The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) is located in Longyearbyen at latitude of 78° North. It is a small town of approximately 2 200 inhabitants which has its own local hospital. The nearest regional hospital is located in Tromsø, Norway, a two-hour flight away.
A large part of UNIS’ activities includes field work which often takes place far from Longyearbyen and with limited access to medical assistance. On some of the excursions, participants are transported several days away from Longyearbyen by ship. They work in the field often without radio contact to the ship. Also during winter, fieldwork is conducted in remote areas by use of snow scooters as transportation. This kind of fieldwork requires that the participants are in good physical condition. A medical emergency will, in these situations, require an ambulance helicopter. Due to the large distances, rapidly shifting weather conditions and uncertain communications in some areas, this might take some time.
As a course- or project participant you have an obligation to report chronic conditions or other health related conditions, which could be of importance when it comes to accomplishing the most demanding field activities. Please contact UNIS prior to your arrival if you have any questions related to health issues and how it might affect your stay in Svalbard.
Emergency preparedness plan (PDF)
HSE fieldwork plan (.doc) – to be filled out before fieldwork
UNIS safety folder (PDFs)
Useful safety links (powerpoint)
UNIS fieldwork instructions (PDFs)
UNIS can offer new, modern laboratory facilities. Planning and execution of lab work at UNIS will be implemented as follows:
- New employees are informed about general procedures and security in the labs in a separate meeting with the lab responsible at arrival. New students receive a general orientation during the safety course in January, and are otherwise informed in advance of their work in the labs.
- When working in the cold lab, chemistry lab or steril lab, specific security instructions apply. Work in these labs requires a specific review with the user and lab technician. Safety instructions for these labs need to be signed as understood by the user.
- In advance of all lab work, the following procedures are followed;
- Reviewing work with lab responsible. As evidence of this review the “HSE documentation for lab work at UNIS” should be filled out. In connection with this review, the following should be considered in particular:
- The need for risk analysis of the work procedure
- Need for risk assessment of chemicals and substitutes
- Need for registration in ECO online
- Clearing and cleaning the lab.
- If you need a risk analysis or registration in ECO online, this will be controlled by the lab responsible before work starts. Forms filled out in connection with these analyses shall be kept together with “HSE documentation” in the “Working in lab” box in the reception while working. The forms will also be recorded electronically in Public 360.
- When the work in the lab is completed, the user and the lab responsible will conduct a joint inspection of the lab.
Lab safety instructions (PDF):
HSE documentation for laboratory work at UNIS (doc/xls):
Divergency reports are found onfurther down the page.
In English (Eco online)
In Norwegian (Eco online)
Access to firearms through UNIS
Access to firearms at UNIS will require one of the following documentations:
- A valid weapon license stating that you are permitted to own a firearm.
- Permission from The Governor on Svalbard (Sysselmannen), stating that you are allowed to rent a rifle for polar bear protection on Svalbard. You can obtain this permission by following the description on the Governor’s web page:
In cases where UNIS affiliated staff is well known by the rifle responsible at UNIS, access to rifles can be granted by UNIS without the documentation described above. The legal basis for this practice is the Norwegian weapon regulations / våpenforskriften; “Forskrift om skytevåpen, våpendeler og ammunisjon mv.» dated 01.07.2009. https://lovdata.no/dokument/SF/forskrift/2009-06-25-904
In addition to the documentation and regulations stated above, the following is required:
- You will need to have completed and passed the UNIS rifle safety training within the last 6 months
- You will have to demonstrate, when collecting the rifle, that you are able to handle the rifle correctly, by demonstrating half-loading and emptying the rifle.
When collecting a rifle through UNIS, you need to bring a copy of your weapon license or permission from the Governor on Svalbard as documentation. When you get a rifle from UNIS, you will also get a rental registration form. You need to bring this form with you at all times as long as you are carrying the rifle.
UNIS firearms policy (PDF)
Natural environment and cultural heritage:
UNIS Environmental Standard
UNIS engages in field-based research and education over much of Svalbard throughout the year. Thus, UNIS will conduct field-based teaching and research so as to cause the minimal impact on Svalbard’s fragile environment. We shall have a thorough understanding of how our activity may negatively impact the environment and how we can avert the impacts. All persons at UNIS shall have necessary training so as to be able to use the tools and aids that will prevent harmful impacts during their fieldwork.
Please have a look at our environmental standard goals before your arrival in Svalbard:
UNIS environmental standard goals (PDF)
UNIS has a working environment committee, whose main task is to ensure a fully satisfactory working environment at UNIS. The committee participates in planning the safety and environment work and follows up closely questions relating to the safety, health and welfare of the employees at UNIS.
Working environment committee
The Working environment committee at UNIS has a mandate to oversee that employees at UNIS has a fully safe working environment in all aspects. The committee meets at least four times a year and handles cases according to a fixed agenda, In addition to cases raised from the employees or the management at UNIS. The Occupational health service (from Longyearbyen hospital) is a permanent member of the working environment comity.
Click the button below for more info, or make contact with Fred Skancke Hansen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about the the regulations made by the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority:
The Working Environment Act
UNIS is constantly working to improve our safety regulations and operational procedures to ensure that we can work as safe as possible. An important tool in this work is knowledge of unsafe conditions, close incidents or incidents. We encourage all staff and students to report unsafe conditions, close accidents or accidents. You can use the forms below to report an incident, or you can make the management aware of the situation by an email, by a personal meeting, or by an anonymous letter.
The report can be sent forward directly to the Director of HSE & infrastructure, to HR, through your department leader, or through the one of the safety delegates.
The report will finally be dealt with by the UNIS Leader group and by AMU. The UNIS Board is kept oriented on half years basis of all the divergency reports that is collected.
Divergency reports (doc):
Internal divergency report Internal report on damage or loss of material Internal report on personal injury
“Whistle blowing” / Notification of censurable conditions
Below you will find the procedures for notification of possible censurable conditions. Please follow this procedure in case of serious breaches of current regulations, guidelines or norms.
The procedure covers both students and staff at UNIS. In cases where students send in a report, the described “Notification group” will be extended with a student representative.
Norwegian (PDFs): Rutiner for varsling Varslingsskjema
English (PDFs): Notification routines Notification form
Field safety information lessons:
UNIS emphasizes strongly HSE matters. Whether you are an incoming student or researcher planning to come to Svalbard, you can find useful information below in the different PDF presentations highlighting the challenges you will meet in the Svalbard environment. Please have a look at them to prepare yourself for your Svalbard stay. Note that these presentations just give a general overview of risk factors you will encounter in Svalbard.
Possible risk scenarios in Svalbard
Risk scenarios – winter fieldwork (PDF) Risk scenarios – summer fieldwork (PDF)
Clothing and First aid
Correct clothing in Svalbard (PDF) Practical first aid in Arctic conditions (PDF)
Glaciers in Svalbard (PDF) Dangerous areas on glaciers (PDF)
Introduction (PDF) Sea ice and risks (PDF) Travelling on sea ice (PDF)
Avalanches and weather
Avalanche basics (PDF) Weather conditions in Svalbard (PDF)
UNIS snowmobile course (PDF)
Information from external websites: