School of GeoSciences

Dissertation Risk Assessments

Guidance resource for Undergraduate or Postgraduate (Taught) Dissertation Students

Undergraduate and taught M.Sc. Students are expected to undertake independent research in support of their dissertations. For many students this may be the first experience of conducting self-directed research and could involve fieldwork in the UK and abroad.

All Dissertation Students are expected to evaluate the risks from their research and obtain authorisation from the School to proceed with their research BEFORE commencing their research. As such, ALL Dissertation Students must submit a Dissertation Safety Declaration together with any other supporting risk assessments.

This is not 'just another hurdle' or 'a pointless piece of paperwork'. Rather this is a vital planning tool that will aid in planning rour research in such a way that it is more likely to succeed. It also allows the reviewer to spot any dangers in the reseaarch or legal / safety pitfalls that might be encountered. If you would like to discuss your research before filling in the forms, contact the School Health and Safety Manager or your Supervisor.

Submission of the forms will be via the Teaching Office who will let you know the submission arrangements for your course.

Dissertation Safety Declaration Form

Please note - If you are submitting this form before your supervisor has been assigned, please put 'To Be Confirmed' as the Supervisor name.

Please see the following Guidance to aid in completion of the form:

Please note that a good, clear, description of the aims of the research and proposed methodology aids in reviewing the forms and allows the reviewer to understand how the research will be conducted.


Am I Conducting Fieldwork?

If your research involves interviewing people or going into the field to observe or collect samples, YES, you are conducting fieldwork. As such a Fieldwork Risk Assessment will be required. This could be as simple as conducting interviews and focus groups in Edinburgh to collecting samples in the Arctic or South American Rain Forests. It is all fieldwork in one way or another.

Please note that not all sections of the forms will be applicable to all projects. However, please pay close attention to the sections on 'Human Issues', 'Personal Safety', 'Emergency Procedures' and 'Contingency Planning'. These apply to all projects involving fieldwork.

Travel and Fieldwork Page

What About Laboratory Work?

If your research involves laboratory work, you must have appropriate risk assessments in place as handling chemicals and samples can be hazardous. Your Supervisor should be able to help with these and may have suitable risk assessments in place already. Failing this, the School Health and Safety Manager can advise and assist.

Does this Apply to Desk Work?

Yes. If your project involves desk-based work and data analysis, long periodss of computer work can, over time, give rise to musculoskeletal problems such as back strain, neck and shoulder pain etc. The University has the following Guidance which you should read and take any action advised. Again, the School Health and Safety Manager can advise and assist.

Will the University provide Travel Insurance for my Project?


If your project involves overseas fieldwork, and you have an authorised risk assessment, you may apply for University travel Insurance which is normally free of charge. Also, withing certain limits, you may also undertake some personal travel under the policy. See the Travel and Fieldwork Flowchart for links. You can also contact the School Health and Safety Manager or the Insurance Office for more details.

Can the University Provide Public Liability Insurance for my Project?


All approved research is covered by the University Public Liability Insurance. So long as your project has been approved by the School and you stay within the agreed bounds of rour research, you are covered. The Insurance Office can be contacted for more details.

Links to Supporting Forms

Fieldwork Forms

Chemical Risk Assessment Form

Display Screen Equipment Risk Assessment Form