Posts by Katie Kennedy


AGS Magazine – January 2022

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The Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists are pleased to announce the January 2022 issue of their publication; AGS Magazine. To view the magazine click here.

This free, publication focuses on geotechnics, engineering geology and geoenvironmental engineering as well as the work and achievements of the AGS.

There are a number of excellent articles in this issue including;

AGS Annual Conference @ Geotechnica 2022 – Page 4
AGS Photography Competition: Loss Prevention Guidance 2022 – Page 6
Managing risk within ground investigation (machinery) – Page 17
Summary of the Autumn 2019 Procurement of Ground Investigation Steering Group Survey – Page 22
Inside: GEA – Page 28

Plus much, much more!

Advertising opportunities are available within future issues of the publication. To view rates and opportunities please view our media pack by clicking HERE.

If you have a news story, article, case study or event which you’d like to tell our editorial team about please email Articles should act as opinion pieces and not directly advertise a company. Please note that the publication of editorial and advertising content is subject to the discretion of the editorial board.


AGS Photography Competition: Loss Prevention Guidance 2022

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The AGS are pleased to announce they are holding a new photography competition, this time to source a new striking cover image for the 2022 edition of the Loss Prevention Guidance.

This new document will consist of key papers which will provide members with in-depth advice and knowledge on multiple issues that could affect legal liability and financial exposure. Topics include liability, contract, insurance and health & safety. The AGS Loss Prevention Guidance was last reviewed in 2017 and the next review will be published in the New Year (2022).

We’re on the lookout for your most creative images which are reflective of the industry. Ideally, the image will be free of people, however this isn’t essential and we’re happy to consider all images of a geotechnical, engineering and loss prevention nature.

Entry into the competition is free and the winner of the competition will win a food hamper basket from luxury retailer, Fortnum and Mason, worth over £75, together with the prestige of their photograph featuring on this important document. Three runners up will each win a bottle of Champagne.

There are no restrictions on the photography equipment used, so feel free to use a phone, computer, tablet or a traditional hand-held camera to capture your image as long as the criteria below are met.

All entries will be reviewed by select members of the AGS Loss Prevention Working Group, who will decide on a shortlist and a potential winner. Full details will be announced in the April / May 2022 issue of AGS Magazine.

The AGS are looking for high resolution jpeg images (300 DPI / over 1mb image file size) of a geotechnical, engineering or loss prevention nature. Images should be no smaller than 4200 x 3400 pixels. Please note that images in landscape orientation are preferred.

• Please email your image with;
o A short description of what it showcases and where it was taken (up to 50 words)
o Image credit information (if applicable)
o Your full name
o Company name
o Postal address
to with the subject title ‘AGS Magazine: Loss Prevention Guidance Photography Competition.
• There is no limit to the number of images you enter.
• The deadline for entries is Friday 25th February 2022
• Entry into the competition is free

• Applicants must be aged 18 or over.
• All images must be high resolution and 300 DPI (dots per inch) / over 1mb image file size.
• Applicants must be based in the UK.
• Inclusion of any images on the final guidance document is up to the discretion of the AGS
• The photographer must have full copyright of all entered images.
• All images entered may be reproduced by the AGS and used in future AGS event and marketing literature without prior notice. This may include usage across the AGS’ social media channels, inclusion in the AGS Magazine, event programmes and on the AGS website. Please note that all images used will be credited.



Q&A with Lauren Hunt

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Full Name: Lauren Hunt

Job Title: Geo-environmental Consultant

Company: Arcadis

I am a geo-environmental consultant with Arcadis and joined two years ago after graduating with a first-class degree in Geology, from the University of Leicester. I’m based within the Site Evaluation and Restoration (SER) team which works on a variety of environmental / geotechnical risk assessment and ground remediation projects. We provide sustainable solutions to a host of geo-environmental challenges and I am fortunate to be part of such a friendly team, getting to work with experts and specialists, learning and discovering more every day! Outside of work I play cricket, go on hikes, and I absolutely adore sloths!

What is your background and how did you end up working within the geotechnical industry?

I’ve been collecting rocks and fossils since I was about 3 years old and have been fascinated with the ground beneath our feet and the geological processes that have formed our planet. I really enjoy being outside and exploring so loved all the fieldwork modules at university, therefore I wanted a job where I could be most active and at the forefront of site work. I found the toxicology and geochemistry modules at university interesting and ended up writing my dissertation discussing the sources of Phosphorus, its fate in the environment, and its role in eutrophication. I learned about environmental consultancy, specifically land remediation at a university careers meeting, and knew it would be a good fit as I want to be part of making the world a better place. One of the most rewarding aspects of what I do is knowing how sites we are able to remediate end up providing sustainable and safe places for people to live and work!

What does a typical day entail?

That depends…no two days are the same! If I am based in the office, a typical day would entail geo-environmental risk assessment, baseline reviews, factual reporting or working on ground investigation specifications. If I am on site, I will be supervising drilling works, logging, groundwater / gas monitoring and sampling. I continuously engage with health and safety throughout all stages of the project, from planning to implementation on site, adopting the fantastic TRACK to 0 Heath and Safety Policy set by Arcadis. Throughout everything I do, I work with amazing people, learn new skills and gain a wide variety of experiences within geo-environmental consultancy.

Within your career to date, what is your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement in my early career is not one I can single out. I am most proud of the determination and drive I have shown as a woman in this industry disproving the stigmas facing women in construction and speaking out against site-based intimidation. I am proud of all the projects I have worked on and contributed towards and am proud to be part of an industry that is moving towards a future of exciting and equal opportunities and supportive and enriching working environments.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I love the variety in every day and how each different site I work on presents new opportunities for providing a better quality of life for local and wider communities. The variety constantly keeps me on my toes and presents new challenges to thrive on. I feel directly involved in the project lifecycle and undertaking work typically earlier on in this cycle means I have the opportunity to set a project on the right path, which is a great thing to be part of. Being at Arcadis also allows me to work alongside a rich ecosystem of teams and disciplines and my enjoyment within my role stems from helping Arcadis deliver valuable and high-quality projects.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

Possibly the most challenging aspect of my job that I have faced are the negative and discourteous comments sometimes received out on site about being a woman from individuals who fail to realise the incredible work that women are doing within construction. There is a fantastic change going on in the industry whereby women are empowered to take on roles in construction and engineering. Unfortunately, bias against women in construction / engineering still exists and the best thing that can be done is to open conversations about this topic at all career levels from the office and from site to oppress the stigma and change perspectives. Within Arcadis SER, a working group has been formed to address site-based intimidation and harassment. This includes any intimidation, confrontation, violence, bullying, sexual harassment and any situations which make individuals uncomfortable. This has formed an amazing platform to openly discuss these issues and support those that have sadly experienced this kind of issue. Additionally, being out on site all year round poses the challenge of working in all weather conditions and this in turn leads to complications around plant, monitoring, sampling and site safety.

If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same career path for yourself? And if not, what would you change?

I am new to the world of consultancy but I love it and would choose the same career path. It is the variety of projects I am involved in and the different challenges and tasks experienced every day that make it such a fulfilling and worthwhile career path. I am proud of what I have achieved since graduating and can see myself flourishing in this industry with many exciting opportunities to be taken in the coming years.

What AGS Working Group(s) are you a member of and what are your current focuses?

I am an Early Careers Professional within the Contaminated Land Working Group. Another Early Careers Professional and I are currently working on producing an interactive mind map that will house guidance, industry standards and useful documents containing best practice advice. This will provide a single source of truth and act as a platform for training and project support. The mind map is in its developmental phase and we are working on improving interactivity, application of updates and revisions and user experience. This will provide support to all career levels but primarily aid early career professionals to locate standards and undertake training.

Why do you feel the AGS is important to the industry?

The AGS is important as it brings together many industry specialists and allows everyone to keep up to date with standard changes and allows you to create a large professional network. The AGS also provides early careers professionals with guidance and training in the form of insightful webinars and a variety of online resources. It acts as a platform to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing across the industry, ensuring companies and clients work towards common goals.

What changes would you like to see implemented in the geotechnical industry?

I would like to see more women and minorities feeling empowered to take on a career in the industry, with increased opportunity for promotion and career development as well as support for roles out on site.

Lastly any advice or words of wisdom that would you give someone who is either considering this type of job or who are progressing towards chartership?

I believe the key to those wishing to embark on this career or to progress further towards chartership is to gain as much site experience as possible. This will help individuals put into context work that is undertaken in the office and consolidate an understanding of where the data comes from, how it is collected, the limitations of it and identify key observations that might be overlooked from desk studies. Longer term, this supports the writing of robust reports, improved all round health and safety best practice and not to mention the ability to see directly how the work you are doing contributes to the wider project in the real world.


Inside GEA

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Name: Susie Marley

Job title: Senior Geotechnical Engineer

Company name: Geotechnical & Environmental Associates (GEA)


What does the company do and what areas does it specialise in?

GEA is a geotechnical and contaminated land specialist. We carry out ground investigations, interpretive reporting and provide consultancy services, and specialise in basement impact assessments and ground movement analyses, foundation engineering and complex contaminated land investigations and consulting.

Where is GEA located?

Our head office is based in Ware, Hertfordshire, and we also have offices in Nottingham and Manchester, along with a shared workspace at The Building Society in London.

How many people does the company employ?

25 (and nearly 50 % of our engineers are female)

How long have you worked at GEA?

Five years

What is your career background, and what enticed you to work for GEA?

I started at GEA a few weeks after completing my final year undergraduate exams at Camborne School of Mines/ University of Exeter. I had completed a summer placement at a ground investigation company the year before and used that experience and some of the projects that I worked on as the basis of my dissertation, which led to an interest in pursuing a career in the sector. A number of things stood out at GEA, including the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects from small residential extensions to larger commercial basement type projects, and in varying ground conditions on projects across the country. Our Managing Director is of course extremely knowledgeable, but is also very approachable, which was clear from the start and can be invaluable. The company’s approach of getting graduates out on site straight away and working on their own projects early on appealed to me too, and the converted barn head office in a rural setting and perks like weekly fresh fruit deliveries and free gym membership were added bonuses! More recently, GEA have supported me in completing the Imperial College MSc Soil Mechanics course part-time, including a thesis project with some real site data incorporated into the laboratory research undertaken at ICL, and this is proving to be a of huge benefit to technical understanding and career progression.

What is your current role within GEA and what does a typical day entail?

As a senior geotechnical engineer, my role includes both office and field based roles, including specifying and pricing up new projects, completing desk studies including contamination risk assessments and basement impact assessments. I arrange and carry out all aspects of site work including setting out, instructing, supervising and working with crews, logging geology, logging foundation inspection trial pits and collecting samples, carrying out a range of in-situ tests and specifying standpipe installations. After fieldwork, I schedule geotechnical and contamination testing, carry out monitoring and groundwater sampling, review the fieldwork findings and write comprehensive (interpretive) ground investigation reports including preliminary pile designs, retaining wall parameters, hydrogeological assessments and quantitative contamination risk assessments. I update clients/ structural engineers/ architects throughout the project and liaise with Local Authorities, and keep track of project spending against the budget and produce bills of quantities. Over the past year I have also started carrying out Ground Movement Analyses, including Thames Water Asset assessments and Building Damage Assessments under the guidance of more experienced engineers. I also take an interest in new starters and enjoy taking them out on site to help give them as much early site experience as I benefitted from when I started, and keep our Engineers Handbook up to date with our processes. I am also looking forward to helping out in any way that I can with the company’s goal of reaching net-zero carbon. It may sound cliché but a typical day is hardly ever the same, and could involve a number of any of the above!

What are the company’s core values?

Enthusiasm: we enjoy what we do and are passionate about doing our best every day.  We nurture ideas, promote excellence, and find creative ways to eliminate obstacles to achieving objectives.  We share our enthusiasm and passion with our clients and suppliers.

Kindness: We are kind to each other, our suppliers and clients, and to the environment.

Integrity: We act with honesty, fairness, and respect for clients and colleagues alike and strive to do the right thing always.

People: We embrace the collective experiences, varied skills, and unique talents of every member of staff.  We encourage development and reward performance and treat people equally without prejudice.  Above all else, we provide an environment in which our staff can thrive.

Innovation: we encourage curiosity and new ideas, learn from mistakes, and constantly strive to exceed expectations.  We always look for new and better ways of doing what we do.  Through innovation, we generate better solutions for our customers and our staff.

Safety: we place the safety and wellbeing of our staff at the centre of everything we do.

Sustainability: we are committed to monitoring and reducing the environmental impact of what we do.

Community: we are mindful of the communities in which we work and committed to giving to those in need.

Are there any projects or achievements which GEA are particularly proud to have been a part of?

GEA are particularly proud to have built a good reputation for quality reports. Our main achievement is to have developed a company that is well-regarded and successful, provides an excellent place for people to work and a quality service to clients.  This is reflected in the fact that most of our work is repeat business and generated by recommendation. We have built an established reputation for dealing with particularly difficult contaminated land conditions in a number of London boroughs.

We are proud to have worked on a number of projects with extensive and high specification investigation at the high profile former US Embassy, carrying out interesting foundation analyses at Westminster Abbey, and providing investigations and complex ground movement analysis on the congested Creed Court site, and a number of other large projects are detailed on our website. Completing a ground investigation overnight at the Museum of Childhood, enabling it to reopen as normal the following day, is a project that I personally am particularly proud of.

How important is sustainability within the company?

It is one of our core values and we have a number of schemes in place, such as no general bins in the office and extra recycling facilities, sample bags made from recycled plastic, and new electric vans on the way to replace diesel ones. We also don’t print anything, including reports or emails, unless essential. We are part of the UK Climate Business Hub and hope to be part of the solution as a SME, with plans to go further and find and implement more sustainable solutions.

How does GEA support graduates and early career professionals who are entering the industry?

Firstly, we aim to recruit graduates and promote internally, and believe in empowering engineers and providing support to enable them to take on responsibility as soon as they are able, and have a Geological Society of London accredited GEA Training Guide to help engineers work towards chartership. All engineers are supervised by a more senior engineer, and ultimately by our Managing Director, to provide support at every stage of a project.

We were one of the founding industry partners for the University of Portsmouth BEng Engineering Geology and Geotechnics bursary scheme. We have a placement student with us for some 44 weeks at the end of their second year of study, as well as an 8-week period at the end of their first year. We also frequently take 6th Form students for work experience from local schools to give them an insight into a career in geotechnical engineering.

How has COVID- 19 effect the day to day running of the company? How have staff adapted?

GEA have always had a flexible approach to working and we all have laptops so that we can work at home or remotely, so the transition to full-time home working was very straightforward.  We have now returned to the office, but with a combination of home and office working.  Some site work was impacted during the first lockdown during the uncertainty over whether ground investigations should be continuing, but this was fairly short-lived and other than introducing new health and safety measures it didn’t really affect us.

Why do you feel the AGS is important to the industry?

It provides a voice for the industry when required, encourages collaboration between members and allows us to demonstrate our commitment to clients.

What are GEA’s future ambitions?

  • To achieve net zero carbon
  • To continue to improve and grow through providing a quality service
  • To provide a positive and enjoyable working environment for our staff

GEA were headline sponsors of the Geotechnical Engineering in a Net Zero World webinar. To view the webinar click HERE.


Summary of the Autumn 2019 Procurement of Ground Investigation Steering Group Survey

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In 2019 a Procurement of Ground Investigation Steering Group survey was carried out. The survey was a collaboration between the Association of Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Specialists (AGS), British Drilling Association (BDA) and Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS). It built upon the AGS/BDA 2017 survey ‘Spotlight on the industry’ which identified that poor procurement of ground investigation was amongst the top three concerns of the responders.

The purpose of the survey was to identify the level of understanding of, and detail the concerns with, the current procurement processes for UK ground investigation services. The results have been extensively used over the last two years to drive improvements through the procurement process and forms the basis of many decisions for the direction this action has taken, including the third revision of the UK Specification for ground investigation (The Yellow Book) due to be published mid 2022.

Twenty one (21) questions were posed dealing with type of organisation, experience, size of projects and going onto familiarisation with contract mechanisms and documentation and concluding with questions on the way forward and improvements that could be made in the procurement process.

The following is a short summary of our analysis of the survey results concentrating mainly on views expressed regarding the way forward for the industry; a more detailed article is due to appear on the AGS website shortly which will deal with the responses received question by question. The full survey results are available on the AGS website.

Summary analysis


Questions 1 to 10 looked at the details of the respondents in terms of affiliation, experience and qualifications, location and size and also their role in the procurement process.

Responses were received from 175 individuals as indicated in the graphic below. Those affiliations not identified (18%) include BGS, Geological Society, GSHP Association, EIC, DPI, FAME, ICE, RCE Association and the ACE. This is clearly a small but active proportion of the ground investigation community.

The majority of respondents are members of the AGS (59%), BDA (30%), BGA (23%) and FPS (10%). There are some multiple affiliations of course which makes the totals greater than 100%.

Over 80% of respondents had more than 11 years’ experience and were at least at senior engineer level. Advisors/consultants and specialist ground investigation contractors provided nearly 85% of the responses with over 90% degree qualified or of chartered status.

A fairly even distribution of ground investigation organisations across the United Kingdom was indicated. Companies appear to work across the UK with about 50% considering themselves to be national contractors though with fewer in Northern Ireland. Some 20% of respondents considered they were engaged in global activity.

It is not clear from the responses what proportion of the respondents were geotechnical designers with a knowledge of the proposed construction for which the ground investigation was being proposed. However, some 40% of responses were from ‘Specifiers’ and a further almost 40% from ‘Estimators’ and ‘Procurer/Buyers’.

Improving the Procurement Process

The latter part of the survey dealt with questions around how the procurement process should be improved going forward.

Q19 presented a series of statements relating to GI Procurement and respondents were asked to rank these according to importance.

The results showed that the vast majority of participants considered that good formal Specifications with the objectives of the investigation outlined and the provision of a Bills of Quantity was necessary. There was a strong view that the tenderer’s estimator should always assess the risks and make allowances for them in the tender return.

A more detailed analysis of the two main respondent groups i.e., Advisor/consultants and Specialist ground investigation contractors reveals that there is general agreement in the responses to these questions. The low return rate from other groups (10 or less responses per group) means that it is not possible to draw any meaningful conclusions for them.

The biggest disparity in opinion between the two main groups is regarding the statements that the contract is always awarded to the most capable rather than lowest cost. Also, the statement that the Designer should always specify the methodologies required appears to be more heavily divided in terms of opinions of the two parties.

At Question 20 respondents were asked ‘in thinking about the future of the ground investigation industry what changes from a list of 10 factors provided could most improve the procurement process’.

The results of the responses are summarised below in terms of assessed importance.

By far the greatest factor identified was that procurers should have a good understanding of ground investigation process and there was considerable support expressed for Early Contractor involvement. Conversely the increased use of framework contracts, adopting new methods for measuring contract costs and establishing a protocol for pre-measuring The GI works without resorting to Compensation Events was seen as having the least potential impact in improving the procurement process.

Again, a more detailed analysis of the two main respondent groups i.e., Advisor/consultants and Ground investigation contractors reveals that there is general agreement in the responses to these questions.


The most important issues identified regarding improvements centred around the following themes:

  1. The first priority was identified as the procurer should have a good understanding of the ground investigation process and method. This reflected concerns regarding non specialists being involved in the process without a full understanding of the issues.
  2. The development of a GI focussed NEC contract or one specifically for GI was also considered to be a major priority based on the cumulative response from the two questions as flagged above. This was particularly supported by the Ground Investigation Contractors. This was also associated with significant support for improved training in the use of the NEC contract for GI
  3. There was general agreement that early contractor involvement can be valuable in choosing an appropriate ground investigation design particularly where there are more specialist and perhaps less commonly specified requirements.
  4. The revision of the existing ground investigation specification to make it as prescriptive as possible and an improved BoQ was necessary to create a level playing field during tender assessment.

As noted above a more detailed article is due to appear on the AGS website shortly which will deal with the responses received question by question.


Author Stewart Jarvis, Associate Director, Arup with acknowledgements to David Farmer and Mersade Cartwright, Arup for assistance with the original survey data and presentation.



Managing risk within ground investigation (machinery)

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Julian Lovell, Managing Director, Equipe Group
Jon Rayner, Director SH&E, EUR – UK & Ireland, AECOM


Recently there have been a number of serious incidents/accidents involving drilling machines and recent site safety audits and inspections have discovered poorly maintained machinery and lack of demonstratable operative competency.  This article explores the risk to safety posed by plant and in particular the compliance with health and safety legislation and guidance relating to drilling machines which are used on almost every geotechnical project whether that be a dynamic sampling machine or rotary piling machine.

Legislative Framework

There are numerous pieces of health, safety and environmental legislation which apply to ground investigations, but the control of the common safety aspects of construction work, of which ground investigation is undeniably part of, relies heavily upon the implementation of and compliance to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, 2015 (CDM).

HSE also publishes guidance to help people to understand what the law says, to help duty holders comply with the law and to give technical advice. HSE guidance, which is generally not specific to a particular industry and further guidance including British Standards and industry specific guidance, may be used by the regulator and the courts to demonstrate that good practice has been followed.

This guidance is not compulsory, but the HSE advises that if you do follow it, you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. If an incident occurs, health and safety inspectors and prosecutors will check for compliance and duty holders may well be found liable of a torte of negligence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and face a financial penalty and or a custodial sentence. If an incident occurs from a known and documented risk(s), then this will be looked upon unfavourably, if it is demonstrated as being ‘reasonably forseeable’ risks, which have not been managed and monitored sufficiently.

The operation of drilling machines is governed by a number of specific legislative statutes and guidance most notably the Machinery Safety Directive, Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) and BS EN 16228 – Drill Rig Safety. The obligations under these parts of the legislative framework almost entirely rest with the manufacturers, buyers and users of the equipment (the Contractors). However, Clients and Designers must not forget their obligations under CDM as they also have a duty to engage with competent Contractors and must make suitable arrangements for managing a project, including the allocation of sufficient time and other resources. In respect of Client duties, the regulations clarify that arrangements are suitable if they ensure that the construction work can be carried out, so far as is reasonably practicable, without risks to the health or safety of any person affected by the project.

The Knowns

The AGS and BDA Safety Working Groups have published a number of safety guidance, safety alerts and Client’s guide documents to bring these safety issues to the attention of the industry.  The AGS is also currently preparing a number of Client Guides which will provide guidance on known safety issues relating to ground investigation activities and in particular the machines and methodologies being used.

The data for these documents have been derived from a programme of independent post-delivery (pre-use) inspections commissioned over the past three years principally by AECOM and delivered by Equipe, which itself resulted in production of the AECOM Drilling Operating Standards Industry Working Group (DOSIWiG) document series. It is these DOSIWiG documents which will form the basis of the AGS Client Guides.

A total of 114 inspections were carried out over a period from September 2019 to November 2021 and involved 18 different ground investigation contractors. The graphic below provides a summary of the key safety non-conformities found during the inspections.

Throughout this programme, the major safety issues have remained consistent; a lack of awareness of legislative requirements, inadequate guarding of both the drill string and hot parts and under-rated or damaged lifting accessories including wire rope defects. The programme has determined that those employing, managing and operating the machines have little awareness of what full machinery compliance looks like. It has also identified a general poor understanding of what is required to fully comply with PUWER & LOLER (where applied) by those responsible for daily compliance inspection of the machines, with the industry often reliant too heavily on the manufacturers of the machines.

The Unknowns

The data highlighting these safety issues have been obtained from large projects and from organisations who already implement an approved subcontractors audit process. Whilst the Client’s competency checks and onboarding process are vigorous, these non-conformities would not have been identified without the benefit of the independent pre-use inspections. So how many non-compliant machines are in use today?

The independent pre-use inspection initiative has provided invaluable insight and, more importantly, data which can be analysed and used to create targeted guidance for the industry. The data suggests some improvement, but do the ongoing and consistent trends suggest that these issues are still not being seen to be significant by those appointing, engaging and managing drilling contractors?

The reason for the continuing lack of compliance is not clear but anecdotal evidence suggests that perhaps it is due to these non-conformities not being seen to be serious or a potential causal effect for incidents/accidents. Many parts of the industry believe that when a wire rope fails, it will ‘fail to safe’ as any load being carried will simply drop safely to the bottom of the hole. Recent site accidents would indicate otherwise.  Likewise, a belief exists that the lack of paperwork does not inherently make a site or equipment unsafe, but lack of structured and recorded checking can allow unsafe equipment and operations to continue.

These attitudes are clear signs of a juvenile industry safety culture which is not learning the lessons from the wider construction industry. Time and effort are being spent on discrediting safety practices or identifying reasoning why they shouldn’t be applied to the ground investigation industry, rather than adopting cross industry best practise. Why?

Time, money and effort should be balanced against risk, at least this is what the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 tells us. However, when there is an inherent race to the bottom to win work, anything which adds cost is challenged by the industry, as the industry is governed by those competing for the work.

Is this to the benefit of the Clients? Clients will follow current industry guidance, setting these safety standards within specifications, project standards, etc. under the assumption that this constitutes best practice and will ensure a safe project. The reality is that these standards are watered down to keep the industry lean and value for money in the eyes of those appointing them, while retaining risk to those engaging in the work activities.


Looking past the industry guidance, it is clear from the data that not enough is being done to ensure safety within the industry, with 52% of drilling machines still being deemed not fit for use. The AECOM pre-use inspection programme provides evidence that there are significant problems regarding compliance of drilling machinery legislation. Without such a programme these drilling machines would have been defective when in use – machines which require operatives to work continuously in close proximity to them.

Whilst Contractors will continue to carry the largest obligations regarding compliance, Client’s also have obligations under CDM 2015.

Clause 30 – ‘the client is required to make suitable arrangements for managing the project so that health, safety and welfare is secured.’ and

Clause 31 (f) – ‘Arrangements should include setting out the means to ensure that the health and safety performance of designers and contractors is maintained throughout’.

An independent pre-use inspection programme is a tool which can be used by Clients and Designers to meet obligations applicable to the safe use of plant and machinery and should, if adopted, lead to significant improvements of compliance and therefore safety within these areas.

Clients can greatly help the industry to manage and maintain the machinery safety by instigating this or a similar approach on their projects. This will ultimately reduce safety accident and incidents, and in turn reduce harm, project delays, maintain client reputation and increase productivity by the use of good quality, fully compliant machinery.


AGS Webinar Summary: Sample Disturbance – What is it?

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On 25th November 2021, the AGS held their most successful webinar to date on the subject of, Sample Disturbance – What is it? This free, virtual event was sponsored by SOCOTEC and saw over 1000 delegates register to attend from over 40 countries across the globe.

The event was spearheaded by Peter Reading with an aim to stimulate a discussion and start a process whereby the industry can start to decide on factors which might build a disturbance classification.

The webinar itself was chaired by Sally Hudson (AGS Chair and Regional Manager & Associate at Coffey Geotechnics Limited), and our three guest speakers included David Norbury, John Powell and Tom Lunne.

David Norbury (Director at David Norbury Ltd) discussed sampling methods and sample disturbance and checking up on the disturbance. John Powell sparked a debate on sample disturbance in stiff clay and finally, Tom Lunne (Expert adviser at Norwegian Geotechnical Institute) looked at sample disturbance in soft clay, causes and how it can be assessed. The event finished with a joint Q&A and discussion on samples.

This webinar also covered:
· The sampling process and methods which may provide a Class 1 sample
· What constitutes a Class 1 sample and how do we recognise sample disturbance
· Are there grades of disturbance what is acceptable
· Should there be a scale to enable technicians and laboratories to recognise and report the degree of disturbance

This virtual seminar and all speaker presentations are available for free view on the AGS website. Click HERE for full information.

Article Instrumentation & Monitoring

AGS webinar summary: Instrumentation and Monitoring: Critical Links in Ground Engineering

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On 28th October 2021, Jonathan Gammon (Non-Executive Director and Advisor at Geotechnical Observations Limited and AGS Instrumentation and Monitoring Working Group Leader) headlined a webinar for AGS Hong Kong on the topic, Critical Links in Ground Engineering. This virtual event was a summary of the popular webinar which took place in November 2020.

Over 350 delegates registered for this webinar which saw Jonathan describe the scope and types of instrumentation and monitoring (I&M) and identify the role of I&M as a critical link in Ground Engineering. He addressed the challenging issue of I&M data management and outlined the I&M situation in Australasia, based on a personal perspective on the challenges of I&M work in that region, which introduced a wider global dimension to the webinar.

Jonathan also tackled the subject of international standards for geotechnical monitoring, tracing their development and content to the present day. Standards currently in preparation, as well as those anticipated in the future, were also identified, as were Technical Committees that have been formed to address I&M. He also identified the UK’s strategy to develop training for installation and monitoring technicians which dovetails in with the development of Vocational Qualifications and compliance with the Standards.

If you missed this webinar, the replay is now live and available for free view on the AGS website. Please click HERE to view the webinar replay in its entirety.


New AGS Members in 2021

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The AGS is pleased to announce that in 2021, nine member organisations, one affiliate organisation and three practitioner members were accepted by the Membership Panel and approved by the Executive. Six students and graduates were also accepted as AGS members. The new member organisations are Exploration and Testing Associates Ltd, GE Solutions Consulting Ltd, Orsted A/S, Sweco UK, Brownfield Solutions Ltd, Omnia Environmental Consulting, Eurofins Chemtest Ltd, London Bridge Associates and WDE Consulting Ltd. The new affiliate organisation is The CDS Group and the new practitioner members are Tim Rolfe, Janice Windle and Neil Chadwick.

AGS Membership is open to geotechnical and geoenvironmental companies who employ specialists who can provide competent services and affiliate companies who provide support services and supplies to the members. Students and Graduates can also become members of the AGS. Full details of membership criteria can be found at


Sustainable Management Practices

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SuRF UK have recently published updated guidance on Sustainable Management Practices (SMP’s) which include 15 sustainable management practices posters.

The SMP’s are “relatively simple, common sense actions that can be implemented at any stage in a land contamination management project to improve its environmental, social and/or economic performance”. ‘SMPs can be used to improve the benefits (e.g. resource efficiency, community satisfaction) or reduce the negative impacts (e.g. spillages, complaints, cost) of a project, leading to project ‘sustainability gains’, without requiring a formal sustainability assessment’. The SMP document describes a simple process to encourage sustainable thinking, decision making and action across all land contamination management activities by using SMPs’. The process could also be applied to geotechnical projects.

The posters include topics such as ‘Set project milestones to ensure periodic review and optimisation of activities’, ‘minimise vehicle miles’ and ‘don’t allow plant and equipment to run for no purpose’.  These posters could be used in a variety of ways to encourage sustainable thinking, for example:

  • As a suitable ‘Sustainability Moment’ in a meeting;
  • As a slide in a presentation
  • At project commencement
  • As an aid in a site briefing

The document and posters can be accessed at the following link:


Brownfield Land Scotland 2022

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Brownfield Land Scotland 2022
2022-03-2929th Mar 2022

The 15th annual Brownfield Land Scotland conference, brought to you by Environment Analyst’s Brownfield & Regeneration Network, is returning on 29 March 2022 as an in-person event in Glasgow.

​The initial agenda is now available and offers updated, actionable solutions to key challenges affecting the investigation and development of brownfield and contaminated land in Scotland, with an emphasis on regional case studies.

This annual event regularly brings together over 100 regulatory agencies, contaminated land & environmental health officers from local councils, brownfield consultants and contractors and other stakeholders, making this event the perfect place to make new connections and reconnect with your peers.

Key topics to be addressed include:

  • Outlining the Role and Objectives of the New Environmental Standards Scotland
  • National Planning Framework 4 – A New Draft Spatial Strategy and Policy Approach
  • Optimising the Collection, Management and Use of Data to Better Understand Ground Conditions
  • Working Towards a Circular Economy Approach to Reusing Soil and Waste Materials in Brownfield Development
  • Regional Brownfield Remediation and Development Case Studies

Confirmed speakers include the Scottish Government and Environmental Standards Scotland.

View the conference agenda.

Members of the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists get 10% off by entering the code AGS10 at the checkout.

​Make sure to book before 10 December to claim the early-bird discount.

Book here.

Members of local authorities and regulatory agencies can attend for just £95.


AGS Magazine – October / November 2021

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The Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists are pleased to announce the October / November 2021 issue of their publication; AGS Magazine. To view the magazine click here.

This free, publication focuses on geotechnics, engineering geology and geoenvironmental engineering as well as the work and achievements of the AGS.

There are a number of excellent articles in this issue including;

AGS Annual Conference Review – Page 4
New AGS Data Validator: Beta – Page 7
Climate Change and Land Contamination Risk Management – Page 12
What is a pragmatic and safe approach to assessing the feasibility and design of infiltration systems on a site? – Page 14
Training Paths for Ground Practitioners – Page 18

Plus much, much more!

Advertising opportunities are available within future issues of the publication. To view rates and opportunities please view our media pack by clicking HERE.

If you have a news story, article, case study or event which you’d like to tell our editorial team about please email Articles should act as opinion pieces and not directly advertise a company. Please note that the publication of editorial and advertising content is subject to the discretion of the editorial board.