First of all, thank you for recognizing this topic. In my opinion, “Flying Solo” is a misunderstood topic and as you requested, I will direct my comments only to safety and training.
Safety: In the early years, “safety” was the excuse used by owners to avoid spending $30,000 on robotic gear when they could buy a $5,000 total station. They were never concerned about field crew “safety” until the $ reared its ugly head.
The first business owner who told me robotics were too dangerous had a limit of three traffic cones per crew. That “safety” reason is alive and is still being used today. On the vast majority of projects, I fail to see the safety difference between a two person crew vs. solo. Usually on a crew of two, one crew member has his face stuck in the gun and the other usually has his face stuck in the DC. In that case, who is watching out for whom?
In my recent experience I have had more surveyors go down as a member of a two member crew than a solo crew. They are usually leg or back injuries that happened off road. The lifting of manhole covers and inlet grates has been a problem over the last couple of years. Everyone should be cautious when it comes to crew safety, but everyone should leave the final decision on safety and crew size up to the survey field crew chief.
Survey managers need to be very aware and proactive in supplying each crew with the required safety equipment. The people in the field should be responsible for themselves and express their needs. Those three-cone days are gone forever.
Training: Another very tough subject. Training should to be broken down into two categories (1) Training, book learning. (2) Experience, hands on learning.
Neither one works without the other. Who is responsible to see that the employee is trained? Good question, and I say both the employer and the employee are responsible. I have impressed on the people that work for me, and anyone who will listen, that they need to read at a minimum of four hours a week about their profession. There is no better resource to learn from about surveying today than YouTube and the online surveying magazines and survey specific web sites.
The employer should build on that self motivation with in-house professional training, be it field equipment or office software. In my opinion the state survey conventions have fallen short on training. Courses are geared toward the professional, for CEU’s, with very little regard for the tech or field crews. Some years curriculums are better than others, but overall we are letting down the people that we rely on every day. We sign their “work daily,” don’t we? I think New Jersey is missing a huge opportunity here. I know ... I'm wandering ... back to it. The one big downfall of solo surveying is there is no one for the chief to train. All that training should be happening on the multi-person crew level. Employers balk at the cost of training. Years ago, when RTK was in its infancy, I had a trainer from Leica tell me, “The only thing worse than training your people and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” I have heard that several times since and I have witnessed the results.