Mike Horne FGS

University of Hull
Centre for Lifelong Learning.
Geological Fieldwork,
Risk assessment.
Tutor: Mike Horne.

This is a generic safety statement and risk assessment for geological fieldwork.
Students will be given verbal safety instructions and a copy of this document before the trip, and be reminded at the start of the field trip. Additional information will be given by the tutor at the start of the fieldwork about local hazards, because they depend on the weather at the time of and leading up to the fieldwork or information on site provided by the landowner.

General safety:-

Clothing: Clothing must be suitable for the weather conditions. Water proofs for wet weather; sun block for hot sunny weather and so on. The right sensible footwear is essential: - wellingtons recommended for work in areas of clay and mud; non-slip trainers for slippery rocks; stout walking boots for long distances.
Protective clothing: Hard hats must be worn in quarries and near cliffs. Safety Spectacles must be worn when hammering.
Working quarries may insist that steel toe capped footwear, hard hats, safety specs and high-visibility waistcoats must be worn at all times.
Bacterial infections:- There is a risk of infection from bacteria - e.g. tetanus and Weil's disease. Students are advised to check that they are immunised against tetanus; cover any cuts to the skin; wash and disinfect any cuts and scratches; wash their hands before eating and drinking.
Behaviour: Students should follow the safety instructions of the tutor (and quarry staff) and behave in a responsible manner. They should not use a hammer if someone else is standing nearby. They should not hammer under an overhang. Students should collect rocks in an ethical way, with considerations of the status of the site (SSSI or RIGS) and its use by others. Hammering and collecting are banned at some sites. They should not wander away from the main group or leave the field trip without informing the tutor. Students with a disability should discuss any possible risks with the tutor before the field trip begins. Students with first aid experience are asked to volunteer their help to the tutor.

Fitness: Fieldwork may involve walking on gravel or slippery shores or steep gradients. For the UFA courses this tutor takes the classes to areas that have generally good access used by the public and not involving climbing or very steep slopes. Students do not have to be super fit sporty types, but those with heart problems or walking difficulties may wish to reduce the amount of fieldwork they do.

Emergency action: at least one person in the group should have a mobile 'phone to be able to contact the emergency services. There should be a first aid kit to deal with minor cuts.

The tutor reserves the right to ban a student from the field trip if they are not appropriately dressed or behave in an irresponsible manner. The tutor assumes that UFA students are all adults and that they are aware of their own capabilities for fieldwork. Students who think they may have a problem due to a recent illness or disability that might affect their safety or that of the group should inform the tutor (privately).

Personal information - Students will be asked to complete a questionnaire which includes a request for the details of an emergency contact in case of an emergency. This information will be treated as confidential. 

Insurance: students are advised to take out their own accident insurance and travel insurance if appropriate.

To get the hazards and risks into perspective it might be useful to compare them with some other everyday activities. The hazards involved in geological fieldwork are slightly greater than those involved in rambling. The hazards involved in collecting and handling samples are similar to those involved in gardening. And the hazards involved in hammering are similar to those encountered in some DIY.

Risk assessment:

Activity: Handling geological specimens and collecting geological samples. Hazard: potential chemical and biological hazards. Risk: moderate Action: ensure that any cuts to your skin are kept clean and covered up. Consider wearing gloves. Always wash or clean your hands before eating and drinking in the field. It is recommended that you carry some clensing wipes with you for this purpose.

Activity: Hammering or using a hammer and chisel Hazard: pieces of rock may fly off and cause injury to you or others nearby Risk: moderate to high depending on your experience. Action: Avoid this activity if you can for conservation reasons as well as safety. Always wear safety goggles or glasses. Never use a hammer if other people are near you. Never use a second geological hammer as a chisel. Never hammer under an overhang or on a loose rock face. Consider wearing thick gloves to protect your hands.

Activity: Handling specimens. Hazard: Sharp edges - some specimens, especially "hard rocks" that have been recently hammered, may have sharp edges that could cause cuts. Precautions - carry out a visual inspection before handing specimens, do not hold the sharp edges and take care when handing specimens to other students. Wear stout gloves when hammering "hard rocks". Do not discard rock fragments with sharp edges in fields where they will be a hazard to livestock and wildlife.

Activity: General fieldwork in open countryside. Hazards: Getting stuck in marshy areas, aggression from the livestock. Risks: moderate. Action: Avoid marshy areas if possible (but if that is not possible wear wellies and test the ground in front of you with a stick); keep away from livestock (particularly cattle, bulls, horses and sows with piglets). Remember to follow the 'Countryside Code'.

Activity: General fieldwork beside roads. Hazards: Getting knocked down by fast moving vehicles on roads. Risks: moderate. Action: Take the normal you would on any road (if possible arrange for someone in the group to watch out for traffic if you are in a particularly hazardous position). Wear high visibility clothing. Do not step back into the road. If walking in a group, keep well in and walk in single file if necessary. Face the direction of oncoming traffic. The leader and backmarker should be alert and shout warnings to the group about oncoming traffic. When doing mapping work in pairs or small groups so that one of the group can watvh out for traffic..

Activity: Fieldwork on coastal section. Hazard: Incoming tide trapping the class on the beach. Risk: moderate, but serious Action: Fieldwork should always start on a falling tide and the class should be aware of local conditions and ensure that there is adequate time to return safely before the next high tide.

Activity: Fieldwork on coastal sections. Hazard: Slipping on wet rocks, chance of cuts and bruising or worse if you slip over Risk: Moderate Action: Students should take extra care on wet rocks (due to seawater or rain) and be wary of rocks covered with wet seaweed and algae. Wearing non-slip footwear such as trainers is recommended.

Activity: Fieldwork on certain coastal sections, in certain quarries or on MOD land. Hazard: Unexploded ordnance or quarry blasting charges. Risk: moderate but serious. Action: Check any information boards or warning signs for details. Keep a close look out for bullet or rocket shaped objects and copper or brass coloured objects. . Do not pick up or hammer any thing you suspect might be of military origin. Do not enter MOD land when red flags are flying. Similarly - if you see wires coming out of a rock in a quarry, there might be unexploded blasting charges present. You should not be in a quarry when blasting is planned.

Activity: Fieldwork near cliffs or quarry faces. Hazard: falling rocks. Risk: moderate. Action: Always wear a hard hat. Always look at the rock face and avoid areas that are cracked or overhanging. Keep the time spend near the rockface to a minimum (once you have carried out the fieldwork activity get away from the face - for example don't stop there to eat your lunch). Do not approach quarry faces that have been recently blasted with explosives.

Activity: Fieldwork on muddy exposures (- such as Holderness, Speeton and quarries) Hazard: you can get stuck in soft mud and clay. Risk: high. Action: care should be taken when approaching recent mudslides or muddy parts of quarries. Wellington boots are the recommended footwear (you can get your feet out of the wellies and walk home without them). Test the area with a stick or pebble before walking on it. Keep away from recent mudslides down cliffs, particularly in or after wet weather.

Activity: Fieldwork in working quarries. Hazards: (in addition to hazards listed above) there may be quarry vehicles, recently blasted rocks, sludge lagoons. Risk: high Action: Hard hats must be worn at all times in all working quarries. The instructions given by quarry staff or owners must be followed at all times . The owner may insist that people wear safety glasses, high visibility waistcoats or safety footwear - these instructions must be followed. The party should avoid areas in which diggers and lorries are working, areas of soft ground or lagoons, areas of loose or recently blasted rock, and not be present during times of rock blasting. Students should keep away from and not interfere with any machinery and vehicles in the quarry. You should not be in a quarry when blasting is planned.

Activity: Fieldwork in landfill sites. Hazard: sharp and broken contaminated objects. Risk: the risk of bacterial infections and other biohazards is greater than other sites. Action: the site owner may insist on safety footwear with a steel sole. Consider wearing heavy duty gloves at all times. Ensure that any cuts to your skin are covered up. Wash your hands as soon as possible after leaving the site. Any specimens collected should be washed with disinfectant (if the washing will not damage the specimen) and treated with extra care.

Activity: Augering to obtain samples of sub-soil. Hazard: heavy lifting when removing auger from hole. Risk: of back strain. Action: do the augering in stages - don't put the auger in so deep that it is difficult to lift out. Always lift using your leg muscles rather than by bending your back. Ask someone else to help you.

Activity: Use of dilute Hydrochloric Acid or Acetic Acid (vinegar) to test carbonates. Hazard - chemical burns to self and clothing. Precautions - always behave responsibly; only use a very small amount of acid; wear safety glasses if you have them; wash your hands after use. If you get acid in your eyes irrigate them with water and seek mediacl help. Only carry a small amount of acid with you in a plastic bottle and keep the bottle in a sealed plastic back to avoid spillages. If you spill the acid wash any contaminated clothing as soon as possible.

Taking care of your hard hat. The plastic of a hard hat will become brittle as it gets older. This is speeded up by heat and and sunlight, so the worst place you can store your hard hat is on the back shelf of you car. Store your hard hat in a dark, cool cupboard. Do not paint it or put stickers on it.

Recommended further reading - Geological Fieldwork Code published by the Geologists' Association, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1V 9AG. (Click here for a version - reproduced with permission of the GA)

copyright Mike Horne - October 2016

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