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Health and Safety Services

School of Earth Sciences fieldwork safety code of practice

(For issue to staff and students)

See also the Health and Safety Policy for this School

1. General
The following applies to independent and group fieldwork study undertaken by students in the School of Earth Sciences as a supplement to the College Statement of Safety Policy.

2. Risk Assessment.
All fieldwork is subject to the process of risk assessment by the course leader. This Code will cover the hazards associated with most aspects of field course work but certain identified hazards and activities will require a supplementary risk assessment.

3. Responsibilities
All persons employed by the College (full-time and part-time) have a duty to take reasonable care to avoid injury to themselves and/or others resulting from their acts or omissions. Students should make every effort to sustain the College's good name and reputation. In particular you should have consideration for others in the field, hotel and any other accommodation and should avoid actions which may compromise the safety, well-being or enjoyment of others. A student who fails to maintain a reasonable standard of behaviour, or who compromises safety, will be dismissed from the field course and referred to the College Authorities. We reserve the right to refuse admission to the field class if we consider that safety will be compromised by a student attending the course.

4. Free time. Some 'free time' may be provided on the course. As accidents are more likely to happen in unfamiliar surroundings, if you choose to go out in your free time, seek advice on any hazards in the local terrain and also in the choice of amenities in any local town. Follow any such advice.

5. Medical considerations.
All persons planning to engage in fieldwork must be physically fit and able to cope with the conditions likely to be encountered. Most Easter fieldwork involves some hill/mountain walking.

Even modest walking can be unsuitable for those suffering from certain conditions. If in doubt, students should consult their doctor in advance of agreeing to take part in fieldwork.

Students must inform their lecturer of any medical condition that might affect their ability to undertake fieldwork. Medical conditions that require special diets need to be revealed to the responsible officer of the School in advance of any fieldwork in order that adequate provision can be made available.

For fieldwork in the U.K. it is essential to have had a course of Tetanus injections.

For trips abroad there may be specific inoculation requirements. Birkbeck reserves the right to request medical confirmation of fitness to participate in a field trip (eg a letter from a GP).

6. Travelling in private vehicles.
Staff and students using private vehicles for travel to fieldwork sites whether as drivers or passengers should check that they are adequately covered by insurance. If hiring vehicles in the UK or abroad ensure that full insurance cover is taken out with the hire.

7. Accidents/First aid.
A qualified first aider must accompany each field class and take a suitable first aid kit with them on all expeditions into the field. Prompt treatment must be obtained for all injuries. All accident, incidents and near misses must be reported to the College Safety Office on return to the College. Failure to report an accident could jeopardise an insurance claim.

8. Clothing
Adequate clothing and footwear for the type of weather and terrain likely to be encountered must be worn. Lecturers may, at their discretion, exclude students whom they consider inappropriately dressed. Warm clothing, preferably in several thin layers which can be adjusted to conditions, a brightly coloured waterproof, windproof outer shell jacket, good socks and strong boots with rubber soles are essential. Walking boots with mountaineering soles are essential for rough terrain. Ensure that footwear is ´broken in' and waterproof. Wellington boots are NOT suitable for extended walking. ´Trainers' or other shoes with thin soles are NOT suitable. Adequate waterproof outer ware must be taken on all outdoor visits. Always carry warm headgear and gloves, plus protective headgear for sun protection.

Students are required to supply their own Safety helmets (to BS 5240) and these must be worn in quarries and around cliffs and screes and wherever there is a risk from falling objects and on any occasion directed by the lecturer or person in authority.

Safety goggles are also required when using a hammer to sample rock.

9. Insurance
The College has appropriate statutory insurance cover for employers' liability and for public/ products liability. The Finance Department now provides travel insurance for staff working abroad. However, always check beforehand for any change to this policy, limitations on countries, activities etc. Students are not covered by the College for health, travel or property insurance as a course participants. The College insurance also does not cover dtudents for death, injury, illness or disease, or for loss or damage to property. Thus, personal insurance for students is recommended for fieldwork in the U.K. (e.g. personal risk insurance) and is considered essential when going abroad (travel and health). When hiring vehicles abroad staff and students should ensure they take out full insurance cover with anyvehicle.

10. Country Code.
The Country Code must always be observed and the law obeyed with respect to the countryside.

11. Rocks, cliffs and slopes.
Care must be taken near cliffs, slopes and quarry edges. Avoid loosening rocks on slopes and shout ´BELOW' if you accidentally dislodge a rock however small. Do not work directly above or below any other person. Wear a safety helmet.

12. Wetlands/Offshore work
Especial care must be taken in wetland habitats or when working offshore. Avoid being trapped by tides - consult tidal charts prior to any shoreline work and identify headlands and promontories that may cut off an exit with incoming tides. Beware of rip tides and undertow.

After wet and stormy weather sea cliffs become more unstable and prone to landslides.

Water is not to be ventured upon unless appropriate buoyancy aids such as lifejackets are worn. Small boats should only be operated by experienced/qualified and authorised persons.

13. Specimens.
Specimens must not be collected without permission from an authorised person. When breaking rock while collecting geological specimens protective glasses or goggles (ordinary spectacles are inadequate) must be worn.

14. Entering property.
The law of Trespass and the regulations of the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 require permission, preferably in writing, to enter private property in England and Wales. For industrial sites such as quarries follow recognised procedures for visits and be careful to report that you are leaving after completion of visit.

15. Entry into hazardous areas.
Entry into hazardous areas such as MOD ranges, mountains, cliffs, steep slopes, road and railway cuttings, caves, mines, quarries, etc may only be made if the party is led by a person familiar with the hazards to be encountered and the precautions to be adopted to minimise risks. Such a person may be an employee of the MOD, mine or quarry or an expert guide on the natural features or the course leader if suitably experienced. The party leader will issue instructions on the safety procedures to be adopted and all members of the party are to strictly comply with such instructions.

Safety helmets are required for entrance to mines, quarries, cliffs, caves.

16. Remote areas.
The present location on a map must always be known - a GPS is a useful tool in this respect. All staff and students must know how to use a compass and which is the nearest route to safety.

In mountainous terrain be aware of the hypothermia risk: With increasing elevation temperature decreases and wind chill increases. At 1000m and a temperature of 3°C with a wind speed of 35 mph the wind chill factor will be -16°C. Check media for local weather forecasts but remember they often do not apply to the local mountains where the weather can be more variable. Avoid steep areas prone to rock falls and avalanches.

Students are advised to carry a small first aid kit and learn how to cope with minor accidents, grazes, blisters, stings etc. Parties must be equipped with a means of signalling eg. whistle, torch, flares. The international distress signal is six blasts of a whistle (or torch flashes) repeated after a pause of one minute. The answering signal is three whistle blasts. All members of parties must carry a reserve of warm clothing, high energy food, matches and a survival bag to counter the effects of exposure if incapacitated.

In remote areas local drivers tend to drive fast, so they may not be prepared for a group of students walking across the road. Avoid working or crossing near or close to road bends.

Ensure a responsible person takes up the rear of a group to avoid losing stragglers. Avoid marching ahead beyond sight of the full group.

17. Mobile Phones.
In theory these can be used for communication with the emergency service. However in more remote regions there will probably be no signal thus it is important not to rely solely on this form of communication. Make sure you know where is the nearest habitation as a point of contact for any potential emergency.

18. Solo fieldwork
Solo fieldwork should be avoided. We advise all students and staff to work in pairs or to have a field assistant. Ensure that you have fully appraised yourselves of local hazards and risks, noting which areas of high risk (disused mineshafts, caves, unstable slopes) to avoid.

Identify the location of local emergency services, telephones and nearest residences prior to any excursions. Identify possible shelters in case of extreme bad weather.

A route card or itinerary should be left at the local lodgings together with contact numbers in case of any emergency.

If students have been split up to work in small groups, arrange a suitable rendezvous point and time for everyone to meet.

19. Emergency Contingency Planning.
For fieldwork in the UK an individual or group leader can phone 999 during an emergency to access the emergency services. This system may not exist or the emergency number will be different in other countries. Before conducting fieldwork abroad ensure you have contact details for the local emergency services and know the location for the nearest hospitals, clinics and police (also useful for UK fieldwork). Ensure adequate medical insurance cover is in place and if appropriate that you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – see https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/home.do

STUDENT DECLARATION
Name: ................................................................................................................................................

Address: ............................................................................................................................................

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Telephone No. ....................................................................................................................................

Next of Kin/Contacts: Name: ..............................................................................................................

Address: .............................................................................................................................................

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Telephone No. ....................................................................................................................................

Name: ................................................................................................................................................

Address: .............................................................................................................................................

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Telephone No. ....................................................................................................................................

Any (relevant) medical Problems e.g. diabetes, heart conditions, epilepsy, allergies including penicillin, vertigo:
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I acknowledge I have received and read the School of Earth Sciences Safety code of practice

Signature: ............................................................................................ Date: ....................................

College/ Department contacts:
Birkbeck College Safety Officer: Tom McCartney: email: t.mccartney@bbk.ac.uk
Head of School: Dr Charlie Bristow:  email: c.bristow@ucl.ac.uk
School Safety Officer: Dr Andrew Carter email: a.carter@ucl.ac.uk

Publications
CHUGD/Geological Society - Safety in Geoscience Fieldwork. 1994.
Geologists Association - A Code for Geological Field Work
Natural Environment Research Council - Safety in Fieldwork, 1992
AUCL - Guidelines and Code of Practice for Fieldwork, 1994
Mountain Safety: Basic Precautions. Climber and Rambler, Perth PH1 5TT or 36 Fleet Street, London EC4
Safety on Mountains (1975). British Mountaineering Council, Crawford House, precinct Centre, The University, Manchester M13 9RZ or Cordee, 249 Knighton Road, Leicester.

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Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: healthandsafety@bbk.ac.uk