Saturday, May 23, 2009

How to be an Archaeologist: Risk Assessment

One of the most disappointing aspects of living in a modern world is that litigation forever looms on our horizons, never more so than on a typical archaeological dig. Despite the fact that it’s impossible to get blood from a stone, it nonetheless falls to the site manager (or, to put it another way, ‘Yours truly’) to point out the blatantly obvious with regards to on-site hazards, thus avoiding the legal snarl ups that inevitably ensue should something go horribly wrong.
I ought to point out, perhaps, that Wyre Archaeology is currently insured to the tune of several million quid, but we really don’t want to bugger up our no claims bonus.
With that in mind, it’s worth considering the negative possibilities in advance and compiling a Risk Assessment form for distribution amongst the potentially litigious.
Here are a few suggestions as to what to include:

General Health and Safety:

Safe access to the site must be made available. Nobody wants to reach the trench only to discover that they’ve left some vital part of their anatomy behind on a barbed wire fence.
Sensible clothing, appropriate for the conditions, should be worn at all times. Under no circumstances must any excavator be seen wearing Phil Harding shorts that disappear up the crack. Such garments can lead to nausea, violent spasms and, in extreme cases, years of trauma.
Rain shelters and en-suite dunnies must be provided. Do not attempt to use cows, bulls or hawthorn bushes as urinals. Sheep are not a type of luxury bog roll.
A responsible adult should accompany any children, although it’s probably fair to say that most adults who have children in the first place should be considered irresponsible by default.

Excavation Hazards:

Trenches deeper than two metres, or where the ground is unstable, should be shored-up unless they’re being inspected by a member of the Health and Safety Executive, in which case an oath of secrecy must be taken with regards to the location of the body should the walls collapse.
Trowels, pickaxes, wheelbarrows and mattocks can all inflict serious injury if used as weapons and/or in games of ‘Toss the Tool’. My steel toecaps should always be taken into consideration by anybody messing around.

Spoil heaps must be kept at adequate distances from the trenches to eliminate the risk of falling debris. I, for one, am not standing around waiting for the damned thing to be dug out again.
High visibility jackets or waistcoats should be worn on site, preferably with the Wyre Archaeology logo emblazoned across the shoulders. When heavy plant equipment is close by hard hats must also be worn. Heavy plants themselves can be disposed of, according to ‘The Day of the Triffids’, by a hosepipe full of seawater.
The Country Code must always be observed. This is similar to the Da Vinci Code, only with considerably less manure.
High visibility fencing must enclose trenches that are not in use, preferably with a ‘Danger of Death by Electrocution’ sign hanging from it to ward off treasure hunters.
A medical kit must be provided, containing several inappropriately sized bandages, horse liniment, whisky (four bottles), a half empty tube of Savlon with the cap all manked up, one ancient but humorous condom, an assortment of plasters in different colours (in accordance with the codes of racial equality), one apple (slightly turned), a bottle of Buttercup Syrup and a corkscrew.

Other Hazards of which to be Aware:

Prolonged exposure to sunlight can result in skin diseases. Therefore half a pound of lard per square inch of exposed body mass is recommended. Risk Level Assessment: This is Britain, what do you think?
Injury can often result from stampedes towards the local ice cream truck. Risk Level Assessment: Very High, especially after several pints of Speckled Hen.

Cuts, scratches and foreign bodies in the eye sometimes occur. Risk Level Assessment: Medium, unless there’s a scramble for the last pork pie.
Slippery and uneven ground conditions must be carefully noted and taken into consideration. Risk Level Assessment: Slightly harmful, but extremely unpleasant if a pratfall occurs inside the dunny.


All in all you’d be better off staying at home.


JahTeh said...

Well, I'm glad I'm not over there which I would have been had things gone to plan.

Who'd have thought wandering around a boggy field would be so dangerous unless it's somewhere near MidSommer when Inspector Barnaby is on holidays.

Brian Hughes said...

Witchy, there's something I missed off the list. Be aware of local amateur sleuths, because murder most foul always rides with them.

Andrew said...

I would have thought one of the highest elements of risk would come from annoyed bulls. Bent over trenches.....the mind boggles.

Brian Hughes said...


Fortunaely cattle are thick, otherwise we'd be living on the Planet of the Bovine by now. Just stand your ground, stare 'em in the eye and state, in a commanding voice that leaves no doubt about who's in charge, "Bugger off!"

As a rule the most damage they'll do is nick your butty box and try to eat it.

Jayne said...

" of ‘Toss the Tool’"Ahhh, you throw your politicians up in a blanket, too, Brian?

Brian Hughes said...

No Jayne, the tax payers wouldn't agree to their demands for an ermine trimmed second blanket in Buckinghamshire so the practice was dropped...on its head.

Reuben said...

What about warnings on maurauding Jehovah's Witnesses. They can prove quite a health hazard (I had severe mental impairment after one time they paid me a visit).

John said...

Excellent post! So Indiana Jones is not a Hollywood exxageration, after all. And we all thought Archeologists didn't know about excitement....

JOHN :0)

PS Does WA get a bonus for this public service announcement?

Brian Hughes said...


We have an extremely powerful electric fence to deal with them. We turn it on when we see them coming and you can visibly see all the lights around Britain dim.

"Does WA get a bonus for this?"

No, but it does get a pat on the head...especially if we're digging behind an unnoticed cow at the time.