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Health, Safety and Insurance

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Health, Safety and Insurance
 
Although some places visited during fieldwork are potentially dangerous, those insurance companies who distinguish geological fieldwork from “outdoor pursuits” regard it as a very low risk activity. As long as you are sensible, are aware of potential dangers and try to minimise risks, then there is very little chance of accidents happening. The major risks, with attendant precautions that can be taken by individuals participating are as follows:
 
1. Rock Falls
Small rock falls are very common - particularly in wet weather and particularly at shale and shale/limestone cliffs, and accidents have happened. Falls can occur from any cliff that has not degraded into a vegetated slope.
It is advisible to take the weather and possible cliff conditions into consideration. See whether the cliffs look safe before proceeding. Watch for the danger signs of recent falls and loose overhanging rocks. Hard hats should be worn if when approaching the foot of cliffs.
Falls from the cliffs are most likely to occur in wet or frosty winter conditions. During or after heavy rain the foot of the cliff should not be approached. Field trips in Late Winter and early Spring, require extra caution.  When on a coast section, strictly avoid any specific parts of the beach where there is fresh split rock. Rock falls often occur repeatedly at the same place. When part of a large party, the statistical risk of an accident happening to somebody is so much greater. In general minimize your time at the foot of cliffs. Broad structures and large features can often be viewed safely from lower down on the beach. Never shelter under overhangs from rain; this can lead to fatalities.
 
2. Illness of Participant in the Field.
This is possible with large parties.
Participants should notify leader of any relevant medical problems, such as asthma, or other breathing or heart problems during hill or cliff ascents, vertigo, nausea, back problems, limb problems, and diabetes.
 
3. Displacement of Loose Rock by a Person on a Slope.
This is very common if people go up a loose rocky slope or scree.
Please be aware of others behind or below you, and shout “Below” on dislodging rocks or boulders that roll or fall away.
 
4. Slips and Falls on Algal-covered Rocks
This is common on rocks and ledges at low tide but, fortunately, not usually resulting in major injury.  
 Select your route carefully, watch out for the signs of slippery rocks -  wetness, and especially the presence of green or brown algae, step between rocks or carefully only onto horizontal surfaces, wear safety helmet (particularly for head protection in forward falls), ideally, a rucksack which gives some back protection and long trousers for knee protection. Heavy clothing and gloves in winter certainly reduces cuts and bruises.
 
5. Trapping in Mud
This is a danger at certain clay landslip localities, and also in the intertidal mud of estuaries.
 Avoid mudslides (mudflows), especially in winter and be aware of soft mud (even when covered with loose gravel). The danger of complete submergence is small. Mudslides have a mixture of mud and rocks which prevent a spade entering and means that a person trapped is not easily dug out. The use of wooden boards and hand digging is often necessary and extraction may take two or three hours. 
 
6. Hypothermia
This is usually a problem on mountains or moorlands. It can happen anywhere, however, if a field trip continues in persistent wet weather. It could also happen from someone falling into the sea or a lake or river or by being injured and soaked in water.
Warm and waterproof clothing and suitable footwear should be taken by all participants.
 
7. Hernia and Back Injuries
Hernias or back injuries may happen if collectors try to move very large rock specimens, large ammonites. Do not attempt to lift or carry large specimens.
 
8. Hammering Accidents
Dangerous splinters come mainly from hammering flint or other hard, brittle rock.
Hammering should only occur for collection or demonstration purposes and generally minimise it. Never hammer flint or chert (or any other very hard rock) which can cause the loss of an eye. Do not hammer near other people or work directly above or below other people; do not use a hammer on a hammer (it is hardened and can splinter). Obviously avoid hammering at an overhanging cliff or other dangerous location.
 
9. Trapping by Tides.
Accidents can occur because people try to climb dangerous cliffs when trapped by the tide. Low tide is beneficial in exposing shore ledges for safe study.
 
 
10. Washing of Persons into the Sea.
Do not go down to low rock ledges near the sea, or onto steeply shelving pebble beaches in stormy weather. 
 
11. Falling from a Cliff (and Problems of Fog).
Major falls from cliffs are uncommon with field parties on standard routes; but is a potential risk with adventurous, exploring individuals. Geologists scrambling up small banks and cliffs to study the strata are prone to minor falls which may cause minor injury, such as broken bones and cuts. Fog may be a hazard on cliff tops, as low cloud occasionally occurs. Low cloud or fog may have been involved in some accidents on mountains. In fog it is important to keep clear of the cliff. It would be necessary to keep to well-defined footpaths if on cliff or mountain tops in low-cloud or fog.
Do not climb. Almost all suitable routes up and down the cliffs or mountains are clear and well-worn footpaths (although they may not all be official ones). Where there is no path or only a slight sign of one there is usually no safe route. Certainly avoid ascending cliffs off paths. Take care near cliff edges, which can overhang, and particularly in strong or gusting winds.
 
12. Snake bites.
Warnings about adders are often given, in guides, or on local notice boards.
Adders are sometimes seen in the grass or on footpaths, but bites are very rare. If you do not disturb them they will not normally attack. Look out for them on rough ground. Hospital treatment (anti-venom serum) will be needed in the case of an adder bite.
 
13. Precautions at Quarries
Working quarries take groups entirely at the visitors’ risk and will not accept any responsibility whatsoever for accidents Quarries may insist that the visitors present an appropriate insurance certificate. Dangers exist from stone falls, stone chips, moving vehicles, un-roped loads and site plant.
Follow carefully any specific instructions given by quarry management. You are required, by law to wear hard hats and high visibility clothing, and to wear tough, protective and supportive footwear. For potential rock fall, follow precautions as in Section 1
 
14. Stream Beds
Stream beds are not usually places of high risk. In exception weather conditions they may become dangerous. They are often a hazard in mountainous and desert terrains because of flash floods or just fast water flow. There have been several accidents in stream beds to parties of adults and children; some of these have been adventure parties but accidents of this type have also happened to geologists.
 
15. Walking accidents
Much of the terrain in which rock exposures occur is of a rough and uneven nature, in which it is possible to sustain minor injuries, such as twisted ankles, bruises or cuts.
Wear suitable protective clothing and tough, supportive footwear
 
  Insurance
Geostudies is insured regarding Third Party and Public Indemnity. This does not cover you for personal accident or injury to third parties or damage to their property not the fault of or due to negligence by the leader. You may find that your existing insurance covers you for this, or you may wish to take out Personal Accident Cover. Normal travel insurance, should you wish to avail yourself of this, will cover loss, theft or damage to baggage etc