Geological Fieldwork: Safety in the Field and General Guidance

Geological Fieldwork: Safety in the Field and General Guidance
Geological Fieldwork: Safety in the Field and General Guidance

Working in the field should be a safe, enjoyable and very rewarding experience, as long as a few basic and sensible precautions are taken. Geological fieldwork is an activity involving some inherent risks and hazards, such as in coastal exposures, qurries, mines, river sections and mountains. Severe weather conditions may also be encountered in any season, especially on mountains or at the coast.

Fieldwork does involve an important element of self-reliance and the ability to cope alone or in a small group. You are responsible for your own safety in the field, but nevertheless there are some simple precautions you can take to avoid problems and minimise risks.

•Do wear adequate clothing and footwear for the type of weather and terrain likely to be encountered. Try to know the weather forecast for thearea before you go out for the day. Keep a constant lookout for changes.

•Do not hesitate to turn back if the weather deteriorates.

• Walking boots with good soles are normally essential. Sports shoes are unsuitable for mountains, quarries and rough country.

• Plan work carefully, bearing in mind your experience and training, the nature of the terrain and the weather. Be careful not to overestimate what can be achieved.

• Learn the mountain safety and caving codes, and in particular know the effects of exposure. All geologists should take a course in First Aid.

• It is good practice before going into the field to leave a note and preferably a map showing expected location of study and route, and time of return.

• Know what to do in an emergency (e.g., accident, illness, bad weather,darkness). Know the international distress signal: six whistle blasts, torch flashes or waves of a light-coloured cloth, repeated at one-minute intervals.

• Carry at all times a small first-aid kit, some emergency food (chocolate,biscuits, mint cake, glucose tablets), a survival bag (or large plastic bag),a whistle, torch, map, compass and watch.

• Wear a safety helmet (preferably with a chin strap) when visiting old quarries, cliffs, scree slopes, etc., or wherever there is a risk from falling objects. It is obligatory to do so when visiting working quarries, mines and building sites.

• Avoid hammering where possible; be a conservationist.

• Wear safety goggles (or safety glasses with plastic lenses) for protection against flying splinters when hammering rocks or using chisels.

• Do not use one geological hammer as a chisel and hammer it with another; use only a soft steel chisel.

• Avoid hammering near another person or looking towards another person hammering. Do not leave rock debris on the roadway or verges.

• Be conservation-minded and have a sympathetic regard for the countryside and great outdoors, and for the people, animals and plants that live there.

• When you are collecting specimens, do not strip or spoil sites where special fossils and rare minerals occur. Take only what you really need for further work.

• Take special care near the edges of cliffs and quarries, or any other steep or sheer faces, particularly in gusting winds.

• Ensure that rocks above are safe before venturing below. Quarries with rock faces loosened by explosives are especially dangerous.

• Avoid working under an unstable overhang.

• Avoid loosening rocks on steep slopes.

• Do not work directly above or below another person.

• Never roll rocks down slopes or over cliffs for amusement.

• Do not run down steep slopes.

• Beware of landslides and mudflows occurring on clay cliffs and in clay pits, or rockfalls from any cliffs.

• Avoid touching any machinery or equipment in quarries, mines or building sites. Comply with safety rules, blast warning procedures, and any instructions given by officials. Keep a sharp lookout for moving vehicles, etc. Beware of sludge lagoons.

• Do not climb cliffs, rock faces or crags, unless you are an experienced climber and have a partner.

• Take great care when walking or climbing over slippery rocks below the high-water mark on rocky shores. More accidents to geologists, including fatalities, occur along rocky shorelines than anywhere else.

• Beware of traffic when examining road cuttings.

• Railway cuttings and motorways are generally not open to geologists, unless special permission has been obtained from appropriate authorities.

• Do not enter old mine workings or cave systems unless experienced and properly equipped.

•Avoid getting trapped by the tide on intertidal banks or below sea-cliffs. Obtain local information about tides and currents. Pay particular attention to tidal range. For sea-cliffs, local advice can be obtained from HM Coastguards.

• Always try to obtain permission to enter private property
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