Risk Assessment Procedure

Final Approval Body: Senior Leadership Team

Senior Administrative Position with Responsibility for Procedure: VP, Finance and Administration

Date Initially Approved: January, 2023


The Off-Campus Activity Safety Policy (OCASP) requires all university-organized and sanctioned Off-Campus Activities be evaluated from a risk perspective. This procedure defines the risk levels under this Policy, describes those activities for which risk has been pre-determined, and outlines the processes for assessing risk and approving risk levels.

Accompanying Procedures and Guidelines

In addition to this Risk Assessment Procedure, implementation of the Off-Campus Activity Policy is supported by the following procedures and guidelines. It is recommended that you review these documents to ensure you understand the steps required to comply with the Policy:  

Supporting resources can be found on the OCASP Website.

Related policies, procedures and guidelines are listed at the end of this procedure.

Participants with Disabilities

Queen’s is committed to facilitating the integration of students, faculty, and staff with disabilities into the university community.

People with disabilities can and do assume some risk for their participation in activities and this risk is sometimes directly connected to their disability. The assumption of a certain degree of risk by people with disabilities should not result in an automatic risk classification higher than would be normally expected if they were not participating in the activity.

Accommodation of an individual’s special needs does not necessarily increase the risk associated with the activity, nor does it necessarily hamper the individual’s participation in the activity. However, in some circumstances, it may be necessary to devise an alternative Off-Campus Activity for the person(s) with special needs.   Persons with disabilities must be fully consulted and involved in any process of determining how they will participate in an Off-Campus Activity.

Safety plans for an Off-Campus Activity must recognize the special needs of Participants with disabilities

Activity Planners and Participants who have questions concerning risk and accommodation issues relating to Participants with disabilities should consult the appropriate offices on campus for advice.

Equity and Diversity

Queen’s is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusivity in all aspects of university life.  Queen’s recognizes that students, faculty and/or staff engaging in Off-Campus Activities, particularly internationally, may encounter situations that do not reflect Queen’s University values.  Participants travelling outside of Canada are strongly encouraged to understand the human rights, equity profile and cultural norms of the country or countries they will be visiting as part of their Off-Campus Activity.  Queen’s University encourages its students to value cultural differences and be sensitive to the cultural diversity and traditions of the country they visit.


The following steps are completed by the Activity Planner except for Step Four that is the responsibility of the Person in Authority.

Step 1: Determine if the Risk Level Has Been Pre-determined by the University

Who is Responsible: Activity Planner

  • Any international travel involving undergraduate(s) as Participant(s) is automatically considered to be High Risk. The exception is travel back to a student’s home country where the student is relying on or can rely on support from their family and the activity is not considered high risk (e.g., students taking summer courses under an International Letter of Permission over the summer).
  • Undergraduate students include students in first-entry baccalaureate programs and students in professional programs (i.e., Juris Doctor (J.D.), MD, B.Ed.).
  • The university has identified categories of activities that are automatically considered to be Low Risk. To fall into the category of a university-level, Low Risk Activity without the need for further review and authorization, the activity must comply with ALL the conditions listed in Appendix A.

Step 2: Determine if a Preliminary Risk Assessment is Required

Who is Responsible: Activity Planner

  • A preliminary risk assessment is required if the following apply:
    • This is a new Off-Campus Activity OR this is a repeat Off-Campus Activity but there have been changes to the activity and/or the location, AND
    • The risk level has NOT been pre-determined by the university (see Step 1).
  • If the Activity Planner recognizes the Off-Campus Activity is a High Risk Activity, a preliminary risk assessment is not required.

Step 3: Complete a Preliminary Risk Assessment (if Required)

Who is Responsible: Activity Planner

  • Consult with the Person in Authority and/or the Department of Environmental Health and Safety when assessing the risk of the planned Off-Campus Activity.
  • Complete and submit the Preliminary Risk Assessment using the Safe Travel Activity Registration Tool (START).
  • Prior to logging into the START gather the following information:
    • Department overseeing activity
    • Proposed activity dates
    • Activity sites or locations
    • Host country
    • Any travel advisories issued by Global Affairs Canada
    • Rationale for Activity being a Low or High Risk Activity
  • Risk assessment is a process that involves the following:
    • Identifying hazards associated with the activity. This includes not just the location of the activity but also the activity itself (e.g., collecting data in an industrial setting).
    • Analyzing the risk related to each of the hazards (e.g., possibility of injury in an industrial setting).
    • Determining if the risks can be managed effectively.
    • Considering the likelihood of encountering an identified hazard and the gravity of the consequences of such an encounter.
  • When determining risk, consider the activity and activity location from multiple perspectives. For example:
    • What is the activity in which you are engaging? Are there hazards associated with the activity itself (e.g., rock climbing, working in mountainous terrain)?
    • Where is the site of the activity? Is it a high-density urban area? Is it at a distance from emergency coverage? Is there a lack of phone reception?
    • Will your travel take you to or through a country or region where unusual conditions such as political instability, uncertain medical services or a natural disaster are known to exist, or for which there is a travel advisory?
    • What type of transportation will you be using? Will it be by public conveyance?
  • A risk assessment requires the exercise of good judgement, based on expertise and experience, and, as appropriate, consultation with suitably qualified individuals and external resources (e.g., Global Affairs Canada Travel Advisories, WHO Travel Advice).

Step 4: Approve or Change Risk Level for Planned Off-Campus Activities

Who is Responsible: Person in Authority

  • Review the Preliminary Risk Assessment submitted by the Activity Planner using the START.
  • Approve the risk level as submitted or assign a different risk level (e.g., change from Low to High Risk).
  • If the risk level is determined to be Unmanageable, direct the Activity Planner to cancel or terminate the Off-Campus Activity.

Step 5: Complete Planning Steps Appropriate to the Approved Risk Level

Who is Responsible: Activity Planner

Definitions: Off-Campus Activity

Off-Campus Activity: Any field research or an academic/extra-curricular/administrative activity that takes place beyond the boundaries of the Activity Planner’s or Participant’s primary Queen’s location.  Queen’s locations include all Queen’s Campuses in Kingston, Ontario and other locations owned or leased by Queen’s University (e.g.SNOLAB, Smith School of Business in Toronto),  and locations that are approved under a Remote Work Agreement.

Definitions: Roles

Activity Planner: The individual with direct responsibility for planning or leading an Off-Campus Activity. Examples of Activity Planners are course instructors, team coaches, a Principal Investigator (PI) who has direct responsibility for a field research project or activity, or a graduate student who plans and executes a field, thesis or post-doctoral research project or activity and/or a project carried out under a research or service agreement. The Activity Planner may also be a Participant (see definition below) and must fulfill the responsibilities of both roles.

Authorized Volunteer: An individual who is not a University Member but who participates voluntarily in an Off-Campus Activity with the approval of the Activity Planner and the Person in Authority.   

Participant: any University Member and/or Authorized Volunteer who takes part in an Off-Campus Activity.  

Person in Authority: The individual responsible for approving the Off-Campus Activity under this Policy. In most cases, this will be the Department/Unit Head or Program Director to whom the Activity Planner reports. Where a Department/Unit Head, Program Director, Dean or Vice-Principal is the Activity Planner, the Person in Authority would be their supervisor (Dean, Vice-Principal or Principal). There are three exceptions:

  • For off-campus field study trips by students at the Bader International Study Centre, the Executive Director of the Centre is the Person in Authority.
  • For undergraduate academic exchanges, activities undertaken by Queen's Project on International Development (QPID), Queen’s Heath Outreach (QHO) and Mitacs Research Awards that involve international travel, the Director of Environmental Health and Safety or their designate is the Person in Authority.
  • For student-organized, extra-curricular activity sanctioned or funded by the university, the university official who provides the sanction or authorizes the financial contribution assumes the responsibility of the Person in Authority.

University Members: All undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, staff, and faculty.

Definitions: Risk Levels

High Risk: An activity is deemed to be high risk if it has the potential to expose participants to hazards that are significantly greater than those likely to be encountered in their everyday lives.  Potential risks may be associated with the activity itself, with ancillary activities such as travel to the site, and/or environmental, health, safety or security risks that are characteristic of the location.  Examples include:

  • Research or study at industrial or medical facilities which pose health or safety risks (e.g., mine site, corrections facility, manufacturing facility)
  • Working/traveling in remote regions (considering access to medical services and/or phone/911 coverage) or regions natural hazards (i.e. rugged terrain, potential for avalanches, landslides, flash flooding, etc.)
  • Working/traveling in politically unstable countries or war zones
  • Travel to countries where epidemic disease requires additional immunizations and specific mitigation strategies, including vaccines
  • Any activity that involves travel through or to a country or region for which a travel or health advisory is in effect

In some circumstances the risk may be evaluated as unmanageable (see the definition of Unmanageable Risk in this Procedure).

Low Risk: An activity is deemed to be of low risk if it entails hazards no greater than those encountered by the participants in their everyday lives. Minimal planning and preparation are required for such activities.  Under normal circumstances, the following are considered activities of low risk:

  • Travel within Canada for conferences, seminars, meetings, and/or for visits to academic or related institutions (e.g., accredited1 universities or hospitals, museums, galleries, and theatres)
  • Local field trips of short duration in an urban setting in Canada
  • Clinical placements at accredited1 institutions in Canada
  • Domestic travel by Queen’s Varsity athletic teams and University-supported athletic clubs

Unmanageable Risk: An activity is deemed to have an Unmanageable Risk level when sustainable mitigation strategies that would bring the risk level to a manageable threshold cannot be achieved. Examples of activities where it may not be possible to put in place sustainable mitigation strategies include:

  • Travel to active war zones
  • Travel to an area where there is an acute public health event (e.g., Ebola outbreak)
  • Solitary field research or travel in remote or hazardous areas (considering access to emergency or medical services and/or phone/911 coverage)
  • Travel to an area where a recent natural disaster has caused infrastructure damage and the provision of basic services continues to be disrupted. This includes locations where the risk of re-occurrence of the event that caused the disaster remains high (i.e. aftershocks, additional avalanches, etc.)
  • Travel to a location where a travel and/or health advisory to avoid all travel has been issued by external agencies such as Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Health Canada, World Health Organization (WHO), International SOS, etc.  
  • An activity where the amount of training required or the extent or cost of the safety precautions necessary to overcome the risks associated with a group’s size or the experience of its members is prohibitive

Related Policies, Procedures, Guidelines:

Accommodation of Disabilities in the Workplace Policy

Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Policy

Health and Safety Management System Policy

Policy Statement on Health and Safety

Procedures Superseded by this Procedure: N/A

Responsible Officer: VP, Finance and Administration
Contact: Director, Environmental Health and Safety
Date for Next Review: January 2028


1An accredited institution means an institution that is officially recognized or authorised as a legitimate establishment in its particular field.  The goal is to ensure the institution meets a reasonable standard with respect to quality and internal procedure and process that will help minimize risk to those that are visiting the institution.

Appendix A: Categories of Off-Campus Activities Considered Low-Risk

To fall into the category of a University-level, low-risk activity without the need for further review and authorization, the activity must comply with ALL of the conditions listed below:

  • The Off-Campus Activity exclusively involves one or more of the following:
    • attendance at an academic/professional conference;
    • library, archival or laboratory research or other academic work (e.g., guest lecturing) at institutional establishments (e.g., accredited2 universities, hospitals, libraries, archives, museums, galleries, theatres, government offices and facilities);
    • university administrative business.


  • the site of the activity is in an urban region.


  • the locality is reasonably judged to be “low risk”; i.e., it entails hazards no greater than those likely to be encountered by the participants in their everyday lives in Canada. In particular, there are no current, nor have there been any recent, Travel Warnings issued by Global Affairs Canada, and the Global Affairs Canada Country Profile Reports identify no hazards other than those which would be reasonably anticipated in urban Canada.


  • travel to and from the locality of the activity does not involve passage via a “higher-risk” locality.


  • all travel will be by public conveyance (commercial airline, rail, bus, ship, taxi), or by private or rented vehicle on public roads.


  • the activity does not include any international travel by an undergraduate (students in first-entry baccalaureate programs) or professional (J.D., MD, B.Ed.) student.

Note:  travel back to a Participant’s home country where they are familiar with the laws, culture, and climate of the country, and are relying on support from their family, can be deemed low risk provided the nature of the activity is not considered high risk.   This includes travel by an undergraduate or professional (J.D., MD, B.Ed.) student to their home country where the student is relying on or can rely on support from their family (e.g., students taking summer courses under an International Letter of Permission over the summer).

2 An accredited institution means an institution that is officially recognized or authorised as a legitimate establishment in its particular field.  The goal is to ensure the institution meets a reasonable standard with respect to quality and internal procedure and process that will help minimize risk to those that are visiting the institution