Field Trip and Activity Information

Field trips provide unique and valuable opportunities for students to engage in learning beyond the classroom, with opportunities for connecting both theory and practice. This type of student learning experience is supportive of our polytechnic “Learn by Doing” philosophy.

However, field trips expose participants to risks that are not present in the classroom. Injuries caused during field trips create exposure to liability for the University. Employees who plan and organize field trips can reduce the exposure to risk and better ensure the safety of University staff and students during field trips by addressing, during the planning stage, the specific risks that arise out of field trips.

The resources below have been developed to help minimize these risks and exposures and describe some measures that can help organize and control the field trip experience; it is not an all-inclusive list. Departments are encouraged to document the protocols and procedures used in planning their field trips.

Field Trip Guidelines


A field trip is a university course-related, off-campus activity led by a faculty or staff member and designed to serve educational purposes. A field trip would include the gathering of data for research (such as at a geological or archaeological site), museum visit, participation in a conference or competition, or visits to an event or place of interest. The duration of a field trip may be a class period or longer, and could extend over multiple days. This definition does not apply to activities or placements in the context of a teacher preparation program, intercollegiate sports, independent study, internships, clinical placements (nursing, social work, CSD), or service-learning/field work placements, all of which are governed by separate policies.

PLEASE NOTE: This information is intended to assist those individuals tasked with the planning and successful execution of university supervised field trips. However, each trip is unique and these guidelines do not address all scenarios that field trip participants, or their leaders could face. Departments and/or field trip leaders should contact Risk Management for general guidance during the planning process for each specific trip.

Click on the tabs below to review information for each topic.

  • Before your trip
    1. Before each quarter, complete a Pre-Trip Site Evaluation Worksheet. This is done by conducting a site visit to become familiar with the site and to identify any risks. Take into consideration any risks or dangers that might be involved in the field trip (strenuous physical activities, falling hazards, dangerous animals, poisonous plants, crime, environmental conditions, etc.) and what you will do about those risks. A site visit can be bypassed if the faculty member can demonstrate and document sufficient knowledge of the field trip site. This could be accomplished by review online, published materials, or contacting the site to discuss proposed activities and potential hazards. Submit the worksheet to the Department Chair for approval.
    2. Upon Department Chair approval, complete arrangements with the owner/manager of the site/area and support services, if any. Contracts and agreements must be reviewed and signed by Procurement Services (you may be personally liable for contracts not authorized by Procurement Services). Funding of expenses may be from University or Cal Poly Corporation accounts. Student fees for field trips must be approved, in advance, by the University Fee Committee and collected by University Cashier.
    3. Before each quarter, field trip leaders should notify their Dean and/or Department Head (or their respective designee) of those courses or course sections that incorporate field trips. At a minimum, the notification should include information regarding the date, duration, location, and transportation plan for each trip. Based on the scope of the planned activities, the Dean or Department Head (or their respective designee) may request that a Hazard Assessment be completed in consultation with Risk Management.
    4. Field trips should be clearly identified in the course syllabus (location, time, means of transportation, costs), and should include some reference to inherent risks associated with the activity and emergency procedures. If an unforeseen educational opportunity arises later in the term, the faculty member should discuss it with the class, as soon as possible.
    5. During the syllabus review at the beginning of the quarter, the field trip leader should discuss with the students the nature of the activities during the field trip, include any inherent hazards, strenuous activity, or unusual activity that might take place. This will be done by providing to students and reviewing a University Field Activities Notification. Invite students to notify the field trip leader in advance of any special accommodations or medical conditions that may need to be addressed to help ensure a successful trip for them.
    6. Depending on the scope and location of the field trip, participants should be made aware of exposures to animal or insect-borne diseases that could arise from participating in the field trip. The participants should be informed in advance of the specific risk involved and precautions that can be taken. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website is a good resource for general information.
    7. Prior to the trip, conduct a pre-departure orientation to provide students with an Instructional Agenda, Health and Safety Information Emergency Procedures and the Student Code of Conduct.
    8. Prior to the field trip, field trip leaders should provide a list of participants (including faculty, staff, or other University representatives) to a designated departmental contact who would know how to reach the field trip leader during the trip if necessary. Medical Information Forms should be collected when appropriate (i.e. if a Hazard Assessment indicates higher risk activities).
    9. Each student must complete a Waiver of Liability and Release. These forms are required for all field trips, required and voluntary. Students should also sign this form if they choose to deviate from the group travel plans, remain at the site after the planned activity is completed, or separate from the group. This makes it clear they are doing so of their own freewill and at their own risk. Any student that deviates from the planned trip or leaves early, will be required to complete a Field Activities Sign Out Release Agreement.
  • Participants

    The only authorized participants in a Cal Poly SLO field trip are:

    Guests including family members and friends are not allowed on academic field trips to minimize the risk exposure and liability to the University.Participants must complete and sign the University Field Activites Notification and Release of Liability and provide the name and number of an emergency contact. This information should carried by the faculty member in charge of the trip as well as the backup person.

    Training in the use of necessary safety equipment must be provided to participants prior to departure.

  • Accommodating students with special needs

    For students requiring special accommodations, faculty should discuss these matters with the student(s) in individual settings or notify them that they can discuss their concerns with the Disability Resource Center.

    • The field trip leader should facilitate any special accommodations.
    • Full consideration should be given by investigating the accessibility of the destination as well as transportation resources.
    • Students with special needs related to religious and or cultural beliefs and values should be reasonably accommodated.
    • Students with disabilities should always be permitted to participate in field trips and trips should be arranged in ways that reasonably accommodate them.
    • Physical requirements should be clearly delineated, and students should be afforded the opportunity to complete an alternate activity in the event that participation is not feasible.
    • Any ADA issues must be considered, including reasonable accommodations or an alternative assignment or activity for those who cannot participate in the field trip, must be provided.
  • Emergency situations and accidents

    Field trip leaders should develop an emergency response plan and know the procedures for responding in event of an emergency. The type of field trip dictates the level of emergency planning needed. Items to address in the emergency response plan include:

    • All participants should know how to contact the institution from the site, find and use the first aid kit, find and use the cell phone, and what to do if separated from the group.
    • In addition to the field trip leader, at least one person should be designated as a back-up to carry an emergency department phone number to notify the department on campus if an emergency has occurred.
    • If the trip location is remote, it is strongly recommended that at least two persons on the trip have first aid skills, a first aid kit, and a cell phone or appropriate means of communication in the event emergency aid is needed.
    • A protocol for circumstances that may necessitate the supervisor leaving the group to accompany an injured or ill student.
    • Confirmation that cell phones will operate from the field trip site should be made in advance so that alternative arrangements can be made if needed.

    In the event of an emergency, field trip leaders should attend to the injured immediately. Once the situation has been stabilized, field trip leaders can then determine what condition(s) or act(s) caused the injury or illness. The field trip leader should initiate any steps that are necessary to prevent similar incidents in the future. Things to look for are: specific sequence of events that led to the emergency situation, conditions that may have contributed to the emergency situation, and statements from eyewitnesses, if available.

    Immediately call 911 in all incidents involving serious injury or death, multiple injuries, or extensive property damage. As soon as possible, contact the designated departmental emergency contact, Risk Management, and, if on campus, University Police to report the situation and receive assistance. Phone numbers for these units can be found below. Complete the Accident/Incident Report Form to record information about the details of the incident after the situation has been stabilized and submit to Risk Management within 48 hours of the accident/incident occurring.

  • Title IX and clery act crime reporting protocol
    • Most faculty and staff are designated as “Mandated Reporters” under the university Title IX Policy. “Mandated Reporters” must report any gender-based misconduct involving students or employees, regardless of the location, to the Title IX Coordinator promptly.
    • All employees who have significant responsibility for student and campus activities are also designated as Campus Security Authorities (CSAs) per the Clery Act. CSAs must report all criminal offenses that occur on properties owned or controlled by the university or a student organization to Campus Safety & Security promptly.
    • Victims of, or witnesses to a crime should dial 911 immediately to report it to local police. If ANY alleged crime on property owned or controlled by Cal Poly SLO or a student organization is reported, victims should be encouraged to report to the police. (This is the victim's choice). As a CSA, report what information you have immediately to University Police at (805) 756-2281.
    • If anyone becomes aware of gender-based misconduct involving students or employees, on or off campus, report as soon as possible to the Title IX Coordinator at (805) 756-6770 or
    • Depending on the situation, reports may need to made to police, UPD, and Title IX coordinator.
  • Transportation

    Participants in transit are not automatically covered by University insurance. If possible, begin and end all field trips on campus and determine transportation needs in advance. University-provided transportation (including rented vehicles and charter buses) should be used for transportation on a field trip whenever possible. Public transportation (i.e. regularly schedule trains or buses) is also an appropriate means of transportation.

    University-owned and Rented Vehicles

    Departments with vehicles can use them to transport students on field trips. The use of university vehicles is governed by the University Fleet Safety Policy. Anyone who operates a vehicle in conjunction with a field trip (whether owned by the University or not) should complete the Defensive Driving Training Course offered by Environmental Health & Safety. Students who are 18 years of age or older and who have completed Cal Poly's Defensive Driving course are eligible to drive university vehicles for approved field trips when accompanied by the university employee conducting the field trip.

    Any traffic or parking violations are the sole responsibility of the operator of the vehicle.

    Use of Commercial Charter Operators

    When using commercial charter operators, a contract for services should be executed through Cal Poly's Procurement Services.

    Use of Private Vehicles (discouraged)

    Students are urged to use university provided transportation if available. Students who choose instead to operate a privately-owned or commercially-rented vehicle, or to ride as a passenger in a private automobile do so of their own freewill and at their own risk. Cal Poly University employees should not drive students' vehicles.

    In situations where students wish to deviate from the group travel plans, such as requesting to drive their personal vehicle or make their own travel arrangements, a proper release form will indicate that they are traveling at their own risk and understand their own auto insurance is primary. The University is not liable for physical damage to personal vehicles or medical compensation for their passengers.

    If a faculty member or other university employee elects to operate a privately-owned vehicle for transportation, they must have an approved Authorization to Use Privately Owned Vehicles on State Business (STD 261) on file with their manager/department prior to departure. The vehicle owner's policy will serve as the primary policy for liability and the sole policy for physical damage. It is advisable for the employee to confirm with their insurance agent that coverage will apply to business uses before using their personal vehicle on university business. Drivers must not have any DUI or reckless driving violations on their current MVR. Faculty or staff who drive must complete the mandatory defensive driving class at least once every three years.

    For any vehicle accidents, please visit: vehicle accidents.

    Air Travel

    Cal Poly Campus Administrative Policy (CAP) Section 361.7.3 requires the execution of a “release and hold harmless statement” by each student who participates in CSU - sponsored student air travel and/or air travel required in a CSU - affiliated program. Students traveling by air on flights not regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation are required to purchase life and personal injury insurance.

    Contact Risk Management for assistance.

    International Travel

    All university activities and/or programs involving international travel for students shall contact International Education and Programs for specific requirements and documentation including requirements related to air travel.

    Travel Documentation

    Please visit Poly Travel for information regarding Concur Travel Requests and Expenses, including Group travel, for trips that incur expenses.

    Foreign Travel Insurance

    All employees and students traveling internationally on University business are required to secure their foreign travel insurance through California State University Risk Management Authority (CSURMA). Please complete the application here: Foreign Travel Insurance Application

  • Insurance


    Students are responsible for their own medical insurance coverage for field trips just as they are while attending classes on campus. Any accident or injury that occurs to a student participating in a sanctioned field trip experience should be reported to Risk Management. Students should be reminded to carry ID and medical insurance cards at all times.

    Employees are covered by Cal Poly's Worker's Compensation Liability Insurance program. Worker's Comp Claims can be reported at the following website:

    Personal Property

    The University does not provide insurance coverage for students' or other participants' property. If personal property is lost or damaged during the trip, regardless of fault, most individual's homeowners/tenants insurance coverage will respond. Any deductibles are the responsibility of property owner. If the property owner does not carry any homeowners/renter's insurance, then the entire amount of the damage is their responsibility. Cal Poly SLO will not pay for any loss or damage to any personal property - individuals use it at their own risk.

    If taking expensive university equipment off premises, please check with Risk Management to discuss insurance needs.


  • How often do the University Field Activities Notification Forms need to be completed?
    Each student participant should complete this University Field Activities Notification Form and Release of Liability Agreement for each University sponsored field trip or activity.
  • What if there are multiple field trips associated with a course?
    If a student participates in multiple field trip activities in a given quarter, a Release of Liability form is required for each trip.
  • How do I know if I am approved to travel?
    If the trip will incur authorized expenses, a Concur Request and Expense (for Cal Poly employees) or Travel 1A (for CPC, ASI, volunteers, and students) will need to be completed. For trips without expenses, authorization is granted through Dean and/or Department Head approval of the Pre-Site Trip Evaluation and Syllabus.
  • What is the purpose of the hold harmless clause on the Release of Liability forms?
    A hold harmless clause on a liability waiver form may have legal standing in any court of law. The participant's signature on the waiver form means that the participant will not sue the University if the participant suffers any damage or loss as a result of participating in the activity. The purpose of the hold harmless clause is to discourage claims against the University.
  • What if the student is under 18?
    If the student is a minor, the parent/guardian will need to sign the Release of Liability form for the student. The form must be physically signed, electronic signatures are not acceptable for minors.
  • Where are the Field Trip forms kept after they are collected? How Long?
    The completed and signed Field Trip forms are to be kept for a minimum of three (3) years in the field trip sponsor's academic department after the conclusion of the quarter during which the field trip took place. For minors, the form should be kept a minimum of three years, or until the minor turns 20. If a claim is filed during this period, the department will be requested to provide a copy of the participant's signed waiver of liability form. Electronic copies of the documents are permissible for retention purposes.
  • What are the requirements for students who volunteer to drive on a field trip?
    Student drivers who volunteer to drive other students in their private vehicles on a field trip must meet all the CSU requirements. These requirements include a current valid California Driver's license, and proof of private vehicle insurance coverage. Student volunteer drivers must also complete an Authorization to Use Privately owned Vehicles on State Business (STD 261) Form for any University-affiliated Program or Trip. This form is to be kept in the employing department's personnel files.
  • Are there any requirements for student passengers in another student's car going on a field trip?
    Students who make personal travel arrangements as passengers with fellow classmates in their private vehicles are not required to provide proof of vehicle insurance to a field trip sponsor. However, students should be given notice that the driver's private vehicle insurance is primary coverage for any injuries to passengers and/or any vehicle damage. The University is not responsible for students who make their own personal travel arrangements.
  • The requirement that all field trips should begin and end on campus is impractical and often impossible. Why is it necessary?

    The guideline that all field trips should begin and end on campus is a GUIDELINE and not a requirement. This guideline is related to the requirement of the Student Travel Accident Insurance Policy purchased by CSU. A field trip that begins and ends on campus is less likely to be questioned as a "field trip" by the insurance policy claims administrators. This travel accident insurance covers students who are away from campus on a University sponsored field trip or traveling to or from a field trip site.

    Students who make their own personal transportation arrangements (i.e. private car, carpool with other students, public transportation, etc.) to and from home/other site and the field trip meeting place are to be given notice that personal travel is done at their own risk. The University takes no responsibility for students that make their own travel arrangements to and from a field trip meeting site. Field trip sponsors/leaders may designate a meeting time and place for a field trip. However, they must notify their students that personal transportation arrangements are done so at their own liability risk.

  • Are students required to sign waiver forms for class assignments completed outside the classroom (i.e. visit at a museum site, social service agency site, elementary school site, etc.)?
    No, such releases are not required. The University does not provide liability coverage for students completing class assignments outside the classroom. Faculty is encouraged to thoroughly scrutinize student assignment sites for potential risks and to recommend adequate personal safety practices.
  • Are there any limitations for students who attend professional conferences and workshops as a part of their coursework?
    There is no University restriction or limitation for students who attend professional conferences and workshops for course credit. If students attend conferences or workshops, students must be given notice that they attend and/or participate at their own risk.
  • What is the liability associated with academic field trips and how can they be mitigated?

    Recognizing that field trips involving students are often an essential part of academic course work, there are a number of risks associated with field trips that must be addressed. This is especially important when the trip involves hazardous activities/materials or dangerous sites. Activities should not be held (risk avoidance) in which there is a clear and present danger to the health and safety to students. Inadequate procedures to control the risks associated with off-campus field trips and special events unnecessarily expose participating students to undue risk and increase the potential for loss to the campus community and the CSU.

    The usual academic or University sponsored extracurricular activities may be controlled through appropriate risk mitigation strategies such as:

    Ensuring that the trip is a mandatory course requirement so there is no question of coverage on student travel accident insurance policies;

    Requiring that the field trip be limited to certain authorized participants who sign appropriate liability release agreements:

    • Ensuring that trip leaders understand what to do if something goes wrong;
    • Arranging vehicle transportation by individuals who have valid driver's licenses and are authorized to use their vehicles only if properly insured; and
    • Stipulating the types of safety precautions and instructions delivered to participants.
  • When does a "University Field Activities Notification" form need to be completed by the student?
    The "University Field Activities Notification" form, in concurrence with the Release of Liability form, addresses the specific hazards and potential injuries associated with a particular activity. The "Release of Liability" form, also often called just a "Release", means that the person who signs the form accepts, understands and assumes the risks inherent with the activity and agrees not to sue the University.
  • Is a student driving his/her personal private vehicle to a field trip site location required to pass the Defensive Driver Course?

    No. The requirements for a student in the class taking a field trip, who will be using a personal vehicle to go to the field trip site, are:

    • Must possess a valid California Driver's License
    • Must be covered by State law required minimum liability insurance
    • In addition, the student, as well as all students on the field trip, must sign the " University Field Activities Notification" form.
  • What are the requirements associated with a University program that requires a student to travel by air?

    Cal Poly Campus Administrative Policy (CAP) Section 361.7.3 requires the execution of a “release and hold harmless statement” by each student who participates in CSU - sponsored student air travel and/or air travel required in a CSU - affiliated program. Students traveling by air on flights not regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation are required to purchase life and personal injury insurance.

    Contact Risk Management for assistance

  • What are the requirements for student drivers who drive other students in a University rented vehicle on a field trip?
    Since students are prohibited from driving State vehicles without proper authorization (University rented vehicles are considered State vehicles), students must not drive University rented vehicles. If it becomes necessary for a student to operate a State vehicle, the student must be "officially" appointed as a "Volunteer" through Cal Poly's EH&S Department and meet all the CSU requirements for a volunteer and State vehicle driver.
  • What does the Student Travel Accident Insurance Policy cover?
    This CSU purchased insurance policy is an automatic blanket travel and accident policy that covers enrolled students at the academic field trip site, and for travel to and from the site, up to a maximum of $50,000 for specified medical expenses. See the Student Travel Accident Program webpage in the Risk Management website.
  • What if the field trip leader is unable to attend last minute?
    Contact Risk Management.