UCL Earth Sciences


Earth Sciences Safety Information

These notes are intended to provide general instructions and guidance for students and leaders and to point out the major aspects of safety that must be considered. 

These notes are intended to provide general instructions and guidance for students and leaders and to point out the major aspects of safety that must be considered. Because of their general nature the application of these notes to specific courses will differ depending on the precise nature of the fieldwork and must be supplemented by rules produced by the department that relate specifically to particular courses. 

Such a document must indicate, on each occasion, the members of staff responsible for the course and any specific hazards in the work to be undertaken. Students should be given copies of both this document and the specific departmental rules. They should be asked to signify that they have received, read and understood the material and that they agree to comply with all requirements. Non compliance with the material enclosed in this booklet can result in dismissal from the course.

At Earth Sciences, UCL:

For information regarding Safety Training:

Any student involved in fieldwork is expected to 

  1. behave in an orderly and disciplined manner.
  2. avoid excessive consumption of alcohol. Under some circumstances, for the reasons of safety the consumption of alcohol is forbidden.
  3. observe sensible manners and consideration for others.
  4. respect the property of others
  5. co-operate with those having responsibility for organising the course and for health and safety welfare.

See also the Code for Geological Fieldwork

Personal responsibility and liability

1. Fieldwork often involves some inherent risks/hazards, resulting from the location and/or weather. In accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act, leaders will follow safety precautions leaders will follow safety precautions and take every reasonable care to ensure the safety of members of their parties.However, the potential dangers make it imperative that you co-operate by behaving responsibly in order to reduce the risk of accidents to yourself and others. Each individual is responsible in law, for the observance of safety provisions and may be held legally liable if accidents arise through failure to meet obligations.

2. Obey all safety instructions given by party leaders. Anyone not conforming to the standards required will be dismissed from the field course. Stay with the party, except by clear arrangement with the leaders. Assemble, where told, to receive specific instructions regarding likely hazards. Observe instructions for reporting after completion of work.

Fitness 3.
If you begin to feel ill, inform the leader at once. You must talk to the leader before the trip if you have a medical condition that could give rise to problems.


4. Report any personal injury. Failure to report an accident could jeopardise an insurance claim. Remember that medical complications that might arise from an accident are often delayed.

Proper Clothing

5. Wear adequate clothing and footwear for the type of weather and terrain likely to be encountered. e.g. shirt, warm sweater, brightly coloured anorak with hood, loose fitting trousers (not jeans), hat and gloves, waterproofs, boots with rubber mountaineering soles, sunhat.

6. wear a safety helmet wherever there is a risk from falling objects (e.g. in mines, quarries, construction sites, under cliffs). Wear correct eye protection when necessary.
Leaders can refuse to allow ill-equipped students on field trips.

Hazardous Areas

7. If you are to enter a hazardous area such as cliffs, steep slopes, road and railway cuttings, mines, quarries, building sites, caves, etc. special instructions will be given which must be obeyed. Take especial care.


8. Vehicles, boats etc shall be operated only by authorised persons.



9. Always know your location on the map and the nearest route to safety.

First Aid

10. You are advised to carry a small first aid kit and learn how to cope with minor accidents, grazes, insect stings, etc.

Distress Signals

11. When in distress, the alarm may be raised in the following way;

  1. SIX blasts on a whistle OR six shouts OR six flashes of a torch OR six waves
  2. pause for 1 minute
  3. repeat six whistle blasts, shouts, flashes or waves.

On hearing or observing such signals, the response is 

  1. THREE blasts on a whistle OR three shouts OR three flashes of a torch.
  2. repeat.

When in distress, it is important not to exhaust oneself by blowing on a whistle or shouting for too long. Take a rest and continue a little while later.

12. Preferably carry a reserve of warm clothing, high sustenance food, matches and a survival bag to counter the effects of exposure if incapacitated or marooned by fog or nightfall.

Solo Work

13. Fieldwork should not be attempted solo in areas of remote or difficult terrain. However if there is no practicable alternative, try to have a colleague work in an adjacent area and arrange to make regular contact.



14. Never interfere with the work of those employed on site. Keep clear of all moving vehicles, machinery, etc. Do not touch any machinery unless specifically authorised to do so.

Safety Wear

15. Wear at all times on site any special clothing, eye-protection provided for safety. Any student failing to comply will be dismissed from the field course.


16. Be particulary aware in working quarries of unusual periods of quietness. It could signal imminent blasting.


17. Hypothermia and heat-stroke (hyperthermia). 

Hypothermia is a condition resulting from dangerous loss of body heat. a drop of only 2° from the normal 37°C (98.6°F) indicates the onset of hypothermia and a drop of 4° is life threatening. The main causes of hypothermia are windchill through inadequate or wet clothing. The first symptoms of hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering, pale flesh and aggressive reactions to questionning. This leads on lethargy and a lack of coordination. The casualty will feel warm and drowsy. Treatment is ideally immersion in a hot bath (40°C), topped up with hot water to maintain temperature. When a bath is not available, provide extra clothing and shelter (survival bag) and keep warm using other people to cuddle the victim. Prevention is far better than cure, be properly clothed. Be aware of people who are at risk. Victims are often not aware of their situation.

Heat exhaustion is a condition resulting from a dangerous gain in body heat, which can lead to brain damage and death. The main causes are muscular activity in hot weather or high ambient air temperatures. High humidity will accentuate these conditions by reducing the body’s ability to lose heat by perspiration. Treat by ceasing all activity, rest in the shade. Drink cold water, but moderate the intake to avoid stomach cramps. Sponge with tepid water, to provide evaporative cooling. Heat stroke is the more advanced stage. The casualty should be wrapped in a sheet and dowse with tepid/cool water. Medical attention should be sought immediately. Again prevention is better than cure. Wear clothing to protect from the sun (hats, long-sleeved thin shirts), drink plenty of water and salt to combat dehydration.