West, I.M. 2013. Safety on Geological Field Trips - Select Bibliography. Geology of the Wessex Coast of England. Internet site: www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/safebib.htm. Version: 19th December 2013.

Safety on Geological Field Trips

Ian West,
Romsey, Hampshire

and Visiting Scientist at:
Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences,
Southampton University,
Webpage hosted by courtesy of iSolutions, Southampton University

|Home and Contents | |Lulworth Cove |Dungy Head |Durdle Door Safety on Geological Field Trips|

Go back to the Safety on Geological Field Trips Webpage?

Index to this Guide

accidents - mud slides - websites
accidents - rock falls - websites
Geological Society, guidelines for fieldwork
guidance on safety - literature
guidance on safety - websites
guidelines fieldwork, Geological Society
mud slides - accidents - websites
risk assessment
risk assessment - schools
rock fall accidents - world
rock fall accidents - websites
teachers' advice - summarised

Go back to top

Safety and Geologists: Selected Bibliography:

Cliff accidents, rock-falls, mapping accidents and various risks to geologists, students etc. It contains some information on regulations and safety procedures. This is selected information for further study and is not comprehensive It is intended to increase understanding of field geology and accidents and thereby to lead to an increase in safety.

Go back to top

Safety Guidance and Information etc. - Literature

Admiralty . Admiralty Tide Tables, United Kingdom and Ireland. Published by the Hydrographer of the Navy. Obtainable from Agents for the Sale of Admiralty Charts. (Try yacht chandlers, good book or map shops or navigation service suppliers )
Arkell , W.J. 1935. The Portland Beds of the Dorset mainland. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, London, 46, 301-347. Reference to adders - page 305.

BBC News Website. 2007. Cliff walker fell 200ft to death. Mr Preston was found by rescue teams searching for two missing fishermen A 25-year-old medical student died after falling 200ft (60m) down a sheer cliff onto a beach while walking along a beauty spot on the Dorset coast. An inquest heard how Benjamin Preston, from Evershot near Dorchester, suffered massive head injuries in the fall on 16 December last year. His body was found at White Nothe, near Weymouth, by rescue teams searching for two missing fishermen....
Dc Cottrell told Bournemouth, Poole, and East Dorset Coroner's Court there were no foot marks on the shingle beach, indicating he had fallen. He said: "It was a 200ft sheer cliff. He was fully dressed in outdoor clothing, wearing a backpack. He appeared to be dressed as if walking the cliff. "The footpath that is regularly used is very close to the cliff edge. There is nothing to stop anybody from accessing the cliff edge." ..[continues]
Bunce , C.M., Cruden, D.M., and Morgenstern, N.R. 1997. Assessment of the hazard from rock fall on a highway. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 34: (3) 344-356 Jun. 1997. Abstract: Rock falls can cause delays. damage, injury, and death to highway users. In 1982, a rock fell on a vehicle in the Argillite Cut on British Columbia (B.C.) Highway 99 killing a woman and disabling her father. The father successfully sued the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Highways for damages. The Supreme Court of Canada found that the Ministry could readily foresee the risk that harm might befall users of the highway if it were not reasonably maintained and that maintenance could be found to extend to the prevention of injury from falling rock. A risk analysis methodology can assess the probability of loss of life due to rock fall. Rock fall impact-mark mapping supplemented by documented rock fall records was used to establish a rock fall frequency. The risk of rock fall on this highway in 1982 can be compared with accepted societal risks. For the Argillite Cut, the probabilities of death of a one time user and a daily commuter on the highway were 6 x 10(-8) and 3 x 10(-5) per year, respectively. The annual probability of a rock fall causing a death in the exposed population was 8 x 10(-2) in the Argillite Cut. This was higher than the level of risk now commonly accepted in some industries and large engineering projects.

Committee of Heads of University Geoscience Departments. 1994 (or 5?). Safety in Geoscience Fieldwork: Precautions, Procedures and Documentation. Published jointly by CHUDG and and the Geological Society, London. - The Committee of Heads of University Geoscience Departments (CHUGD) aims to speak on behalf of the geoscience higher education community in response to national enquiries or initiatives in the fields of science education, training and policy. The Geological Society is Britain's national learned society .... The pamphlet consists of 18 pages of valuable guidance on field work safety. It includes: Preamble, Introduction, Undergraduate Fieldwork (with leaders' responsibilities in supervised courses, staff responsibilities in unsupervised courses, students' responsibilities), Postgraduate fieldwork, Field safety training, Procedures for reporting accidents or serious illnesses. It also includes Appendix 1 - subcommittee membership, Appendix 2 - Hazards associated with geoscience fieldwork (general, site-specific, upland areas, coastal areas, supplementary reading), Appendix 3 - Safety on supervised fieldcourse: an example of a departmental code of practice (intended for adaptation by departments to suit their particular circumstances), Appendix 4 - Safety on unsupervised undergraduate field projects, Appendix 5 - Procedures immediately following an accident, injury or sudden illness, Appendix 7 - Lessons from a court case involving serious field injury (student from Belfast University doing independent mapping fell at Glencoul, NW Scotland in 1987). The importance of the CHUGD document is rightly stressed. This document should be read by all geoscience field leaders.


Copland , W.O. and Overton, J.M. 1976. Environmental Studies in Purbeck. Handbook. Gobe Education, 72 pp. [See p. 11 for "Safety and Conduct in the Field, p. 12 for Dorset Naturalists' Trust Seashore Code, also Precautions at the Coast, Precautions at Quarries etc.]

CVCP (Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals - of UK Universities). Health and Safety Guidance for the Placement of HE Students (Higher Education Students - UK).
Dorset County Council . 1978. Set of maps on the scale of 2.5 inches to the mile with typewritten notes showing coastal hazards as guidance for school parties. Prepared by staff from a field centre in Swanage. Unpublished .

Dorset Education Committee. 1975. Safety Measures in Outdoor Education. 34 pp. (This is an old copy. A new edition exists, has been requested and further information will be provided.) All Dorset party leaders are expected to have studied this booklet before taking any outdoor activities with children. Copies may be purchased by teachers from outside Dorset on application to Dorset Education Department, County Hall, Dorchester.
Geologist's Association . A Code for Geological Field Work. Publicly available and issued free by the Geologists' Association, London.
Hawley , D. 1996. Changing approaches to teaching Earth Science fieldwork. Geoscience Education and Training. 19, 243-253.
Wainwright , M. and Smithers, R. 2002a. Teachers' Advice. Attached section to Wainwright and Smithers (2002), Police question pupils on school trip drowning. The Guardian Newspaper, Tuesday May 28, 2002, p. 6. Seven million children go on school trips every year. On average, one or two die. Last year Bunmi Shagaya, 11 drowned in France and Amy Ransom, 17, died while treking in Vietnam...Guidance on education visits and trips for local education authorities was substantially revised in 1998.

The rules say that schools and group leaders should:

Go back to top

. Coastal Cliff Accidents - Literature (mostly regarding the south coast of England - older - not yet updated to 2013)


Anonymous . 1950. Portland quarryman awarded £2000 damages for loss of eye when splinter of stone lodged in it. Dorset County Chronicle, 129, 6524, 8. Date - 1.6.50.

Anonymous. 1957. Nine in hospital after cove rock fall. Bournemouth Evening Echo, Monday July 8th, 1957. No. 14828. [Fall of chalk at Black Rock, Lulworth Cove, originating from close to the strike fault. Extracts: "Nine people hurt by rocks that fell 100 feet to a crowded beach at Lulworth Cove, Dorset, yesterday were still in hospital. A spokesman at Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester said that they were "fairly comfortable".... Hundreds of visitors to the cove were startled by the sudden noise - "like the bursting of a bomb" - which made part of the beach like a battlefield with ...The main part of the fall was one large lump weighing about a hundred-weight. It rolled down the cliff and bounced from the shingle beach into the sea...Some people dived into the sea for safety... "I think that the fall amounted to about half a ton in all and the biggest rock I saw would not have weighed more than half a hundred weight" said Mr Gerald Plant, leader of the Auxiliary Coastguards. The lifesaving apparatus hut was opened and used as a casualty station. Here the injured were assembled, brought on stretchers and other improvised means, even deck chairs being pressed into service for the purpose... One eyewitness estimated that the cliff slipped well up towards the top, fell sheer and then struck the face about 30 or 40 feet up, and then scattered over a wide area. .. The slipping of the cliff is a characteristic of the type of black rock. Small falls of rock occur with fair frequency but it is thought that recent weather had caused a loosening of a rather larger area. "Certainly it was not due to human agency for there was no one cliff-climbing at the time" said one man. Mr Wickham did not think that the fall came from the top of the cliff. "I should say that it came from about 100 feet above the beach" he said." Photographs showing the scene, removal of the injured and the location of the fall in the cliff at Black Rock.]

Anonymous. 1977a. New warnings after cliff fall tragedy. Bournemouth Evening Echo, Feb. 21st, 1977. [" Warnings came today about the "killer cliffs of Dorset" after yesterday's tragedy at Lulworth Cove when a landslip engulfed a school party in tons of rock and clay, killing a teacher and seriously injuring two others. " The cliffs are completely unstable for virtually the whole length of coastline from Swanage to Ringstead". .... The group [from Warlingham Comprehensive School, Surrey] had walked around the Lulworth beach to the East Point of the cove, and Miss Taite had stopped them under the 75-foot-high cliff [under or adjacent to the Hard Cockle Overhang] to point out the rock structure. They were drawing this in their notebooks when the cliff suddenly gave way. Tons of rock debris and clay [from a scar from the top Soft Cockle to the top Marly Freshwater Members] fell on to the party and two were buried. Mark Playdell ran a mile along the beach to the cafe to call for help, while the other three who were not badly injured, started to dig out their classmates. Ambulancemen, police and coastguards rushed to the scene, and two helicopters were sent from Lee-on-Solent. .... Two years ago a woman was killed by a cliff fall at Durdle Door while she was sunbathing on the beach below, and the same year a schoolboy with a field study group was seriously injured by a rock fall at Swanage. ... continues.]

Anonymous. 1977b. Keep clear of killer cliffs, warns Coroner. Bournemouth Evening Echo. [" Stay away from the dangerous cliffs of Dorset. That was the message yesterday from the East Dorset Coroner, Mr Nigel Neville-Jones, when he opened the inquest on the three victims of Sunday's rock fall at Lulworth Cove. The Coroner feared a recurrence of " this dreadful tragedy" unless school parties and tourists kept away from the crumbling cliffs. "I am absolutely certain that these cliffs are very dangerous at the moment after a dry summer and torrential rain of the winter." continues .. (February, 1977). (The Geological Society, London might have a copy of the Coroner's Report.)]

Anonymous. 1977c. Large chalk cliff fall reported at Durdle Door. People were warned to keep away. Source of this information not listed. ( Lee refered to an accident at Durdle Door two years later when an overhang collapsed but it is not known whether that related to Chalk cliffs or to Upper Greensand or Purbeck cliffs.) ( A fall of Chalk also occurred at Bats Head round about the time of the 1977 Durdle Door cliff fall . There were a series of landslides at Highcliffe near Christchurch - reported 21.2.77).

Anonymous, 1977d. People ignore Lulworth cordon. Bournemouth Evening Echo. Police are already having difficulty keeping people off the beach, despite a rope barrier and regular visits by the village policeman. The Army have closed off the ranges but people are still sneaking through. "It will be several weeks before there is some improvement and in the meantime there could be other cliff falls" said Mr West.

Anonymous, 1977e. Schoolkids 'in peril' on a killer cliff. Bournemouth Evening Echo. March 8th 1977. Teachers were still bringing coachloads of children to clamber over the treacherous rocks. "They are damned idiots and asking for trouble. For God's sake stay away from these cliffs!" Mr Plant, coastguard.

Anonymous, 1977f. Coastline teeters on the brink. England is tumbling with a fearsome rush rather than a gentle slide, into the sea. The combination of last year's drought [exceptional] and the severe frosts and heavy rains of this winter [also exceptional] has had a devasting effect on hundreds of miles of Britain's coastline. Cliff faces have plummeting on to the beaches on the east, west and south coasts at such a rate that coastguards and police are mounting special watches to see if they can give advance warning of falls. There is even talk of blowing up cliff sections that are particularly dangerous. ... Lulworth Cove is now officially closed. it is roped off, and coastguards say they are "discouraging inquisitive members of the public" as best they can. But this is a virtually impossible task. ...Cliffs at Swanage have had two severe falls since, and there have been less serious slides at Lyme Bay. The Isle of Wight has also been affected.....The east coast from Flamborough Head to Spurn Point is thought to be the worst eroded stetch of coastline in Western Europe. .. "The trouble is" said Mr Robins (coastguard) "the public can be amazingly stupid at times. They will run to the cliff like lemmings and ignore all the warnings. Then it is too late."

Anonymous, 1977g. Coastguards keep watch on cliffs. Dorset Evening Echo, Tuesday, February, 22. West Dorset's coastline is being closely watched.. Coastguards and West Dorset District Council are particularly concerned about landslips at Lyme Regis where the east cliff has shown signs of movement in recent months. On the National Trust's Gold Cap Estate steps normally used by visitors to the beach at Stanton St. Gabriel have been washed away.

Anonymous. 1977h. The wettest place in Britain. Dorset Evening Echo, Tuesday, February 22, 1977. Portland Bill was recorded as the wettest place in Britain yesterday with a rainfall of 0.63 in. The total fall since the beginning of February is just over four and a quarter inches. [This was a major factor in the cliff falls at Lulworth Cove and elsewhere.]

Anonymous. 1980. Cowboy fossil hunters risking death. Dorset Evening Echo, 5.9.80.

Anonymous. 2003. Schoolgirl's cliff plunge. The People Newspaper, April 20, 2003, p. 2. "A girl of 12 suffered serious head injuries yesterday after plunging 30ft over a cliff. Friends managed to call for help with a mobile phone and the girl was dramatically winched to safety by a coastguard helicopter. She was later flown to Dorset General Hospital, Dorchester, where her condition was described as stable. The girl who was not named, tumbled down the 100ft high cliff at Blacknor on the Isle of Portland. But luckily she came to rest on a ledge 30ft down."
Clarke, J. 1998. Untitled (Cliff fall in Durlston Bay). Newsletter of the Dorset Group of the Geologists' Association, April 1998, p. 1. " Those of you who came with me to Durlston Bay last October may remember that I stressed the safety/danger aspects. Well - remember Bed DB 220, the Broken Shell Limestone? It looked like this ... (photograph of projecting limestone bed in the cliff)... now it looks like this ... (photograph of collapsed rock)." The location is just south of Peveril Point where the Broken Shell Limestone rises in the cliff above the Shales with Beef.
Echo Staff Reporters. 1977. Killer cliffs danger. Southampton Evening Echo, Mon. Feb. 21, 1977. More about the Lulworth accident. Also Mr Bickerstaff fell 30 feet at the Raised Beach, Portland Bill. A coastguard rescuer said that he was "improperly shod" and this could have caused him to slip. There was also a rescue at Tennyson Down on the Isle of Wight.

Go back to top

Jivanda, T (Tomas Jivanda). 2013. Woman Dies after Being Trapped in Dorset Sea Cave. [Accident at Anvil Point, Swanage on the 3rd November 2013.] The Independent Newspaper (online), 21st December, 2013. (See also Marsden, 2013)
A woman has died after becoming trapped in a sea cave off the Dorset coast yesterday afternoon [on 3rd November 2013]. Rescue teams were called after walkers spotted a man in the sea close to Tilly Whim Caves. Once airlifted to safety, he told the coastguards that his sister had become trapped in a tiny cave that could only be accessed underwater or through a tiny blowhole.
The woman was alive when rescuers arrived on the scene but treacherous conditions prevented them from getting to her. In an online incident report, Swanage Coastguard, one of the teams that attended the scene. said: “Entry to the cave was either underwater, or through a narrow blowhole at the top of the cave. "The rescue was considered to be at the very edge of our technical capability."
After over an hour of battling 50 mile per hour gusts of wind, a St Albans' Cliff Technician "showed exceptional courage" and decided to enter the cave through the blowhole. The woman had however died by the time the officer reached her. "The lifeboat crews had tried to reach the woman through the opening in the front and entering the blowhole from the top was the last resort," a spokesperson for Portland Coastguard told the Dorset Echo. "They had been communicating with the woman through the blowhole. Sadly, when the officer lowered down through the hole, it was too late and they couldn't get to her."

Go back to top

Lee , E.M. 1992. Urban landslides, impacts and management. Pages 80 - 93 in: Allison, R.J. (Ed. ) 1992. The Coastal Landforms of West Dorset. Geologists' Association Guide No. 47. 134 pp. This extract from Lee (p. 8) summarises some accident records: "On Sunday 21st February 1977, a school party studying the geology of Lulworth Cove was buried beneath a sudden rock-slide. Despite rescue attempts by local ambulance men, the teacher and a pupil were killed. Two more pupils were seriously injured, one of whom later died in hospital. At the inquest, the Coroner warned of the dangers posed by the Dorset cliffs and commented on the possibility of a recurrence of the tragedy. The Lulworth incident was not an isolated event. On 28th August 1971 a nine year old girl was hit on the head by a falling rock while walking on the beach at Kimmeridge and later died of her injuries. At Swanage a schoolboy was seriously injured by a rockfall in 1975, a year later another was killed by a falling rock and in 1979 a woman was killed on the beach near Durdle Door when a 3m overhang collapsed." (More detail exists, and the shallow scar above the site was visible in 1892. A Public Inquiry followed.)

Go back to top

Marsden, S. 2013. Woman Trapped by Rising Waters Dies in Sea Cave. The Telegraph Newspaper Online. By Sam Marsden and Agencies. On the 3rd November 2013, a tragic accident occurred at the seaward foot of the valley at Anvil Point, near Swanage. The location is directly southwest of the Tilly Whim Caves quarry. (See also Tomas Jivanda, 2013)
Woman Trapped by Rising Waters Dies in Sea Cave.
"A woman died after becoming trapped by rising waters in a tiny sea cave as rescuers desperately tried to reach her. Coastguards spent two hours talking to the 30-year-old climber through a 15ft deep blowhole on top while lifeboat crews attempted to get to her through an opening at the front of the cliffs as 10ft waves crashed on the rocks. Eventually a courageous member of the rescue team managed to squeeze down through the 1.5ft wide blowhole against pounding sea spray, but when he got into the cave he found she was dead. The tragedy unfolded at a beauty spot known as Tilly Whim caves, near Swanage, Dorset, while the woman and her 31-year-old brother were "coasteering", an adventure sport that involves climbing along a rock face before jumping into the sea. A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the brother in difficulty in the water at just before 3pm on Saturday, when much of the country was battered by storms and heavy rain." The coastguard helicopter rescued the man, who at that point told the crew that his sister had been trapped in the cave by the powerful waves. Coastguards climbed down to the cave while the Swanage lifeboat approached from the water in 50mph winds that whipped up a 10ft sea swell. Dave Turnbull, of the Swanage lifeboat, said: "The woman had been washed into a small cave at the base of the cliffs that had a blowhole at the top that wasn't very accessible." "The helicopter winchman got into a position where he could talk to her through the gap. She seemed to be out of the water but there was no way we could reach her. "As the tide rose, many further attempts to reach her were made but the rough conditions, with the tide rising and seas breaking over the heads of the rescuers at times, proved impossible to overcome. "With the tide getting higher another coastguard officer entered through the blowhole but found the woman had sadly succumbed to the conditions. It was very sad and a truly awful situation to have been in." A Portland coastguard spokesman the coastguard officer who crawled down through the hole had placed himself in great peril. She said: "The hole was just about wide enough for one person to fit in and it was 15ft deep. The officer knew the dangers and made the decision to go into the gap. "The water was charging in through the cave practically filling it up and then shooting up the hole, pushing the officer back up. "The casualty had been communicating but unfortunately she was found to be deceased when the officer entered the cave."[continues - see the article. There are also other newspaper reports online of about this date.]
Meridian Television Regional News . 2000a. (Monday 24th April). Car driven over cliff-top and falls onto abandoned quarry (perhaps Winspit, or possibly Seacombe, judging from a map shown). The lady driver was seriously injured. The car was driven from Worth Matravers along a cliff-top footpath and then through a barb-wire fence over the cliff above the quarry. The car was badly smashed. (In 1999 a car was accidently driven over the cliff top at Kimmeridge, missing a party of school children looking at fossils on the beach).

Meridian Television Regional News. 2000b. (Monday 24th April). A holiday maker was trapped in mud on the cliffs at Barton-on-Sea. After a rescue from the Barton Clay the tourist was taken away by helicopter. There have been other incidents of this type at Barton and Highcliffe.

Meridian Television Regional New. 2002 (28 August, 2002). Accident at Lulworth Cove. A report on television (Meridian News and also BBC) gave the following information. A 14 year old German student, studying English, on a day out with other students was walking on the beach at Stair Hole when rocks fell from the cliff. She received serious head injuries, and she was airlifted to hospital. Police investigating the incident wanted to trace two climbers whom they believed were in the area at the time. The comments and pictures seemed to suggest that the accident happened on the beach at the western end of Stair Hole, below the high western view point, where there is an inclined rock in the water near the Portland/Purbeck junction. The Lulworth Cove Coast Warden gave an interview on television. See footnote in the Stair Hole Field Guide .
Morris , S. 2005. Two friends feared drowned after being Swept from rocks. By Steven Morris. The Guardian Newspaper, Saturday November 5. p. 13. "Two teenage boys were feared drowned last night [evening of Thursday, November 3, 2005] after being swept from rocks into the sea at a Dorset beauty spot... Matthew Myburgh, 16, and Charles Morrell, 15, both from West Lulworth, had clambered past danger signs on to rocks in 70mph winds at Lulworth Cove... A third boy, Richard Lawrence, 15, jumped into the sea to try to rescue his friends but could not reach them. He saved himself by grabbing a buoy and swam back to shore to raise the alarm. A search operation took place yesterday; watched by the boys' relatives and friends. More than 100 rescuers examined nooks and crannies in the rocky coast but the only trace of the pair was one of their shoes and a baseball cap found washed up a mile from where they disappeared... The three boys, close friends and pupils at the Purbeck school in Wareham, decided to go on to the rocks to fish or to watch the stormy sea on Thursday evening. Matthew and Charles, who were perched on a ledge, were caught by a wave and thrown into the water. At first, Richard, who was on a higher ledge, thought they were joking when they shouted for help, but when he realised what had happened he jumped into the water. He could still hear his friends shouting, but because it was dark he could not find them... It was estimated the boys could have survived for three hours in the water. The search continued all day yesterday, with rescuers hoping they might have made it to shore and be clinging on to the cliffs or sheltering in a rock hole. At one time more than 100 people including the coastguard, police, lifeboat crews and Royal Marines were involved. Relatives of the missing boys visited the spot yesterday. The mother of the surviving boy said: "He is very upset but bearing up quite well.".. A neighbour added: "You would always see the three lads together in the village. But why the hell they went there on a night like that, I just don't know." One resident, whose son is a friend of the boys, said: "They were just normal nice boys." A restaurant worker said: "Everybody knows everybody, so it has hit the community hard." Mark Rodaway, coastguard commander for southern England, said: "The waves were enormous, the biggest seas I have seen in years. The severe gales coupled with the high tide created a mix which made for treacherous and atrocious conditions. "... Warning signs at Lulworth Cove state that climbing is prohibited and it is "extremely dangerous" to climb or sit beneath the cliffs. Friends of the missing boys also joined in the search. One of them, Maria Osmond, said: "It is horrible, but you can't give up hope.".. Police last night took over the operation from the coastguard, indicating that the emergency services now believed it was unlikely the boys would be found alive. Police divers will search the bay today for their bodies." [end of article, with a small photograph of a lifeboat]
Prior , I. 1999. Safety is non-negotiable. Geoscientist, 9, No. 11, November, 1999 ( a publication of the Geological Society, London). "In the Annual Review 1999, to published next April, you find the obituary of Andrew Johnson CGeol F.G.S., who was killed in a tragic accident at Cliffe Hill Quarry, Leicestershire, earlier this year. Andrew who was working for Geoffrey Walton and Partners, was killed when the Landrover he was driving was crushed by an Aveling Barford 55-tonne dumptruck. The graphic pictures of the accident are printed with the consent of Midland Quarry Products. ...." continues. Statistics for quarry worker deaths are given. Quarry vehicles are the biggest killers of workers in the quarrying industry. "Safety is everybody's responsibility".
Teeman , A. 1993. Geology on the rocks. The Times Higher Education Supplement. January, 15th, 1993. p. 5. Extract of the first few paragraphs: "The case of a geology student who broke his back in a 200 foot fall in the Scottish Highlands could hasten the end of solitary field-work and the introduction of safety training for students on projects in potentially hazardous terrain.. An action by Lochlann Magennis who was a student at Queen's University Belfast, at the time of the accident in 1987, was settled out of court last week with the University still contesting liability.. Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed and the University refuses to elaborate on a brief statement.. "The policy and practice in geology fieldwork at Queen's corresponds very closely to that adopted in other universities in the British Isles," a spokesman said. "None of our students is allowed to embark on independent fieldwork until he or she has been trained in the field for at least 30 days, and this includes safe practice. Instructions, both oral and printed are issued to all participants.". "Honours students are required to work in adjacent areas to check on safe return from work. Unlike the practice in many other universities where such work is carried out totally independently, Queen's students receive at least one visit from an experienced member of staff who offers advice on any general or specialised aspect of safety. This practice has been adhered to for many years, and our safety policy is kept under review, in association with the Committee of Heads of University Geoscience Departments." . But Mr Magennis's case and a European ruling that universities must assess the hazards to which students are exposed are set to rock a supposed foundation stone of undergraduate geology. In the summer break, second year undergraduates must complete six weeks solo in the field." ....... Article continues, occupying a page. Two miles away a student was killed in 1980. In 1989 a postgraduate fell to his death in France. Discussion follows on topics such as other accidents, mountain training, paired mapping, and particular hazards to female and male students.. The response of the Committee of Heads of University Geoscience Departments is given. Mr Magennis concluded that "training is the key to safer mapping and that pair mapping is the safest option". See also - CHUDG 1994 who also refer to this Glencoul accident.
Young , G. 1817. A History of Whitby. Clark and Medd, Whitby. Referred to by Osborne, R. 1999. The Floating Egg: Episodes in the Making of Geology. Pimlico. 372 pp. ISBN 0-7126-6686-9, p.1. Report of a tragic accident under the high cliffs a little to the west of Staithes, Yorkshire. Two girls were sitting on the rocky beach when a rotating splinter from a rock fall killed one of them.

Go back to top

|Home and Contents |Safety on Geological Field Trips |Lulworth Cove |Fossil Forest |Dungy Head |Durdle Door

Copyright © 2013 Ian West, Catherine West, Tonya Loades and Joanna Bentley. All rights reserved. This is a purely academic website and images and text may not be copied for publication or for use on other webpages or for any commercial activity. A reasonable number of images and some text may be used for non-commercial academic purposes, including field trip handouts, lectures, student projects, dissertations etc, providing source is acknowledged.

Disclaimer: Geological fieldwork involves some level of risk, which can be reduced by knowledge, experience and appropriate safety precautions. Persons undertaking field work should assess the risk, as far as possible, in accordance with weather, conditions on the day and the type of persons involved. In providing field guides on the Internet no person is advised here to undertake geological field work in any way that might involve them in unreasonable risk from cliffs, ledges, rocks, sea or other causes. Not all places need be visited and the descriptions and photographs here can be used as an alternative to visiting. Individuals and leaders should take appropriate safety precautions, and in bad conditions be prepared to cancell part or all of the field trip if necessary. Permission should be sought for entry into private land and no damage should take place. Attention should be paid to weather warnings, local warnings and danger signs. No liability for death, injury, damage to, or loss of property in connection with a field trip is accepted by providing these websites of geological information. Discussion of geological and geomorphological features, coast erosion, coastal retreat, storm surges etc are given here for academic and educational purposes only. They are not intended for assessment of risk to property or to life. No liability is accepted if this website is used beyond its academic purposes in attempting to determine measures of risk to life or property.

Go back to top

Dr Ian West, author of these webpages

Webpage - written and produced by:

Ian West, M.Sc. Ph.D. F.G.S.


at his private address, Romsey, Hampshire, kindly supported by Southampton University,and web-hosted by courtesy of iSolutions of Southampton University. The website does not necessarily represent the views of Southampton University. The website is written privately from home in Romsey, unfunded and with no staff other than the author, but generously and freely published by Southampton University. Field trips shown in photographs do not necessarily have any connection with Southampton University and may have been private or have been run by various organisations.