Guidelines and Procedures for Restarting Fieldwork Research in Environmental Sciences and Engineering

The following outlines guidelines for restarting fieldwork or off-campus research in environmental sciences and engineering, and other programs across Wayne State University. Developing a safe research plan for fieldwork will involve considering many different components of the work and its associated challenges.

The safety of members of the university campus community and of any research partners that may be involved with the field work site is of paramount importance.

Fieldwork research often involves both WSU researchers and participants who are not members of the WSU community. Preventing the spread of virus to or from offsite field locations is critical.

Research planning should be grounded in science and incorporate WSU and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance regarding both good research practice with infectious agents and specific information about SARS-CoV-2 and its observed manifestations in the Detroit area.

Please contact Julie O'Connor or Denise Figlewicz with questions or suggestions on this as we go forward.

Overarching guidelines for fieldwork / offsite research

  1. All work that can be performed remotely/online should continue to be performed remotely/online.
  2. Out-of-state travel to field research work sites is not approved at this time during the initial phase of the resumption of research activities involving faculty, staff and trainees. Undergraduates are not approved for participation in research activities during this initial phase of resumption of research activities
  3. All health and safety practices described for on-campus WSU research restart apply to fieldwork/off-site research.
  4. Each PI must prepare a Research Activities Plan for approval to begin their proposed work (  This research plan should include in detail their activities, links to maps and locations, contact information and safety plans for completion of the work and this must be approved by the department chair, vice/associate dean of research, and the vice president for Research (VPR).   

Upon final review and approval, each individual will receive a letter of authorization from the VPR with additional guideline information.

  1. All individuals involved with the approved research activity must complete the Warrior Safe Training (
  2. Each research team member must complete the daily health survey ( each day before starting work onsite or off.

Specific guidelines for fieldwork/off-site research plan development

When preparing the Fieldwork Research Plan, please consult this checklist:

Required Training/Safety Brief: Along with discussing work goals and plans, review safe work practices identified in this checklist with all participants. 

  • Maintain social distancing, follow proper equipment handling and disinfection procedures, be aware of the signs/symptoms of COVID-19, communicate options in the field, follow daily check-in procedures and emergency procedures. 

SARS-CoV-2: Selecting and applying an appropriate surface disinfectant - visit here

Standard Operating Procedures and Guidelines for Cleaning Laboratory Workspaces - visit here

Principles and Guidelines for a Phased Ramp-Up of On-site, Laboratory-based Research Activities - visit here

WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan - visit here

  • Team members should have dedicated PPE, provisions and supplies to minimize sharing. For guidance on face coverings required in enclosed public spaces, visit here
  • Team members have the right to refuse participation without fear of penalty if they feel conditions are unsafe. 
  • Maintain reliable communication to receive updates or get assistance; maintain a frequent check-in schedule. 
  • Remain aware of local public health requirements and campus policies regarding COVID-19. 
  • Review responsible conduct in the field, community; minimize contact with the public during the pandemic. 
  • Maintain flexibility to alter plans at any time, self-isolate, or return home. 
  • Follow the campus reporting protocol if you, a colleague, or an immediate family member tests positive for COVID-19.

Emergency/Contingency Preparation: 

  • Utilize video meetings for training, planning, and discussion, when possible, to minimize in-person interactions. 
  • Cross-train multiple people on critical tasks; document protocols in detail. 
  • Discuss how to prioritize the most time-critical tasks, if team members are unable to work. 
  • When appropriate, divide into smaller field teams that will work separately from other teams for the season.
  • All team members must be able to provide clear and precise directions to the worksite. 
  • Confirm if cell phone service is available.  If no cell service is available, describe the communication plan and check-in procedures.
  • Provide team members the research plan and map to nearest hospital.
  • Each team member should provide their own contact number as well as a phone number for an emergency contact. 
  • The entire list of contacts should be carried by each team member at all times.

Specific Preparations for the Fieldwork Site:

  • Research must be conducted with the fewest personnel necessary to complete the activity while assuring safety of all members of the research team. 
  • You are expected to carry hand sanitizer and disinfectant at all times. Frequent hand sanitizing or hand washing is expected by all research team members involved in the fieldwork activity.
  • For research conducted on non-WSU owned property (excluding a private residence), you may be expected to obtain written (e.g. email) approval of the property owner or delegate before visiting the site.  Researchers are expected to be familiar and in compliance with any safety or additional regulations pertinent to the site(s) where they will carry out their research, as well as be in compliance with all WSU mandated policies and procedures.

Transportation to Worksite:  

  • Avoid public transportation. 
  • Meet at the worksite (each team member should have their own field vehicle).
  • Depending on the history of the vehicle, all common areas should be wiped with a disinfectant prior to and upon completion of field transportation for the day.

Fueling Vehicles/Service Stops

  • Maintain social distancing from everyone at service stations, stores, etc. 
  • Be cognizant of what you touch at any service stations, stores, etc.
  • Use disinfecting wipes on handles or buttons before you touch them or use single-use towels as a barrier. 
  • Use hand sanitizer prior to re-entering your vehicle.


  • Each team member should be responsible for their own field provisions for the day. Water, food, snacks, etc., should all be prepared and brought from home, if possible. 
  • Each team member should have at least two gallons of drinking water available per workday. 
  • If coolers are used, each team member should have their own designated cooler. 
  • Stops to make purchases in the field should be kept to a minimum in order to lessen contact with the public. 
  • Utilize appropriate precautions when forced to use shared spaces, such as rest rooms and lobbies.

In the Field:

  • It is the responsibility of the PI to remain in frequent communication with team members conducting essential research. At a minimum, PIs are expected to schedule regular check-in times with field workers. 
  • All offsite researchers should maintain a personal log of daily entry and exit times, any "close contacts," and confirmation of lack of exposure and symptoms. Log should be checked weekly by the PI.
  • Either a WSU-supplied cloth/barrier mask or an ear-loop face mask must be worn at all times during fieldwork, except while eating, with greater than 6 feet of physical distancing.
  • Personnel entering a non-Wayne State University research facility, building or fieldwork site may be subject to private screening procedures/safety requirements that are currently in place before being allowed to enter buildings or commence research work.
  • Food should not be shared with other team members or with non-WSU study participants.
  • There should be no handshakes or any avoidable physical contact among research participants (WSU and non-WSU).
  • Where research activities are carried out at non-Wayne State University buildings/sites, researchers must maintain a minimum of 6 feet of physical distancing at all times (apart from transient unavoidable situations—for example, personnel in stairwells, hallways).
  • Safeguarding hand washing practices and hand sanitizer use must be observed. Traffic flow, de-densifying buildings, etc. are beyond the control of the university, and determined by collaborative institutions or private owners/operators.
  • In special work areas where 6 feet of distancing is not possible, research personnel must adhere to WHO guidelines for "close contact with asymptomatic individuals" *(current guidelines: minimum of standard surgical mask [not N95] and eye protection; gowns and gloves may be required for specific research protocols/projects).

Supplies, Cleaning, & Disinfection:

  • Shared surfaces, equipment and gear should be cleaned, disinfected and dried before use. Any disinfecting product used should be on the WSU-approved list, e.g. Clorox disinfecting wipes, Lysol multi-surface cleaner, EnviroScience-A, Peroxide Multisource Cleaner & Disinfectant  
  • Supplies:  Hand soap; hand sanitizer (> 60% alcohol); single-use paper towels; Disposable nitrile gloves; Tissues; Extra face covers; Carry a thermometer in your first aid kit; Personal water bottles 
  • Before use by any given researcher, or at the end of research activity or workday, the researchers must clean/wipe all actively used equipment with appropriate cleaning or disinfectant materials before transporting or storing them. Disinfectant is to be used on any hard surfaces with hand contact, including vehicle steering wheels, handles, gear sticks, dashboards, etc. All tools and equipment are to be disinfected after use. Any building doorknobs, fixtures, countertops, etc. that are touched are to be disinfected. This policy applies to individual PI or Wayne State University owned items. Minimize direct contact with tools and equipment. If you touch it, or plan to touch it, disinfect it. Provide a clear plan for how materials will be disposed of at the end of the day.

Wrap Up: 

  • Clean and disinfect all shared equipment and touched surfaces. 
  • Bag up used supplies; return to field office or campus for disposal. 
  • Debrief with all participants.

In the case of COVID-19 infection concerns:  

Contact the Campus Health Center at

If you have symptoms of influenza or coronavirus (fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, or fatigue) during normal working hours, after hours or over the weekend, please call the Campus Health Center at 313-577-5041.

Campus Resources

Emergency Medical Response: 911

WSU Campus Police Emergency Number: 1-313-577-2222 

WSU COVID-19 Updates:

WSU Office of Environment, Health & Safety (OEHS):