Geological fieldwork involves some level of risk, which can be
reduced by awareness of hazards, experience and appropriate safety precautions.
Group leaders undertaking field work must assess the risks and these will vary
in accordance with weather and site conditions on the day and the experience,
age, fitness and other characteristics of the students. Group leaders should
take appropriate safety precautions, and in bad conditions be prepared to cancel
part or all of the field trip if necessary.
Appropriate safety and first-aid equipment must be taken, and
mobile phones should be available. Permission should be held for entry into
private land and no damage should take place. Attention should be paid to
weather warnings, local warnings and danger signs.
A Generic Code for Geological Fieldwork
1. Carry out regular headcounts of pupils on the trip.
2. Ensure students are within sight at all times.
3. Carry a list of all the adults and pupils on the trip.
4. Obey the Country Code and observe local byelaws. Remember to shut gates and
leave no litter.
5. Always seek permission before entering onto private land.
6. Don't interfere with machinery.
7. Don't litter fields or roads with rock fragments that could cause injury to
livestock or be a hazard to vehicles or pedestrians.
8. Avoid undue disturbance to wildlife. Plants and animals may inadvertently be
displaced or destroyed by careless actions.
9. On coastal sections, whenever possible consult local experts about tides or
hazards such as unstable cliffs.
10. When working in mountains or remote areas, follow the advice given in the
Ramblers' Association factsheet 'Leading
group walks in remote areas or demanding conditions' and in particular
inform someone of your intended route.
11. Don't take risks on insecure cliffs or rock faces. Take care not to dislodge
rock: others may be below.
12. Be considerate. Don't leave an exposure unsightly or dangerous for those who
come after you.
1. Cliffs are inherently unstable but cliff falls occur far
more frequently in frosty conditions and after prolonged or heavy rain.
2. Suitable helmets must be worn at all times.
3. Minimise time at the foot of cliffs.
4. Avoid any specific parts where there are signs of recent falls.
5. Never shelter under overhangs from rain.
6. In fog it is important to keep clear of the cliff edge and keep to
7. Students should not climb the cliff.
8. Take care near cliff edges which can often overhang, and particularly in
strong or gusting winds.
1. Dangers of being cut off by a rising tide.
2. Danger of being swept off ledges by the waves.
3. A risk of falling backwards on slippery seaweed-covered rocks at low tide.
Precautions: Assess the sea conditions. Do not go down to low
ledges near the sea in stormy weather. Trapping by tides is not common in the
Mediterranean because of a very limited tidal range. Check tides when going to
critical areas (see Barcelona
1. Students should be encouraged to observe and record and not
to hammer indiscriminately.
2. Keep collecting to an absolute minimum. Avoid removing in situ fossils, rocks
3. Never collect from walls or buildings. Take care not to undermine fences,
walls, bridges or other structures.
4. Students should wear appropriate clothing including safety goggles when
5. Flint nodules must not be hammered under any circumstances because of
6. Do not hammer near other people or work directly above or below other people.
7. Do not use a hammer on a hammer (it is hardened and can splinter).
8. Avoid hammering at an overhanging cliff or other dangerous location.
This is usually a problem on mountains or moorlands. It can happen, even in
Spain, 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.
Precautions: Check the weather forecast and do not persist in heavy rain or very
cold weather. Insist that warm and waterproof clothing and suitable footwear be
taken by all participants.
Illness of Participant in the Field
Ask students to notify the group leader of any relevant medical problems. People
with difficulties are more likely to be at the rear of a large party and a staff
member should be watching for problems at the tail end.
Displacement of loose rocks by a person on a slope is very common if several
people go up a loose rocky slope or scree in a long trail. Avoid by going
together in a small close group, keeping lower people out of the line of fire,
or by ascending loose rock very obliquely.
Mines and caves
Please keep out of mines and caves when doing geological
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, unroped loads and site plant.
1. Obtain prior permission to visit.
2. Leaders should have familiarised themselves with the current state of the
quarry. They should have consulted the Manager as to where visitors may go and
what local hazards are to be avoided.
3. On every visit, both your arrival and departure must be reported.
4. Safety hats are obligatory, stout boots are strongly recommended.
5. Keep away from vehicles and machinery.
6. Be sure that blast warning procedures are understood.
7. Beware of rock falls. Quarry faces may be highly dangerous and liable to
collapse without warning.
8. Beware of sludge lagoons.
1. In exceptional weather conditions normally dry rivers may become dangerous
because of flash floods.
2. Meteorological Office severe
weather reports should be checked before working at dry river sites
3. A risk of falling on algal-covered rocks.
See slips and falls on algal-covered rocks (below).
Slips and Falls on Algal-covered Rocks
This is very common on rocks and ledges at low tide or working in river
locations. Select routes carefully, step between rocks or step carefully only
onto horizontal surfaces. Students should wear safety helmets (particularly for
head protection in forward falls), and ideally a rucksack which gives some back
protection and long trousers for knee protection. Heavy clothing and gloves in
winter reduce cuts and bruises.
There hasn't been a case of rabies among terrestrial mammals in
mainland Spain since 1977, though there are occasionally cases among bats. Feral
dogs roaming the Spanish countryside present a small risk in more remote areas,
and a stick is an effective deterrent.
The snub-nosed or Lataste's viper is not common. It takes it's
name from the prominent horn between its eyes. It is grey, short (around 50cm)
and is distinguished by its triangular head and the zigzag pattern on its back.
It lives in dry, rocky areas, away from human habitation.
If you are bitten by a snake, remain calm and seek medical attention
immediately. Bites only occur in the spring and summer as snakes hibernate. Of
the estimated 50 snakebite deaths a year in Europe, only 3-6 occur in Spain.
The commonest scorpion in Spain is the Mediterranean scorpion
which can give you an extremely nasty sting. Boots and thick socks are
recommended for working in dry rocky areas.
The hairy caterpillars of the pine processionary moth can cause
an extremely nasty allergic skin reaction if touched. They live in easily
identifiable silvery nests in pine trees throughout Mediterranean Spain and get
their name from their habit of forming head-to-tail trails as they move across
Mosquitoes are locally a problem, though they are no longer malarial. Tiger
mosquitoes are now common in Barcelona, are extremely aggressive, attack by day
and live in gardens where they breed in stagnant pools of water.