Duty of Care

Duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring that they exercise a reasonable standard of care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. This is a legal measure of behaviour, not of mental states or morals. For one to have been considered to have acted reasonably, one must be well informed, knowledgeable, and aware of human behaviour and exhibit an understanding of risk awareness.

The program you are planning may take you to locations where health, safety and cultural norms are different from those with which you are familiar and you must be aware of those differences and their implications. The concept of duty of care must be exercised when making decisions affecting these academic or operational pursuits – a standard to which students, faculty, staff and the institution should adhere during all phases of the activity. UBC and our faculty/staff involved in Supervisor-led study or research programs cannot ensure the absolute safety of program participants in every eventuality. All participants are responsible for their own actions and decisions, however it is the responsibility of the Supervisor* to develop a trip plan that covers each of the following most significant categories of reasonable care and emergency management:

Maintenance of Standards and Responsibilities

The level of responsibility assumed by a Supervisor, in most cases, does not extend to an expanded legal exposure for that Supervisor. UBC itself accepts the burden of this liability and will provide defense and protection for employees sued in their individual capacities for activities performed while conducting UBC business in furtherance of their University duties as long as their conduct was not criminal or willful misconduct.

Supervisors play an important role in controlling the risks to which Program participants are exposed. Supervisors do this by:

  • Balancing the level of risk with level of the participants’ abilities and experience.
  • Presenting curriculum in a manner that leads from simple tasks to more complex.
  • Consciously striving to manage the levels of risk to which students, supervisors and other staff are exposed.

Qualifications and Liability

Deans and Unit Heads rely on supervisors to know and carry out common practice in areas such as curriculum, student/supervisor ratios, equipment use, and emergency response. Supervisors who are not current in their knowledge expose the program to liability. It is therefore incumbent on supervisors to seek such information through appropriate resources such as the Centre for Teaching Learning and Technology, Go Global , Risk Management Services, Human Resources, Faculty Relations and HSE.

Risk Management Directives

The following checklist summarizes the program supervisor’s responsibilities while planning, teaching, leading courses and conducting research in the field.

  • Be aware of the common practices or industry standards for the activity you are leading or instructing.
  • Possess the appropriate qualifications and experience for the activity and level you are engaging.
  • Ensure that the program has been adequately planned and documented processes and methodologies are in place and that all participants have received the appropriate education, training and are aware of their specific roles.
  • Ensure that a detailed emergency response plan for the trip being led has been established and that all program participants can carry out these directions in the field.
  • Carry communication equipment appropriate for the isolation, complexity, and geography of the trip. You should be able to contact assistance by radio, cellular phone or satellite phone at any point during your trip.
  • Engage participants by following the documented plan and guidelines and, if deviating from these, document your rationale at the time.
  • Keep detailed records of near misses and incidents that occur.
  • Maintain control of the group at all times.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use drugs on or before trips.
  • Ensure that you conduct regular safety talks with program participants, conduct regular site risk assessments and inspections, eliminate hazards where possible, and provide adequate warnings of remaining hazards and mechanisms to control the associated risks. Safety talks with students should occur every day, at minimum.

*A supervisor is a person, not necessarily an administrative head of unit, who has been delegated supervisory responsibility for others working or studying at UBC. Examples include faculty members, principal investigators, managers, directors, and staff assigned supervisory responsibilities for other staff or students.