Report Safety

Safety Group Report

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Julian Lovell, Chairman, AGS Safety Working Group writes:

Below is the latest report from our Safety Group which this quarter has been tackling issues on guidance, the new CDM regulations and collaboration with the British Drilling Association (BDA).

AGS Safety Guidance

The working group has been working consistently to progress the guidance available to the industry. Progress has been steady throughout the year. Most guidance goes through two if not three reviews which effectively means 3 to 6 months from initial draft and the most effective reviews are carried out by the committee either in a face to face meeting or on one occasion an on-line meeting.

Guidance which has been published since the last meeting:

  • Use of Scaffolding/Temporary Working Platform
  • Lifting Operations and Equipment used in Drilling Operations Guidance on CSCS Registration
  • Driving at Work

Guidance close to completion:

  • PPE
  • Manual Handling
  • Training and Competence
  • AGS Health and Safety Training Standards Health Surveillance


Currently all published guidance is freely available from the AGS website. The SWG has discussed this matter and believes that all of the safety guidance should be freely available in front of the member’s portal.

Where individual guidance links together we would like hyperlinks so that you can move between them. This should be part of the new website functionality specification. The web pages should have photographs and images and not just a list of links to guidance. The guidance will also be split into sections to try to make it easier to find what you want. Currently, we are waiting for the development of standard templates before we can provide further input to the new section within the new website.


The BDA has completed a new version of its Safety Manual and this is likely to be available digitally in the next month or so. Currently, they are deciding how and who it is distributed to but it is likely to be free to members. Unsure if it will be sold on the wider market.

There have also been ongoing discussions between the BDA and AGS regarding a closer working relationship. The AGS SWG has discussed on numerous occasions how much of an overlap there is and has offered to set up a joint working group. The BDA have reported back that they initially want to establish their own safety committee which has not met for over 12 months. They will then re-visit the idea of working with the AGS.

BDA have agreed to sponsor a session at Geotechnica which will be a Health and Safety session.

The BDA also spoke to the SWG about the BDA Audit. This scheme has been brought in to allow companies to assess the ongoing competence of the drill crews and to comply with BS 22475: Part 2. The auditee has to have already achieved the Land Drilling NVQ but this will look more closely in to how the driller is operating on site and complying with legislation, guidance and good practice. The BDA Training and Education Committee is currently working with Equipe to strengthen the Audit so that it requires the auditee to be able to prove a high standard of knowledge and application of both quality and safety. It is hoped that this will be linked in to the work to improve the current Land Drilling NVQs and in time to develop a Level 3 Advanced Lead Driller qualification.

Safety awareness and CSCS

The CSCS have been advised by the construction industry that there are too many loopholes in the CSCS card scheme. The CSCS card should represent the work activity being performed on site by that individual. The current clamp down has seen the requirement to attend a one day approved Health, Safety and Environmental awareness course if a GREEN labourer’s card is required. This is in addition to the CSCS touch screen test. Whilst this sounds initially like a good initiative to reduce the number of generic cards and promote training there are concerns. The concerns are that

  • it may lead to similar generic cards such as the WHITE Construction Related Operatives (CRO) card requiring something similar or being withdrawn
  • the promotion of generic Health and Safety training.
    The CRO card is commonly used across the geotechnical industry under the title Ground Specialist.New Standards BS EN 16228 – Drilling and foundation equipment.The new standard is seen to be the European wide requirements for rig guarding but they are actually a lot more detailed and cover all safety aspects of operating drilling equipment across sectors and rig types. Most organisations have still not looked to see if changes to UK practice or obligations on rig users or manufacturers has changed. AGS has told BDA that as the trade body for drilling they should be advising industry on these matters. One AGS member believes that it downgrades the importance of guarding in reference to trapping distances. There will undoubtedly be other areas which need to be considered. The BS was live from the end of October 2014.

    Construction Design and Management Regulations, 2015

    The changes to the CDM regulations was discussed, majority of the group felt more responsibility had been passed onto the client and they would now have to consider risk as well as the cost of the project. Julian Lovell noted the HSE encourages industry interpretation, and thought it was important guidance was produced to reflect the industry. The group agreed and recognised the re-education of clients would be the hardest transition. It was agreed joint industry guidance with the BDA and the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) would be ideal. Julian, Madeleine Bardsley, Adam Latimer and Jon Rayner agreed to contribute to the joint industry guidance on behalf of the AGS. Ann-Marie Casserly raised the proposal at the FPS Safety & Training meeting and Julian contacted BDA. Currently all parties agree that it would be a good initiative but neither FPS nor BDA could provide time or resources at the moment.

    Equipe are currently arranging a FREE one day seminar/discussion forum for Health and Safety in the geotechnical industry on 4th March at their training rooms near Banbury. The day is aimed to open up debate on HS&E matters including:

  • How the industry should adopt and interpret the requirements of CDM 2015
    • Can we educate the client?
    • Can CDMCs become Principal Designers?
    • Can the industry cope with the increased demand to act as Principal Contractor?
  • Will it increase resources and costs to complete CDM jobs?
  • Why companies might consider Health Surveillance

Safety Alerts

The Safety Working Group would like to receive copies of safety alerts relevant to member’s activities so that lessons can be learnt. The most valuable messages often come from Near Misses and it is hoped that we can start a regular item in the newsletter but we have to have items sent from the membership.

Article Contaminated Land Laboratories

Asbestos in Soil

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The AGS is active in establishing industry guidance for asbestos in soils. The CLWG and LPWG have formed a small sub-group to discuss what guidance and advice should be provided for our Members, and to contribute to the work that is currently being undertaken by other groups and associations on this issue. This article is intended to give Members an awareness of the present situation; what has happened, what is being done and what may be happening in the future.  It has been suggested that many of our members, while insured for investigating and providing advice on contaminants, have specific exclusions to their professional indemnity policies in regard to claims relating to asbestos, and this may possibly have indirectly led to a lack of training and awareness about the risks of asbestos in soils.

Attempts by government agencies and independent organisations to define “safe” or “minimal risk” threshold concentration values, either for fibres in soil or for fibres in air, have been thwarted by the scientific evidence that death can be caused by a single fibre.

The current legal rule in relation to Mesothelioma is that any “material increase in risk” is sufficient for legal liability. In a recent appeal court ruling the exposure was judged to be just 18% higher than background levels.

The UK, in 1931, was the first country to establish laws regulating exposure to asbestos, primarily to protect the health of factory workers.

Currenty UK Statute is dominated by the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2006 which were implemented under the provisions of the 1974 Heath and Safety at Work Act and bring together the three previous sets of Regulations covering the prohibition of asbestos, the control of asbestos at work and asbestos licensing.  However, while these regulations are relevant for asbestos in soil, they do not define limits or best practice and there is currently no specific published guidance from either the HSE or the Environment Agency.

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS)  have a series of asbestos-related proficiency qualifications that cover the identification, sampling and management of Asbestos in Buildings.
The development of specific training and qualifications for the contaminated land industry is being actively considered by various bodies and will need to include consideration of the following issues

  • background of asbestos; including health effects
  • recognition of debris in soil that may contain asbestos
  • procedures to be followed when soil that may contain asbestos is identified
  • safe packaging, labelling and handling of soil samples that may contain asbestos
  • the nature of operations that could result in exposure to asbestos
  • proper use, handling and disposal of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • personnel decontamination
  • equipment cleaning

All personnel either organising fieldwork or inspecting and/or handling suspected asbestos-contaminated soil or being exposed to soil-disturbing activities at sites where there is a risk of asbestos-contaminated soil being encountered must be able to demonstrate an appropriate level of awareness of the risks associated with asbestos-contaminated soil.

The first step is to identify the potential for asbestos at a site by studying the site history and to exercise an appropriate level of caution. Asbestos may be expected within the demolition rubble from former buildings, in association with buried heating pipework and ducts, or simply within fly-tipped materials.  Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) have been in use since 1834 but were most widely used between the 1950’s and the 1980’s.  The use of ACMs was not banned until 1999.

The potential for fibre release from ACM in damp soil may be limited, but if the site is dry and dusty, fibres may readily become airborne.

In addition to artificially damping down dust down drilling or trial pitting activities, the following PPE can be considered:

  • Boots that can be easily washed down.
  • Disposable overalls(type 5) fitted with a hood
  • High efficiency disposable particulate air respirator (FFP3)
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Goggles

Any suspect fibrous material or any cement / board type products which have evidence of fibres within them should be considered to potentially contain asbestos and samples must be taken for subsequent laboratory confirmation. All samples should be double-bagged with both the sample container and outer bag labelled as potentially containing asbestos so that the laboratory can take all the necessary precautions to prevent exposure to their staff.

Asbestos may occur as:

  • Sprayed coatings and wrapped lagging used for thermal & fire protection,
  • Insulating boards, wallboards and ceiling tiles used for fire protection, thermal and acoustic insulation
  • Profiled and flat roofing sheets, partitioning boards and decking tiles
  • Bitumen products, mastic pads, roofing felts gutter linings
  • Ropes and yarns
  • Cloth mats, fire blankets
  • Millboard and paper, general heat insulation
  • Flooring, thermoplastic, PVC floor tiles, mastics, sealants etc
  • Textured coatings e.g. artex
  • Bakelite

Unless a formal screening is requested by the person commissioning the laboratory testing, the laboratory will simple carry out a visual check.  There is an issue here in that a large proportion of soil samples are put through laboratories without any formal screening and it has been conjectured that significant percentages of made ground samples are passing through both geotechnical and analytical laboratories with undetected asbestos.

Most labs provide a tiered approach involving screening, identification and quantification:

  • Basic screening: examined under an optical microscope with magnification of x2 to x5
  • Detailed screening: ditto with magnification of x10 to x40
  • Identification: Polarised Light or Phase Contrast Microscopy (PLM or PCOM)
  • Quantification: Gravimetric (typical LoD 0.1%) *
  • Quantification:  Sedimentation and Fibre Counting (typical LoD 0.001%)

*The Gravimetric quantification method is currently being phased out.
Current UK workplace regulations for asbestos in air have a single Control Limit (max. concentration of fibres in the air averaged over a 4 hr period) for all types of asbestos of 0.1 fibres per cm3 (100 000 f/m3).  The World Health Organisation indicate that 1000 f/m3 is associated with a 10-6 to 10-5 risk of lung cancer in a population where 30% are smokers and 10-5 to 10-4 risk of Mesothelioma.

ICRCL Guidance Note 64/85 “Asbestos on Contaminated Sites” (1990) is still the most current guidance for asbestos in soil and suggest asbestos fibres should be  <0.001% w/w.

Waste Soil containing >0.1% w/w asbestos is classified as hazardous waste.

The key issue in assessing risks from asbestos in soil relates to modelling the exposure. It is not possible to use the CLEA model to calculate exposure and no reliable quantitative relationships between factors which affect asbestos fibre concentration in air and asbestos concentrations in soil are known.

There is some consensus between the UK (ICRCL), Dutch and Australian Guidance on the use of a threshold of 0.001% as a threshold for asbestos in soil. The Dutch Guidelines consider the risk from Chrysotile to be ten times less than Amphibole asbestos but the HSE, WHO, the Australian DoH and the USEPA have chosen not to distinguish between different asbestos fibre types.

For bound asbestos there is recognition that the potential generation of asbestos fibres is much lower and hence Dutch and Australian guidance use a threshold ten times higher than that for friable asbestos.

The USEPA use a method based on direct measurement during vigorous activity to assess the soil by measuring ambient air concentrations. A measurement approach is also used in the Dutch guidance.

New Guidance
It is believed that the Environment Agency and the HSE have in recent years collaborated to prepare new draft guidance for asbestos in soils in the form of a document entitled ‘A Study to Derive Soil Guideline Values for Asbestos in Soil’.

It was rumoured that this draft guidance recommended use of a strategy based on the Dutch approach for the assessment of soil contamination with asbestos.  However, the EA have seemed reluctant to publish this document, and despite a recent Freedom of Information request by the EIC it is now not expected to emerge, being instead superceded by a forthcoming update to the HSE document HSG248 (2005) ‘Asbestos: The analysts’ guide for sampling, analysis and clearance procedures’. Public consultation on this HSE document is awaited.


The AGS are supporting a current EIC incentive to develop best practice industry guidance with input from the EA / HSE / HSL/ BOHS and CL:Aire.  A CIRIA project has also been launched with similar goals so we may at present end up with two (or more!) pieces of industry guidance.     For the immediate future there is planned to be a workshop organised by CL:Aire in association with EIC & BOHS  at the Manchester Conference centre on the 1st November 2011.

Uncategorized Safety

Putting Safety First

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The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007


This new Act came into force on 6th April 2008.  An offence is committed if the manner in which an organisation manages or organises its activities causes a person’s death and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.  This is a corporate crime and not an individual crime.  There is now no need to identify a person controlling or directing the mind of an organisation, who is also guilty of the offence of gross negligence manslaughter, before the corporation can be convicted of the same offence.  The only sentencing option available to the court on a corporate manslaughter conviction will be a fine.  However, it is envisaged that considerable stigma will attached to a conviction. In addition senior management might feel compelled to resign and if they do not resign there are likely to be grounds for dismissal of some or all of the senior managers responsible for the gross breach of duty.

Details of the ‘new’ offence

The way in which the organisation is managed by its senior management has to be a substantial element in the breach of the duty of care.  It is a matter for the judge to establish whether a duty of care is owed.

Factors to be taken into account by the jury are whether there has been a breach of any relevant health and safety legislation, the seriousness of the breach and how much of a risk of death was posed by it. The jury may consider whether the culture, policy, systems and procedures in the organisation encouraged failure to comply with health and safety regulatory legislation or guidance.

Senior management means either those who play a significant role in making decisions about how the whole or a substantial part of the organisation’s activities are to be managed or organised, or those who play a significant role in the actual managing or organising of the whole or a substantial part of those activities.

Under Section 9 of the Act it is open to any court convicting of corporate manslaughter to make an order, called a remedial order, requiring the organisation to take specified steps to remedy the breach, to remedy any matters which contributed to the cause of death, and to remedy any deficiency in the organisation’s policy, systems or practices relating to health and safety.

Under Section 10 of this Act the court has a power to order an organisation to publish the fact that it has been convicted of the offence, to specify the particulars of the offence, the amount of any fine imposed and the terms of any remedial order made.


The Act is clearly a reaction to a long held belief that those who put profit before safety at the expense of lives should suffer a sanction more significant than can be imposed by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The clear target at the time of the consultation and publication of the bill was large organisations whose activities cost life where there should have been no such risk.

The offence will now be committed if the breach that is a substantial cause of the death can be placed at the door of senior management who make the decisions about how an organisation is run from a strategic level, or is made by those at a senior operational level.  The Act is not designed to produce a prosecution in circumstances where appropriate strategic management exists, and appropriate operational management exists, but a significant failure is made at a junior operational level.

A more detailed version of the above article will be incorporated into the AGS Loss Prevention Working Group Tool Kit, but until then, if more details are required, please contact Berrymans Lace Mawer on the AGS Legal Helpline.

Article Safety

Underground Services and Utility Plans

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Figures provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) record around 30 fatalities a year through contact with electricity. Most of these fatalities arise from contact with overhead or underground power cables and even when non-fatal, they can cause severe and permanent injury. Within the ground investigation industry, the potential for striking underground services is far greater than from coming into contact with overhead services and it is possibly the greatest risk we face.

The ability to react quickly to the requests of clients is seen by many companies as their competitive advantage, but this has to be balanced against the legal requirement to reduce risk. Any measures taken should be in accordance with the general principles of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 further clarified in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) 2007 :

  • clients shall ‘provide appropriate pre-construction information to designers and contractors’
  • all parties shall allow sufficient time to obtain vital pre-construction safety information

To help companies discharge these duties the HSE provides clear guidance on how to reduce the level of risk from underground services in their publication ‘HSG47 – Avoiding Danger from Underground Services’ . Within HSG47 the HSE outlines the requirement for any company involved with work where there is a risk of contacting underground services, to have in place and use a safe system of work consisting of four elements:

  • Planning the work and risk assessment
  • Maps and plans to identify the presence and location of underground services
  • Cable and pipe locating devices
  • Safe digging practices

Planning the work, assessing risk, using cable avoidance tools and safe digging are in every safe system of work but the use of utility plans is often absent. So why do many people take a short cut that could result in injury or fatality?

Initially it is the inability to obtain utility plans within the timescales demanded by clients and the commercial pressure to deliver reports and studies on time. Although utility plans are generally available within five working days they can take longer and this may not fit the expectations of the client, particularly where the decision to purchase land depends on the outcome of a report by a fixed deadline. But in the context of CDM2007, the provision of utility plans and any resulting delay in mobilisation is seen as strong evidence that all reasonable care has been taken to protect staff and members of the public.

CDM has always defined construction as:

‘Any civil engineering ….the preparation for an intended structure, including site clearance, exploration, investigation (but not site survey).’

Historically, the geotechnical and environmental sector has often viewed its work as exempt from the requirements of CDM as work only fell within the scope of the regulations when the work was ‘in preparation for a structure’. With the revision in April 2007 this requirement has been clarified and it is now clear CDM applies to work undertaken in ‘preparation of sites for use’, whether notifiable or not. It should be noted that irrespective of CDM there is an existing duty of care and HSG47 still applies.

The intention of a safe system of work is not necessarily to eliminate risk entirely but to reduce it to a level “as low as is reasonably practicable”. This is recognised by the HSE. However, for a safe system of work to be effective it must incorporate all four of the elements outlined in HSG47 and referred to earlier. The role of utility plans should be viewed in this context. Each element in the safe system of work has limitations, but they complement each other and when used together address the fundamental weaknesses of each.

The planning of the work and the development of risk assessments is the initial stage of the safe system of work. Understanding the site, its history and the nature and location of any likely services, will initially determine costs of works and the cable detection technology required. This can only be done with reference to utility plans.

Utility plans have limitations and this is often used as a justification for not including them in safe systems of work. Utility providers acknowledge their services rarely run in straight lines, surface depths may have changed, datums such as kerblines may have been moved and plans may only run to site boundaries. They all carry disclaimers to this extent.

Clients and contractors alike do not routinely expect utility plans to show the path of services on domestic, industrial or derelict sites and rarely request them as a result. This is particularly common for areas under development despite the fact that live services may still be present and utility plans may show where they cross sites or mysteriously terminate at the boundary. Without attempting to obtain utility plans in these cases the contractor or client will not be discharging their duty of care in possibly the highest risk environment of all.

Maps and plans are supplemental to the use of appropriate cable and pipe locating technologies which all come with inherent weaknesses. In most instances the appropriate cable locating technology will be a basic Cable Avoidance Tool (CAT) to verify the accuracy of utility plans or detect the presence of services not indicated. However CATs will not detect plastic or earthenware pipes, cables with no load and in some cases three phase cables where the load is well balanced. At the other end of the scale there is Ground Probing Radar which is expensive and may not detect all ground anomalies such as small diameter low voltage supply cables. To determine the suitable technology, reference must be made to utility plans and the site engineer must have an understanding of the applicable equipment.

Safe digging can only take place if you know what to expect. As examples, the use of mechanical equipment is prohibited within certain distances of gas mains with the distance depending on the mains pressure. Additionally safe digging traditionally relied on noticing a change in geology to indicate utility presence but this may no longer be applicable with the increasing use of directional drilling for service installation. In both of these examples the risk can only be truly managed with reference to utility plans.

As a final point of note, it must be understood that the safe system of work will only be effective if staff on site are trained in all 4 aspects and supported in the decisions they make. The safe system of work should carry the sponsorship of a senior figure, as a clear demonstration of commitment to staff safety, and be accompanied by a documented procedure that can be followed and used as reference.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – Approved Code of Practice and guidance – L21 is available from HSE books priced £8.00

CDM2007 Approved Code of Practice known commonly as L144 is available from HSE books priced £15.00

HSG(47) ‘Avoiding Danger from Underground Services’ is available from HSE books ( priced £7.50

Tom Phillips
Applied Geology

Article Laboratories

Two new guidance documents on ground gases

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Tags: gases Guidance

The RSK/NHBC “Guidance on evaluation of development proposals on sites where methane and carbon dioxide are present” is now available as a free download pdf, on the NHBC Builder website – . (Go to building support services/technical advice and support/publications).

CIRIA’s publication on “Assessing risks posed by hazardous gases to buildings (C659)” is currently being updated and will be re-published as report C665 – “Assessing risks posed by hazardous ground gases to buildings (revised)”.  Copies will be available from late May, and advance orders for copies of this title can be purchased from the Ciria bookshop (

Article Business Practice Executive Safety

Guidance on the use of HBM in working platforms

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Tags: Guidance HBM

New guidance has been launched by WRAP entitled ‘Guidance on the use of HBM in working platforms’.  This covers the key issues related to working platforms constructed using stabilised materials, providing detailed guidance for the platform’s design, specification, installation, operation, maintenance and repair.

Within the guidance document are case studies on three construction projects, which have made significant gains from using on-site soils and granular materials in the construction of a working platform. This can be downloaded, free of charge (search on HBM and click on the PDF icon).

FPS sponsored guidance entitled “Working platforms for tracked plant: good practice guide to the design, installation, maintenance and repair of ground-supported working platforms” can be obtained from  This will cost £49.35.

Article Loss Prevention

Semple Fraser adds Scottish dimension to Loss Prevention

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The Loss Prevention WG has been aware for some time that the alerts and advice issued to Members apply to English law only.

However this is set to change, with a new alliance with Semple Fraser, a leading commercial law firm in Scotland with a Construction Group that are willing to give a Scottish dimension to the AGS guidance.

Steven Francis (Eversheds), Chairman of the WG said, “We welcome this opportunity to improve our advice to Members and look forward to working with Semple Fraser to help our Scottish Members”.

AGS Members are invited to identify those areas – or existing AGS documents – which they think should be regarded as priority for Semple Fraser’s attention.