Surrey Hills Conservation Volunteers
Surrey Hills Conservation Volunteers - Conserving the Surrey Countryside
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Health & Safety


SHCV Health and Safety Statement and Risk Assessment

Introduction - Why Read This?

Like all human activities, doing conservation work is not risk-free. SHCV volunteers are insured via BTCV; but we would much rather not have to make any claims. This document sets out the main hazards in our practical conservation work and the precautions we must all take to avoid them. We have kept it short so that every volunteer can read and memorise it.

It is crucial not to regard this as just a paper exercise. SHCV has a good safety record. Maintaining it depends on our all remaining vigilant when we are working on site, thinking through the consequences of actions (where will that tree fall?), and taking the right steps to minimise risk.

We sometimes get asked about the legal position. SHCV and its volunteers do NOT have duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, as we are not “at work” and SHCV is not an employer. However, as recommended by HSE, we intend to follow good practice. We aim to take the same steps to ensure health and safety as if our volunteers were doing the work as paid employees. This risk assessment is part of that process.

General risk assessment

This section contains a risk assessment covering the hazards frequently encountered on SHCV tasks. All these equally affect SHCV volunteers and anyone else working on the site. Hazards to the public, such as footpath users, are covered in the last entry.

From the very nature of SHCV activities in the countryside, we cannot “design out” all hazards. So safety depends on all volunteers following good practice, under the supervision and training of the leader and our other experienced volunteers. SHCV encourages everyone to improve their skills. As well as learning by means of coaching by experienced volunteers during our ordinary tasks, BTCV training courses are available.

Some golden rules for everybody to be aware of on all tasks are:

Wear sensible clothing and strong footwear - ordinary wellies or walking boots are OK but steel toecap boots are even better.
Bring waterproofs and in winter, a spare pullover or fleece - it can get raw out there!
SHCV supplies specialist protective clothing where necessary, including safety helmets, waders for pond work , gloves. You should try to have your own gloves that are comfortable and protective
SHCV also supplies drinking water, tea/coffee and biscuits, but bring your own lunch.
Do not work too close together.
Always concentrate on what you are doing, think it through, but also keep an eye on what others are doing.
If you are not sure of the best way or safest way of doing something, ask the task leader for advice.

The following assessment sets out good practice and specific control measures under each hazard. There are things SHCV will do to improve health and safety, and these are listed. The task leader should check that volunteers are working safely, and provide individual reminders where necessary.

All volunteers certify themselves that they are not under the influence of drink or drugs when they start on task.

1. Falling timber
SHCV will: Supply safety helmets, and provide advice and supervision. All volunteers should: Remember that anything larger than small scrub has potential to cause injury. Wearing safety helmets is recommended.
Assess where your tree might fall and the risk it may be deflected eg by wind. If anyone is within 1.5 tree-lengths of the felling operation, warn them to leave before making the felling cut. Decide your own escape route, and step clear when the tree starts to fall.

Even if small scrub is being cut (eg hawthorn), this can have the danger of causing scratches and abrasions

2. Use of hand tools
SHCV will: Maintain tools in good condition; provide advice at the start of each session about how to use them safely; and arrange coaching if required. All volunteers should: Work at a safe distance from others (at least 2
times the distance from your shoulder to the end of the tool). Keep fingers away from blades. Don't use gloves with edge tools, and take special care in wet weather. Put tools down safely, flat on the ground, where you can find them. Never leave edge tools like billhooks dug into logs or stumps, or bowsaws hanging up in trees. If you find a tool that isn’t sharp or has a loose handle, tell the leader.

3. Slips and trips
SHCV will: Assess this hazard, which is frequently underestimated, and remind volunteers about it. The leader may need to stop the work altogether on steep slopes in wet weather. All volunteers should: Watch where you are going, put your feet down carefully, and do not run. Take extra care where there are hazards such as wet or steep ground, slippery vegetation, rabbit holes or tree stumps. Work at a pace within your physical capacity. Remember that older or less fit volunteers are more at risk from falls.

4. Fires (and kelly kettles)
SHCV will: Only have fires where the user body agrees to this. Site fires so that people do not have to work in dense smoke, and endeavour not to site fires next to trip hazards. Check that fires are turned in, and if necessary damped down, at the end of the day. All volunteers should: Avoid burns, eg by wearing stout gloves when handling hot objects such as kelly kettles. Do not let fires become too large and watch out for sparks and spreading edges, particularly in dry weather. Do not leave actively burning fires unattended. One person will be in attendance at all fires, throughout the day.

5. Lifting and carrying
SHCV will: Advise volunteers about good practice in carrying tools. In the case of other heavy objects, the leader will advise about good lifting technique, posture and grip (An HSE leaflet about this is available). All volunteers should: In moving tools to the worksite, avoid carrying too much - if necessary make more than one trip. Take care when handling edge tools and use protection such as blade guards where possible. Do not walk too close to others when carrying sharp tools. In lifting tree trunks, fence posts and other heavy objects, assess the weight to be lifted - if you cannot manage it easily, get help. Do you have to lift it at all – would dragging, rolling or levering be better?

6. Cuts, bruises, bites and tetanus
SHCV will: supply first aid kits and ensure at least one is always available on the work site [add policy on trained first aiders??]. All volunteers should: Be aware that in doing any physical work outdoors, there is some risk of tetanus infection through cuts. While this is a matter for personal decision, volunteers are recommended to have anti-tetanus injections which are available from your GP.

7. New and less-skilled volunteers
SHCV will: Through the task leader, arrange one-to-one coaching by an experienced volunteer until volunteers are confident and are working safely. Provide refresher training if necessary. All volunteers should: Be aware that new volunteers may be unfamiliar with lots of things we tend to take for granted, like the tools, the work, the countryside, and the way tasks are run. Be welcoming and understanding with newcomers - remember that not everybody learns at the same pace.

8. Passers-by
SHCV will: Check worksites for degree of public access, and warn volunteers accordingly. Note that felling large trees may merit posting somebody as a dedicated lookout (at a safe distance!) until the tree is down. Make use of warning signs/tape if appropriate. All volunteers should: Be watchful for passers-by, particularly children, whenever there is a footpath nearby or other public access to the work site. Be aware that tree-felling requires special care and it may be necessary to pause until passers-by have gone.

9. Emergency assistance
SHCV will: know the nearest hospital with a full accident and emergency (casualty) department.
If it is medically safe to do so, SHCV will take any injured volunteers to the nearest hospital.
If any injuries are outside of what is taught on the BTCV First Aid (or equivalent eg St John) course, then SHCV will call 999 and request professional medical assistance.
If there is any doubt about the injury, then professional medical assistance will be sought.
Volunteers will: inform the leader of any existing medical condition (eg asthma) where it could have a direct bearing on workplace health and safety.

10. Alcohol
NO ALCOHOL IS ALLOWED ON THE WORK SITE. You can not continue to work if you have drunk alcohol that day (eg at lunchtime)

11. Ponds/Water
Be aware of the various diseases that are prevalent in standing or flowing water.
Do not drink untreated water.
Do not eat, drink or put hands etc in your mouth unless you have disinfected them.
If you subsquently feel ill, you should contact your GP/Casualty department as appropriate

12. Power Tools.
SHCV do not have any insurance for the use of power tools on site.
Power tools are defined as any tool that has a petrol, gas, electric, diesel, clockwork motor for operation. No SHCV volunteer shall use a power tool on site.

The ranger may use their own power tools (primarily chain-saws). You should take direction from the ranger concerning appropriate safety measures when in operation

Site-specific assessment

Before each project starts, the leader needs to assess - preferably in consultation with the user-body representative - whether there are any features of the day's work that require special precautions. Examples might include:
steep/slippery areas
presence of public footpaths on the site
stumps hidden in heather
biohazards such as dog excrement, insect bites, poisonous plants, or
other groups using the site
marshes, streams and ponds - especially with deep water
high winds/bad weather.

After making this assessment the leader should tell the volunteers about any significant hazards found, and brief them on any special precautions.

Special hazards requiring additional written risk assessment

The following activities are outside our normal range of conservation work. If SHCV is asked to undertake any of them, special care will be needed and an additional risk assessment should be made before deciding to undertake the work:
Felling large trees (>400mm diameter), or clearing sizeable
windblown/fallen timber
Work requiring tree-climbing: eg pruning crowns of trees, high pollarding
Use of vehicles on site or power tools
Work on road verges
Use of chemicals eg stump-killers
Unexploded munitions.


Dates and review dates

This policy statement and risk assessment was written in December 2003

There is an annual review and update. Any changes are in red until the new assessment is ratified by the Group

This was reviewed and updated by Dave on 16/04/11 and was ratified by the Group committee on 16th April 2011.

It is valid until 15/04/12 or if amendments need to be made which ever is sooner.


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