Geological fieldwork code

The Code for Geological Fieldwork, set out below, was compiled by the Geologists’ Association.

A code for geological fieldwork

Little has changed to alter the message of the Geologists Association since they first published their Guidelines in 1975. There is still pressure on the limited outcrops available to us in an overpopulated island. We need more than ever to co-operate with authorities and landowners to maintain free access to geological localities. Conducted parties and professional geologists may follow their own procedures, but for the amateur geologist or beginner the key requirements are to ask permission at all times, preferably in advance; to follow instructions from those who know; and always to regard access as a privilege to be respected by good behaviour. Explain your interest and intentions at all times. Geologists must be seen to be using the countryside responsibly and observing the following rules:

1. Obey the Country Code and observe local byelaws. Remember to shut gates and leave no litter.
2. Always seek permission before entering onto private land.
3. Don’t interfere with machinery.
4. Don’t litter fields or roads with rock fragments that could cause injury to livestock or be a hazard to vehicles or pedestrians.
5. Avoid undue disturbance to wildlife. Plants and animals may inadvertently be displaced or destroyed by careless actions.
6. On coastal sections, whenever possible consult the coastguard service about tides or local hazards such as unstable cliffs.
7. When working in mountains or remote areas, follow the advice given in the booklet ‘Safety on Mountains’ issued by the British Mountaineering Council, and in particular inform someone of your intended route.
8. When exploring underground, be sure you have the proper equipment and the necessary experience. Never go alone. Report to someone your departure, location, estimated time below ground and then your actual return time.
9. Don’t take risks on insecure cliffs or rock faces. Take care not to dislodge rock: others may be below.
10. Be considerate. Don’t leave an exposure unsightly or dangerous for those who come after you.

Collecting and Field Parties

1. Students should be encouraged to observe and record and not to hammer indiscriminately.
2. Keep collecting to a minimum. Avoid removing in situ fossils, rocks or minerals unless they are genuinely needed for serious study.
3. For teaching purposed, the use of replicas is recommended. The collecting of actual specimens should be restricted to those localities where there is a plentiful supply, or to scree, fallen blocks and waste tips.
4. Never collect from walls or buildings. Take care not to undermine fences, walls, bridges or other structures.
5. Leaders of a field party are asked to ensure that the spirit of this code is followed, and to remind their party of the need for the care and consideration at all times. They should remember that their supervisory role is of the prime importance. They must be supported by adequate assistance is the field. This is particularly important on coastal sections or over difficult terrain, where parties may easily become separated.

Visiting Quarries

1. One individual, or the leader of the party, should have obtained 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 maybe highly dangerous and liable to collapse without warning.
8. Beware of sludge lagoons.

Research workers

1. No researcher has the right to ‘dig out’ any site.
2. Excavations should be back-filled where necessary to avoid hazards to men and animals and protect vulnerable outcrops from casual collecting.
3. Don’t disfigure rock surfaces with numbers or symbols in brightly coloured paint.
4. Ensure that your research material and notebooks eventually become available to others by depositing them with an appropriate institution.
5. Take care that the publication of details does not lead to the destruction of vulnerable exposures. In such cases, avoid giving the precise location unless this is essential to scientific argument. Details of such localities may be deposited in a national data centre for Geology.

Societies, Schools and Universities

1. Foster an interest in geological sites and their wise conservation. Planners and local authorities may not realise the importance of a site to geologists. Much may be done by collective effort to help clean up overgrown sites with the owner’s permission and in consultation with the national conservation agency (English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales).
2. Where necessary, create working groups to work on conservation. Regional Geological Societies are managed by just such groups, with representation of all interests concerned (addresses from the G.A. Office)
3. Make contact with your local County Trust, Field Studies Centre, local Museum or Society. Addresses should be available through local museums or reference libraries or otherwise the G.A. office.

Health and Safety

Ever since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act, safety measures are more strictly enforced, especially in quarries or other excavations. Protective clothing, particularly safety helmets, must be worn at all times by employees, and visitors are also expected to observe the same precautions, generally as a condition of entry to the site. Suitable helmets are readily available and cheap to buy, and they should be part of the standard equipment of every geologist. In quarries helmets must be worn at all times.

Note to Landowners

Landowners may want to know if visiting geologists are familiar with this code. In cases of abuse they might care to note the names, addresses and the Institutions or Society of offenders. All complaints or enquires may be addressed to:-
The Geologists’ Association, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1V 9AG

A Code for Coring

In recent years some researchers within Geology have chosen to take small diameter cores from the rock outcrops, using hand held power tools. This new sampling technique is a neat one compared to hammering, but it can cause very unsightly scarring of an exposure if great care is not taken to core only from faces out of direct view. There have been many instances of thoughtless drilling, which has caused more anger to general public and landowners alike than any other form of collecting. The practice is especially unacceptable in well-known beauty sports, but at any site prior permission must be obtained from the owner. These guidelines should be observed at all times:

  1. Take cores from the least exposed faces and NOT those most visible from site entrances or from the approaches to a natural exposure.
  2. Take only the minimum, numbers of cores, and avoid closely spaced patterns, such as might attract undue attention.
  3. As best you can, try to plug the holes with debris of similar diameter drilled from fallen blocks.
  4. Respect the feelings of the other geologists, who may have curbed their natural instincts and adhered to a ‘no hammering’ rule at the same locality.