Article Safety

AGS SWG Call for Safety Alerts

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Dear Member,





The Safety Working Group would like to encourage the sharing of lessons learnt from accidents, incidents and near misses on a more regular basis. This information is normally obtained from members of the group raising issues during the meetings which often have directly affected their organisations or through discussing Safety Alerts. However, we rarely receive Safety Alerts and so often the issues we can discuss are limited to the experiences of the members of this working group which can be argued does not necessarily reflect the industry or membership as a whole.


The wider construction industry seems to be much better at issuing Safety Alerts but many of these are not related to AGS member’s work and so often they are not relevant. It is the belief of the Safety Working Group that we are missing valuable ‘lessons learnt’ or an opportunity to raise awareness of current issues and we would like this to improve.


This is an appeal for the AGS membership to ‘up its game’ and to start being more pro-active in the generation of Safety Alerts. The issuing of Safety Alerts is a simple system which can be used to not only raise awareness of substandard products or poor practice but also to reiterate safety messages, provide lessons learnt and provide warnings. Some companies are reluctant to issue Safety Alerts as they believe that any accident, incident or near miss will look bad on them or clients may believe their organisation has unsafe practices. This is a very negative view of Safety Alerts whereas they should be looked at as a proactive approach to accidents, incidents and near misses and a desire to improve safety.


We would like to receive any Safety Alerts which have been issued to members but would also really like to receive Safety Alerts generated by our members. Please help.




Yours faithfully,

For the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists




Chair of the Safety Working Group


Article Safety

First Aid in the Workplace – Changes to Regulations

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), carried out an evaluation of first aid in the workplace and found that ‘although first aid awareness and penetration in workplaces was good, compliance was found to be more “in spirit” rather than the letter of the regulations and this exposed some important deficiencies in the format and content of guidance and in the proportionality of the current regulatory requirements for lower risk employees’.
The changes have been developed in consultation with employers and training providers and it is hoped that the new format will make it easier for employers to comply with the regulations.

The initial four day First Aid at Work (FAW) course will be shortened to three days and there will be a new qualification of Emergency First Aider in the Workplace (EFAW) that will require a one day training course. The FAW requalification remains unchanged at two days.
The HSE will also strongly recommend that FAW and EFAW students attend an annual three hour refresher course to prevent ‘skills fade’.
Both the FAW and EFAW courses will be approved by the HSE and must be taught by HSE approved first aid training providers.
FAW certificates will remain valid until their expiry date even if this is after October 1 2009.

For more information, visit

Article Business Practice Data Management

What could training do for your company?

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Whether you want to improve your relationship with a client, find ways of reducing the cost of your Professional Indemnity, retain your present staff or even sharpen your company profile, training is a valuable and cost-effective resource.

Why is training of value?

The answer is, because “knowledge” brings opportunities to your company and rewards to your personnel.

Awareness: A trained person can take advantage of an opportunity they recognise, as and when it occurs. This is most clearly seen in drilling, logging, sampling, description and testing. The member of staff who senses that something “is not right” or “does not add up” or is “something you ought to know” can save you time, money and reputation: and not only you. To offer your clients a service that is staffed by “eyes” and “brains” presents them with a sensible way to cut costs as an alternative to rigid, inadequate, GI born of their unhappy experience. Here is a real way to improve effectiveness. Value for money arising from trust in good work can become the basis for commercial flexibility: a point of relevance to your insurer. The training now available provides employers with practical and authoritative guidance for their staff, who may have come into this industry from a variety of backgrounds – not all of them geotechnical.

Integration: Knowledge enables separate pieces of data to be combined, so that the activities which generate them lead towards a whole – in this case, the geological, geotechnical and geoenvironmental model of the ground. Staff who know how their data fits together form a team that enables these models to be created. Without them the data can remain as data and never inform those who need to know.

Reward: Many managers of today had their university fees paid and have been able to convert the knowledge they gained into a career that supports a comfortable standard of living. Many younger staff have been denied this and are being denied this. Training is therefore a real reward for staff who need it. It is worth more than cash to them because they, like you, can convert it into a standard of living. Even if they leave for a better paid job sometime after the training you have provided, is that a good reason for keeping them ignorant? Is your company the better for their ignorance? And would you be so concerned if someone trained by a competitor could be found?

Recruitment: Is this a time  you realise you are on your own? The employment agency is incompetent, your competitors are chiselling crooks, you cannot turn the work around and could lose that client? You could have avoided the worst of this by training the staff you have; how much easier life would be if they could cope with more than the tasks for which they were recruited. Perhaps there was neither the time nor the resources for you to do this – but if there had been, would you have taken advantage of it? Would you have trained your company so that it could cope with fluctuating work loads and times of staff shortage? Would you appreciate being able to recruit someone with a recognisable level of practical training, and immediately useable skills, and not just have to rely on “x-years experience” with someone else?

If the answer to any of these issues has been “yes” then training has something very real and positive to offer you.

But when could you take advantage of this?

Training is happening now

There was a time when most companies did train their staff; some still do but they are a minority. The culture has gone and Business Management theory is firmly to blame. Cutting training was an easy economy to make at the time.there was a pool of trained staff.”use those trained by others.besides it opens up mobility in the market place and tests their market value.” Well, where are the Business Managers now we are in trouble? The common sense culture of investment in training needs to be re-established

Training is now available across the entire range of competences within the industry – but it is early days. Information on this can be found on the home page of the AGS web site ( look under Training and see also the Members Day 2006 Report).

Training is dynamic and flexible.   The provision being created now and described in the Members Day Report of 2006, can respond to your needs, but first depends upon you appreciating that it is there and can be used to your benefit. As you read this there could be a member of your staff “picking it up as they go along” from someone who does not understand “it” either.a time bomb of false economy waiting to damage your company.

How has this happened?

For training to exist three requirements must be met:

  1. there has to be a provider,
  2. it has to be financially affordable, and
  3. there has to be some reward in return.

First Steps initiated training with its course on Soil and Rock Description for BS 5930 – provided by Emerson and Moore and popular since the day it started. From this start other courses have followed and a full list of these can be found on click on “Courses and Training”. These courses are hands-on practical training where at least 50% of the course time involves the trainee actually learning a practical skill. Readers will note that the Geotechnics Section at the BRE is now involved.

First Steps and BRE are now providers for our industry across the complete range of competences. The opportunity now exists for you to improve your company through training. If your company needs training that is not currently provided, or wishes to give a course not commonly given, then contact Christine Butenuth to arrange it. First Steps and BRE are not only providers of their own training but a vehicle for training provided by others; the AGS is providing one of its own courses through this training vehicle (The generation of Information from AGS formatted electronic data to be organised by Steve Walthall).  Costs have deliberately been set to remain affordable but this is an issue that could become a problem: training will only remain affordable if sufficient members come forward to be trained: the demand is there and the supply also – what needs to develop is the habit of training.

The rewards for training have to be both corporate and personal: corporate benefits have already been outlined. Personal benefits are essential and start with a certificate that is worth more than the paper on which it is printed. First Steps and BRE have asked the AGS and GF to approve courses of training and certificate them, so that those attending have a document that is “currency” recognised by other employers within geotechnics: in this the AGS certificate will differ from the usual CPD which can be allocated to almost any course regardless of its value. Progress with this is underway thanks to Jonathan Gammon in his capacity as Chairman of the Business Practice Working Group and Leonard Threadgold in his capacity as champion for Training.

Too good to be true?

It could be if too few members come forward for training. The present arrangements must be sustainable. In general it costs £250 to train one person per day (the cost of a few determinations of PI or a couple of metres of core) and the arrangements described need in the region of 300 people a year. Three people from one hundred companies a year. It sounds reasonable but only you can make it so.  Think of the benefits!

Michael de Freitas, Christine Butenuth, Hilary Skinner (First Steps)