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Health and safety for volunteers

Thank you for dedicating your time to help us save our wildlife. Here you can find our health and safety information for volunteer fieldworkers.

The term fieldwork covers all types of survey work done on behalf of People’s Trust for Endangered Species. As our surveys vary in methodology and location we have tried to cover all areas, so not all of the below may apply to your work, but please read it carefully.

Volunteer responsibility

As a volunteer, you are under no obligation to participate or continue with a survey or scheme. Volunteers are responsible for their own health and safety and should not put themselves in a position that could place them, or others, in danger. You should never undertake any work if you have concerns about your own or others’ health and safety. If you have any such concerns, you should stop the work and raise these with PTES, or the local survey organiser. You are under no obligation to visit a particular site.


PTES does not maintain either public insurance for liabilities to third parties for loss, damage or injury or personal liability insurance to cover loss, damage or injury to volunteers and their helpers. Volunteers should make their own arrangements as they see fit.

Access permission

If necessary, obtain permission from the relevant landowners or tenant to enter any private land before commencing fieldwork. Do not continue fieldwork if access permission is later revoked. A letter confirming your participation in PTES fieldwork can be provided on request.

Risk assessment

Before undertaking any activities, every fieldworker should consider the particular health and safety hazards associated with their individual study sites and whether their individual circumstances and medical conditions expose them to particular hazards. You should think about what precautions should be taken against any risks.

Health and safety reporting

Fieldworkers should pass on health and safety information provided to them by PTES to other people helping with PTES related activities. You should report any particular health and safety issues about the survey methods or the survey sites to PTES or the local survey organiser.

Mobile phones

It is advisable to carry a mobile phone, which may be useful in case of an emergency. Please note that mobile phones may not work in some remote areas, and may be of little help if an individual is unconscious or incapacitated. The European emergency number is 112 and can be dialed from any fixed or mobile telephone to reach the emergency services. This number works alongside 999 in the UK.

Working in remote areas

If going to a remote place, always leave a note of your whereabouts with a responsible person. This should include: date and time of departure, method of travel to and around the site, proposed itinerary, expected time of leaving the site and return to base, and vehicle identification details. The person to whom these details are given should be told who to contact if you do not return and at what time to raise the alarm. If possible, do not work alone.

Livestock and agricultural machinery

Take special care when entering areas with livestock, especially cattle, rams and horses. Do not enter fields containing bulls and be especially cautious with farm dogs. Rutting deer can also be aggressive in the autumn. Avoid undertaking fieldwork in close proximity to working agricultural machinery or forestry operations.

Visiting sites with dormouse nest boxes

Check for wasps, hornets and bees when visiting or cleaning out dormouse nest boxes by listening for a buzzing noise in the box. It is advised that boxes thought to be occupied by bees and wasps are not cleared. Make sure that the group leader is aware if anyone in group has an allergy to bee or wasp stings and ensure that the individual concerned is carrying appropriate and personal medication.


Take care to park sensibly, preferably off-road, and do not block entrances.


Take special care when carrying out fieldwork along watercourses, cliff edges, or in areas that contain boggy ground, reedbeds or loose rocks. Wear bright-coloured clothing when carrying out fieldwork along busy roads. Do not cross potentially hazardous sites, such as quarries, ravines and railway lines and do not attempt to climb steep slopes, walls or fences. Please heed warning signs and do not enter private (non-access) land that has been deliberately obstructed by fencing or barbed wire.

Human confrontation

Consider your personal safety when conducting fieldwork within the vicinity of known or likely trouble spots. Avoid confrontation with landowners, land workers or members of the public. Consider the privacy of residents when performing early-morning survey work in residential areas. Carry some form of identification to confirm the activities you are undertaking. If you have any concerns about your personal safety, cease fieldwork immediately.


It is important to consider the safety aspects of any equipment that is used and any associated hazards. In particular, the use of ladders to inspect dormouse nest boxes can be hazardous (see HSE Guide INDG405). Fieldworkers are advised to always carry a basic first aid kit to dress any minor cuts and abrasions.


Fieldworkers may be exposed to disease during survey work. If a disease is suspected, then it is important to inform your doctor that you may have been exposed to diseases associated with outdoor activities.

Typical diseases that may be encountered and means of minimising their impact are:
• Tetanus may result from the infection of even minor wounds and scratches with Clostridium tetani, a common micro-organism in soil.
o Ensure immunisation against Tetanus is up to date
• Weil’s disease (leptospirosis) that can be fatal if left untreated. The organism is carried by rats and excreted in their urine, and persists in water such as in puddles and slow-moving rivers in rat-infested places.
o The risk of infection can be greatly reduced by not swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine.
• Lyme disease, a bacterial disease transmitted by animal ticks associated with rank vegetation, which leads to severe symptoms if left untreated. A variety of animals act as hosts for the bacteria, including domestic mammals, wild mammals and birds.
o Remove ticks from the skin as soon as possible: wear light-coloured clothing so that ticks are visible, tuck trouser bottoms into socks so that ticks cannot attach or climb up the leg, and make regular checks of skin and hair.
• Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection common in rats and mice. The bacteria can result in food poisoning if ingested, for example as a result of preparing or eating food with contaminated hands.
o Wear disposable plastic gloves when cleaning out nest-boxes or handling any dead animals; dispose of them responsibly after use. Hands should be thoroughly cleaned after fieldwork (particularly after handling birds and soiled bird bags). Cigarettes can also transfer the infection from hands to mouth. During fieldwork, cover cuts and abrasions with a waterproof dressing.

Under 18s

All volunteers must inform PTES if they are less than 18 years of age. In some instances, parents or guardians of the under-18 will be asked to sign a parental consent form stating that they agree to their child undertaking the activities and have made them aware of the associated risks. To obtain a paper copy of the Parental Consent Form, please email or contact us.


For a wide range of health and safety information, visit the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

The following HSE guides are particularly relevant.

This information covers volunteers working in the UK. Volunteers working outside of the UK should seek information from relevant sources.

Thank you for volunteering your time to help save wildlife with us. If you have any further questions please email

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