BS5930:2015 – the new version of the Standard on Ground Investigation is now available

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Written by David Norbury – Independent Consultant and Chair of the Revision Panel

BS5930 has underpinned ground investigation practice in the UK and abroad since its original publication in 1981. The original version broke new ground by standardising for the first time many of the aspects of an investigation and was published at about the same time as international guidance from ISRM and IAEG on similar themes.  This standard always had wider coverage by including guidance on selection of drilling methods, and covering field and laboratory tests.

The subsequent 1999 revision was an update to reflect the ongoing evolution of investigation methods.  Since then there have been two major amendments 2007 and 2010) to incorporate the requirements of EN standards related to Eurocodes, specifically the standards associated with EN1997-2, in sampling, testing and soil and rock description.  BSI rules do not permit additional amendments, and the decision was taken to undertake a full revision not only to include additional requirements relating to the Eurocodes but also to ensure that current best practice was incorporated throughout the document.

BS 5930:2015 presents an update on the requirements for the investigation of sites in order to assess their suitability for construction and to identify the characteristics of a site that affect the design and construction of the project.  The Standard emphasises the importance of the evolving ground model and that ground investigation is not necessarily a linear process.  It also considers related issues including the environment and the security of adjacent land and property.

According to the drafting panel, BS 5930 should be used on all investigations to help ensure:

  • geotechnical design and ground investigations are achieving the best results;
  • UK practitioners are carrying out their work in ground investigation and geotechnical design in accordance with the latest EN and ISO standards;
  • UK practitioners can export their skills to other countries where the same international standards are in use;
  • the most appropriate equipment is deployed to carry out ground investigation from selection of exploratory techniques, to methods of sampling, testing and measurement;
  • complete, accurate and informative description of the soils and rocks encountered; and
  • complete reporting of the investigation for use by others in the design chain whether by paper, pdf and digital data transfer formats.

Apart from changing the title from ‘site’ to ‘ground’ investigations, readers might not see much change in the content.  However, a lot of effort has been input to update best and current practice, accommodate EN ISO standards and to cut repetition.  Not least, the structure of the content has been significantly revised and the Section headings of the revised standard are listed below.  Several of these sections have been raised from clause to section level, as denoted by an asterisk below, to better reflect their importance to the investigation process.

  1. Preliminary considerations
  2. Desk studies and field reconnaissance**
  3. Planning ground investigations
  4. Field work
  5. Geophysical field investigations**
  6. Description of soils and rocks
  7. Field tests
  8. Field instrumentation**
  9. Laboratory tests on samples
  10. Reports and interpretation
  11. Review during and after construction


The schedule of Annexes supporting the main text is as follows:

  • National safety legislation**
  • General information required for desk study
  • Sources of information
  • Notes on field reconnaissance**
  • Detailed information for design and construction
  • Ground Investigation in ground affected by voids *
  • Photographic records**
  • Integrated investigations**


The revision process started in late 2011 and was completed in late 2014 when the draft for public comment was issued.  The pubic certainly commented with over 1000 comments being received – the largest number ever seen by BSI. A period of intense work in early 2015 saw these comments reviewed and incorporated ready for publication in July 2015. The four year period to revise such a large standard is testament to a lot of hard work by the members of the Panel listed here for the record:

  • David Norbury representing the Geological Society of London
  • David Entwisle representing AGS
  • Dick Gosling representing British Drilling Association
  • John Powell present as Chair of B/526/3
  • Andrew Ridley co-opted to writ on instrumentation
  • Mike Smith present to guide us on integrated investigations
  • Graham Taylor representing British Geotechnical Association

and with significant contributions from George Tuckwell on geophysics and Tom Phillips on safety, and not forgetting our patient editor Mary Groom.

Download your copy here.

Article Safety

Applying 2015 CDM Regulations to Ground Investigation

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Construction Design Management (CDM) updated their regulations earlier in the year to further improve health and safety across the construction industry and manage risk accordingly.

Is your Company up to speed with the new changes? Do you know how the new regulations affect ground investigation? Jo Strange, Technical Director of CGL and an active member of the AGS Loss Prevention Working Group, has written an insightful article in this month’s Ground Engineering magazine on Applying 2015 CDM regulations to ground investigation. To read the article in its entirety, please click here

What are your thoughts on the new CDM regulations? Share your opinion on the AGS LinkedIn Group

The AGS Safety Working will be issuing guidance on CDM shortly, watch this space!

Report Loss Prevention

Loss Prevention Working Group Report

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Hugh Mallett, Chairman LPWG writes:

The group is drafting articles and guidance on a number of issues that are important to AGS members, see below for the list of our ongoing work programme and soon to be available guidance.


The LPWG met once since the November Committee meeting – 22nd Jan 2015. No calls have been made to the Legal or Chemical Helplines since the last LPWG meeting.

A Griffiths & Armour publication on claims “Professional Indemnity Insurance: Lessons to be learnt” is to be made available to AGS members via the new website

LPWG generally agrees with putting some documents behind a paywall on the new AGS website. There is also support for a knowledge hub (e-learning) that could be considered as a future initiative for students.

Loss Prevention Alerts (LPAs) are still in high demand for downloading [20 LPAs downloaded >100 times between Oct and Jan].

New member has joined the  group, Nora Fung – Arup legal.

Recently Published


  1. Elvanite Vs Amec- Limitations of Liability
  2. BGS – Deposition of Data


LPA 58 – Risks associated with as built drawings.
LPA 59 – The Consequences of Damage to Underground Services LPA 60 – What is meant by Supervision?

Work in Progress

  • LPAs
  • Summaries for the web site being reviewed and edited for accuracy.
  • Permission is being sought for publication of LPA 09 [Mott MacDonald case] online.
  • Contractors seeking contractual indemnities from their Sub Contractors. Ready for publication

Net Contribution Clauses: Newsletter article prepared. Authorisation to publish being sought from Griffiths & Armour.

Document on Ground Investigation Reporting (GIR/ GDR): Initial redraft prepared by J Strange – subject to further review/ comment. Now held to be consistent with revised BS5930.

Asbestos & deleterious materials: Newsletter article to be prepared [may also pick up discussion at Members Day]. Article on insurance cover re asbestos last published in 2011 to be re-published.

Collateral Warranties: Griffiths & Armour being approached to allow their Collateral Warranties – Basic Guide to be made available to AGS members. If permission is granted a short article highlighting its availability to be prepared for the Newsletter.

Expert Advisor and Expert Witness: Newsletter article being prepared. 1 of 2

Copyright Paper on copyright issues: drafted [advice to Members on copyright and on issues arising from use of reports and drawings in planning process].

PI Insurance for Contaminated Land: NEC3 contract requires insurance terms to be on an each and every claim basis. Aggregate cover only available for contaminated land (and asbestos and radioactivity). A newsletter article is being drafted.

Guide to report writing: Newsletter article drafted to advertise the guidance to AGS Members. The Guide itself was up-dated, but never published. Up-dated version to be retrieved, put on the web site and publicised in Newsletter.

Limitation period and defects liability: Article being drafted

Confidentiality and Intellectual Property Rights: issues for Staff on Secondment Loss Prevention Guidance drafted to address some of the issues arising from secondment of staff.

Signing contracts under duress: Newsletter article being prepared.

Client Guide: What Institutions, Trade Associations or other organisations might a Client expect a Geotechnical/Geoenvironmental Company and their employees to belong to? Paper in preparation.

Piling Damage to Live Railway Tunnel. Paper in preparation.


Article Safety

Ground investigation industry urged to take heed of new EC regulations

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In April 2007, yet another piece of EC Regulation came into force. This relates to drivers’ hours and the need for tachographs to record the information. While the regulations were prompted by the need to revise the conditions for those that spend most of their working day actually behind the wheel as drivers, they do have an impact on the ground investigation industry.

The new rules and regulations are complex but below is an attempt to summarise the important points. Acknowledgement and thanks is due to the British Drilling Association (BDA) who have put a lot of work into ploughing through this potential minefield. The Regulations are available in full from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) in the document GV262 (Second Edition 12/2006) “Drivers Hours and  Tachograph Rules for Goods Vehicles in the UK and Europe”.

The summary below developed from a series of meetings between the BDA, VOSA and the Department of Transport.

The regulations define an “in scope vehicle” as one capable of carrying goods for commercial purposes and over 3.5 tonnes maximum permissible weight. To quote VOSA, this means “either the maximum permissible gross weight of the vehicle and that of any trailer (added together) or the towing vehicle’s maximum permissible train weight, whichever is the less.” “In scope vehicles” have to be fitted with a tachograph.

Dual purpose vehicles are classified as being capable of carrying goods and towing trailers or drilling rigs. Such vehicles are typically used within the ground investigation industry for towing cable percussion drilling rigs. The words “capable of carrying goods” are important since tools of the trade may be excluded but recovered samples would not.

A trailer is defined as anything that is trailed so includes a cable percussion rig, compressor, bowser or other mobile plant. This definition comes from a Court ruling.

As we all know the tachograph records drivers’ hours. From the 1st May any new ‘’in scope vehicle’’ must have a digital tachograph conforming to EC regulations. Analogue or digital tachographs are allowed in vehicles supplied before this date. Some older vehicles may not be suitable to take digital tachographs so check with the manufacturer before deciding on which type to buy.

EC Drivers’ Hours Rules are complex and require detailed and careful record keeping. They apply to drivers of ‘’in scope vehicles’’ fitted with a tachograph (when 50 kms or more from base) other than drivers who never exceed 10 days driving over a rolling reference period, typically of 17 weeks. UK Domestic Drivers Hours Rules apply to drivers “of in scope vehicles” fitted with a tachograph when within 50 kms of base.

Drivers subject to EC Rules must not exceed an average weekly driving/working time of 48 hours calculated over the rolling reference period. The calculation of the 48 hours has to include all hours worked (driving and other work) wherever incurred. VOSA have stated that there is no opt-out for individuals wishing to work longer than an average 48 hour week, but break periods and periods of availability will not count as working time.

Because the rules are so complex it is advisable that anyone affected consults the Regulations very carefully. If in doubt seek legal advice.

Greg Southgate
RSA Geotechnics Ltd