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The purpose of this guidance is to outline the steps which should be taken for the safe management of activities while working or studying overseas.

It applies to work or study activity carried out by staff or students of the University in places which are not under the direct control of the University and which are outside of Australia. It applies to activities conducted by individuals falling into one of three categories, namely:

Category 1 Staff on their own or with colleagues.
Category 2 Students and staff in groups where the visit is part of a course of study.
Category 3 Students on placement.

Risks to safety and heath while abroad are many and include personal safety (for example, associated with endemic crime or civil or political unrest) and health related concerns (potential exposure to tropical or exotic diseases).

This guidance follows the principles of planning, control and review and suggests how the associated functions and duties may be allocated.

The guidance suggests a course of action, which will help identify foreseeable problems, difficulties and events and the implementation of appropriate precautions. It suggests some strategies and includes checklists that can be used to improve the safety and health of those working overseas. However, such checks should be modified and developed in the light of personal experience.

The checklists and risk assessments relevant to the work being undertaken overseas should, wherever practicable, be completed before the visit and also should be reviewed upon arrival on site in case they need modification according to the particular circumstances and the local conditions found at the time.

Where work activities are embarked upon without the prior knowledge of the University, a retrospective risk assessment will need to be completed at the earliest convenient opportunity.

Some overseas work may not be dissimilar to field work in Australia, and the guidance material for Terrestrial Fieldwork should be used in conjunction with these guidelines.

Planning and organisation

Other employers in the country visited through co-operative ventures may well control the planned activities. These will be subject to the safety and health regulations of the respective country. Employers may have produced their own safety and health policies, procedures or guidelines to which UWA staff and students will be required to adhere. Where possible, any such requirements should be obtained in advance so that proper assessments and all necessary preparations can be made.

The following must be addressed in planning an overseas visit:

The Head of Academic/Administrative Unit

The Head of Academic/Administrative Unit must ensure that:

  • An adequate risk assessment has been made and that a safe system of operation is devised.
  • Proper arrangements and responsibilities have been established and both the conduct and role of all concerned is clearly understood.
  • Individual members of staff and leaders of groups that are working overseas are authorised, competent and, where necessary, qualified.
  • Local conditions have been explored sufficiently, commensurate with the likely risk.
  • Any group is as well prepared as is reasonably practicable.

The Work Organiser

  • The Work Organiser is responsible for the pre-planning, organisation, review, monitoring of the work and all the associated arrangements. The Work Organiser is accountable to the Head of Academic/Administrative Unit for ensuring that adequate safety arrangements exist and are observed. The Work Organiser should:
  • Ensure that known hazards have been identified and relevant risk assessments undertaken. On arrival at the site, other hazards may be identified so the risk assessment should be reviewed and modified accordingly. This should be undertaken by the Work Organiser (if present) or by the Overseas Team Leader. All members of the group should then be informed of any significant amendments to the original briefing(s).
  • Define a clear communication structure in any group (such as through Overseas Team Leaders to group leaders to individuals). Team/group leaders should be selected by the Work Organiser to organise and direct small groups, where appropriate.
  • Confirm legal and authorised access to any site not owned by the University.
  • Inform all persons involved of the nature of the work, the anticipated hazards and the precautions that will be adopted. Where necessary, support training may need to be given.
  • Register all overseas work in the same way as field work. This includes the itinerary and return times; likely deviations from the itinerary; the members constituting the group and their details; how they may be contacted and emergency contacts/next of kin.
  • Ensure all queries by press and public are addressed to the Work Organiser.
  • Ensure the School/Centre/Unit is kept aware of the activities of groups working overseas, including their itineraries.

An example checklist for the use of Work Organisers is contained in Appendix 1.

The Travel Organiser

The Travel Organiser must liaise with the Work Organiser and the Overseas Team Leader to ensure that adequate up-to-date information is available so that correct decisions on travel and work preparation can be made.

The Travel Organiser is responsible for ensuring the travel arrangements are suitable and sufficient and should address a number of issues:

  • Find out from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smartraveller any relevant travel advice.
  • Find out from Healix relevant medical and security information through their online country and city guides.
  • Obtain medical advice to determine necessary vaccinations, immunisations, first aid requirements.
  • Obtain information on climate, local culture and other local information, as appropriate.
  • Obtain tickets, using authorised suppliers only, visas and any other necessary documentation for travel.
  • Check all participants have a valid passport.
  • Ensure adequate insurance cover is in place for groups and/or individuals.

All individuals should be provided with a copy of the relevant UWA Corporate Travel Insurance information.


Risk assessment

Risk assessment(s) must be made for all work undertaken overseas. The overseas travel risk assessment form (Appendix 2) will assist in documenting this and should also be used when a group is travelling.

Note that the nature and complexity of the risk assessment will vary with the type of activity and therefore should be commensurate with the actual risk that the identified hazards pose in the particular circumstances; for example, comprehensive risk assessments would be expected for organised field work.

The Work Organiser will usually be responsible for carrying out the risk assessment (Appendix 2). In many cases the work itself will not be unusually hazardous and consideration will only need to be given to local conditions. Where hazardous work is undertaken, some assumptions may need to be made based on the work as it would be undertaken in Australia.

The assessment should be based on previous knowledge, information from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Healix, travel agents, and contacts in the place being visited.

A 'checklist for overseas risk assessment' covering potential hazards while travelling overseas, including personal safety, physical hazards, biological hazards, transport and climate, is contained in Appendix 3. Schools/Centres/Units and individuals may amend and add to this checklist. Where the travel is not by recognised passenger carrier, the risk assessment should also include the travel arrangements.

The findings and conclusions of the risk assessment should be communicated to all participants and any significant factors communicated in writing whenever possible.

The Work Organiser should be satisfied that each individual appreciates the salient points and understands fully what is expected of them.

Individuals embarking on an overseas trip have a responsibility to cooperate with the University in the execution of its responsibilities. Every person proposing to work overseas must take heed of any advice, training, instruction and guidance given to them.

Placement supervision

As far as practicable, Placement Coordinators should follow the UWA Managing Student Activities in External Organisations guidelines. The student supervisor may not visit the site, but regular communication should be maintained (by phone, fax or email) and “distance” checks made on the practices on site.

Lone working

Lone working is discouraged as far as possible. Where it is not practicable to avoid it, lone working should only be sanctioned after a thorough assessment of the risks has been carried out. Reference should be made to the UWA Working alone requirements and a safe system of work devised.

Health matters and emergency action

Travel Organisers and those who intend travelling overseas on University business should use the University Medical Centre as the first point of contact. The Medical Centre will recommend that all such individuals:

  • obtain relevant information from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smartraveller website
  • obtain relevant information from Healix through their online country and city guides
  • obtain necessary vaccinations and immunisations in accordance with the UWA Immunisation and other travel requirements
  • obtain advice on appropriate travel first aid kits
  • accept appropriate medical advice where relevant and disclose to the Work Organiser/Team Leader any limitations imposed by their health that may affect their ability to participate safety in the activities. Information provided must be treated as confidential, unless non-disclosure creates a risk to the other participants.

It is strongly recommended that at least one member of staff attending an overseas trip involving five or more persons is trained and holds a valid Senior First Aid Certificate. It is recommended that others, such as group leaders, should be trained in emergency first aid.

Emergency action

Any incident should be reported to both the Head of School/Centre/Unit and relevant UWA Section (Safety and Health, International Centre, Insurance) as soon as practicable. All individuals embarking on an overseas trip should take heed of the advice, training, instruction and guidance given to them and act upon it. 


Appendix 1: Work organiser checklist

Work organiser checklist [51 KB PDF]

Work organiser checklist [89 KB RTF]

Appendix 2: UWA Travel and Destination Safety risk assessment

UWA Travel and Destination Safety Risk Assessment [399 KB DOCX]

UWA Travel and Destination Safety Risk Assessment [4.8 MB RTF]

Appendix 3: Fieldwork Forms

Form 07 Fieldwork Safety Planning Form [108 KB DOCX]

Form 07 Fieldwork Safety Planning Form [296 KB RTF]

Fieldwork hazard identification checklist [69 KB PDF]

Fieldwork hazard identification checklist [83 KB DOC]

Fieldwork Safety Risk Assessment [375 KB DOC]

Fieldwork Safety Risk Assessment [991 KB RTF]

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