Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
do I have muppet written on my forehead?
This thread is dedicated to examples of outragous Health and Safety issues in archaeology (professional/academic).No names or places please-just the low-down. To get you started...
a consultancy I worked for wanted me to remove an MOD waste heap from the surface of a scheduled ancient monument.Chemical analyses were carried out around the heap...heavy metals a gogo. I noticed they had`nt taken any samples from the heap itself...this carried out, their RA stipulated breathing gear/specialist removal and chemical showers...I got a dust mask. MOD refused to pay for removal. A university I worked for last year...British Army base...18 aircraft bombs in one week...told us they were all "dummies". We spent weeks in front of diggers picking up ordnance. I walked off site only to be asked back and promised that things would be done properly...developer picked up ordnance and carried it through our team in the trenches before putting it on his desk.I demanded a near-miss form and was refused.I left. Colleagues of mine identified asbestos on site last week...they got dust masks and were told to carry on as it would be removed by a specialist...they spent weeks working next to it....over to you...}Smile Oh yeah, on an urban site recently, developer dug a 10 metre deep chasm behind us in readiness for the building of an underground car-park.This was about half a footy pitch square. We had to push our tool-laden barrows along a three foot wide "path" next to the edge in blizzard and ice conditions.When I took this up with the grown ups, we got a plastic wobbly orange fence instead of a secure-built barrier...nowhere near good enough guys...wakey wakey, its bad enough that archaeologists are the lowest paid graduates and put up with conditions akin to the industrial revolution. Don`t make me write an obituary for a dead British archaeologist, it will get very ugly, very quickly. Not a threat but a promise. Just for once, I would invite the IFA/ALGAO/PROSPECT to contribute to or, at the very least, read the contributions on this thread. I will be asking you for your comments either by letter or, via the press.
well said Troll

A company I worked for in Wales had us digging up stiffs in a cathedral graveyard, including a plague and typhoid pit, with no toilets or anywhere to wash your hands and with no site hut, and this in Febuary in Wales, we ate our sarnies sat on the steps!
Also dismantaled a folly tower with no scaffolding, just ladders and "oh yeah, better bring a hard hat if you've got one"!
Another churchyard job this year, digging in a graveyard again no site hut and no washing facilities!
Evaluation trenches in the centre of Cardiff three weeks with no site hut or anything, when it rained everyone had to shelter in my car or under trees!!
Disgusting way to treat people I think!!

How about:

A waterlogged urban site beneath a council refuse collection tank on bank of river. The sludge and god knows what contaminants drained into the strat beneath, that we then had to dig in very wet conditions. If a contaminant study was done ( I suspect it was) it was not shown to me despite constant requests. PPE comprised the token paper one-use suits and 30p mask and latex gloves.


A former railway site contaminated with low levels of heavy metals and arsenic (a component of railway coke) no PPE provision or washing facility and I got symptoms of heavy metal poisoning (lesions etc)after eight weeks of constant exposure. Crap NHS could only tell me that it wasn't arsenic, but could have been a raft of other things. Didn't get the test results until two months AFTER the site had ended. Lesson: these things have to be predicted before the work because the system is far too slow to be any use once the site is underway.


A site in a heavily wooded area where archs were expected to clear brush, brambles and trees in hot weather before excavation with minimal PPE comprising personal work gloves(definitely not in the RA). My resulting multiple abrasions got infected (no washing facility) and I got Impetigo all over my arm. Two heavy duty courses of anti-malarial antibiotics cleared it up after about 3 months. Interestingly, the doc thought I'd got Lyme disease from a tick, which was another distinct possibility.


Potential unexploded ordnance on MOD training ground which army bomb man hit with one of our shovels. Also the site was littered with unexploded small arms ammo which we had to metal detect and then dig out by hand. The mind boggles.

And finally the best or worst I've heard about was a colleage who dug a site under a Boron Tip! As I understand it the stuff is radioactive! H&S bloke who came to sample the stuff while in the middle of the project, reputedly hurriedly abandoned his samples and never came back when he realized what he was dealing with. The site continued regardless.Sad

Sorry Troll, you asked for it.
On a practical note why is the SCAUM manuel not freely available on the internet?

David why not see if you can host it on BAJR?

Similarly a H&S list of links would be useful.

I think the SCUM(A) manual has copyright issues Peter!!

Guys and girls-please keep this coming! I can`t think of anything more important-this needs to be brought out into the cold light of day apologies please Mercenary (although you`ve given me nightmares!) and I admire your tolerance! Doctor Warldle, I could`nt agree more, the key to a healthy (and legal) HS culture has to start with a workforce that knows it`s rights and-the confidence to insist upon appropriate and timely mitigation. On another thread some time ago, Mr Hosty asked if it would be possible to insist upon the placing of the SCAUM manual on site as a condition...what do you think? Having access to the document on-line is a superb and timely idea. More please everyone!!!!!!!!Big Grin
On the copyright issue Deep, an HS manual will surely be outlining current HS legislation-paid for by the taxpayer.Secondly, whilst I wholeheartedly support the rights of the author(s), I would argue that to deny the workforce access to this document would be a spectacular (PR) own goal. The author(s) may argue that access is granted when a price (I hear around 50 squid) is paid for the book as is their right however, I would argue that Commercial units should and, if they have any sense of what is right, shoulder this cost and ensure that EVERY site has access to a copy as a matter of urgency. In support of the SCAUM, I heartily welcome the publishing of this important document. The IFA would have simply applied for funding in order to secure yet another pointless 10 year study to discuss whether it would be worth it to write one. SCAUM have done it so, lets have it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Having read the earlier mails in this strand, I wouldn't get to hung up about the SCAUM H&S manual. The SCAUM manual is surely only a guidance document and is not in itself a workable Health and Safety policy with accompanying procedures. Every employer has a legal duty to ensure that an appropriate H&S policy (with accompanying procedures) is in place. There is no such duty to possess the SCAUM manual.

What archaeologists need to know is that their employer is taking their H&S responsibilities seriously; that there is demonstrable evidence of those responsibilites in terms of written risk assessments; that copies of those risk assessments are available for consultation [u]at the workplace</u> and that those assessments have been undertaken by a competent person. Many of the problems outlined earlier suggest that some/all of the above conditions are not being fulfilled.

A free downloadable H&S guidance document is available at

As the direct result of my rantings on here, I was immediately sent a full copy of the HS manual from my employers HS manager despite the fact that my rantings were not aimed at them. I was offered and indeed, entered into full and frank dialogue with said manager! How often does that happen? Professionalism costs nothing. Kevin, I agree, and thank you for the link. I think that I am trying to achieve a level playing field in my suggestion regarding the SCAUM handbook in that, if the field staff understand the guidelines of Unit Managers, consistancy may not then continue to be a pipe dream. I do agree however, that HS procedures and not simply guidelines are needed..just look at how ridiculously useless ppg16 has been as "guidence" but thats a thread elswhere...Big Grin

Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  muppet of the year award Troll 12 3,761 6th December 2005, 09:11 PM
Last Post: sniper

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)