongly encouraged to bring their own food from home rather than acquiring food offsite, since this significantly increases chances for exposure/infection and transmission to the rest of the crew.
  • Avoid communal food preparation