HOW TO DO ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIELDWORK IN A COVID-19 SECURE WAY
Updated 13 September 2020
The Leicestershire Fieldworkers considers the wellbeing of our committee, members and volunteers, affiliated groups and members of the public to be our first priority and we have put in place protocols for our activities and events to ensure that we can continue to function as an organisation whilst being as safe as possible.
As of 13 May 2020, people can spend unlimited time outdoors if social distancing is still practised. If you choose to leave your home to carry out archaeological fieldwork (e.g. fieldwalking, geophysical survey, metal detecting, excavation etc.), you must follow current government guidance.
The following advice is adapted from Guidance on searching for archaeological finds in England during COVID-19. The guidance applies to those living and working in England following the change in restrictions introduced from 14 September 2020.
The current situation with Coronavirus is changing constantly. This Risk Assessment and Method Statement (RAMS) will be continually assessed and updated to ensure all work is carried out in accordance with the most up to date guidance organisers need to be aware of local restrictions which may be introduced without warning.
GENERAL METHOD STATEMENT
Below is a guide to the extra steps that must be carried out when planning and leading archaeological fieldwork – to ensure it is both COVID-safe and enjoyable for all.
Before you start fieldwork:
- Ensure that current regulations allow for your kind of activity/event.
- Ensure that activities (apart from talks) are led by person/s who have attended an appropriate Leicestershire Fieldworkers/ULAS health and safety training course. Contact the Leicestershire Fieldworkers Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org) to organise a course.
- As usual, you must obtain permission from the landowner and occupier before venturing on to any land.
- If you gained permission from the landowner and occupier prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, you should check again that they are happy for you to continue accessing their land. Take into consideration that they may be isolating or shielding and may wish to limit the number of people coming onto their land. You should accept any decision they make.
- Consider how you will interact with others, such as the landowner and/or occupiers, other fieldworkers, and members of the public. Carry out a Risk Assessment and Method Statement (RAMS) and plan for how you will implement and maintain safe social distancing (see example fieldwalking method statement at end of document). Download the COVID19 RAMS template from http://leicsfieldworkers.co.uk/covid-19-guidance/
- Carry out a reconnaissance of your activity/event site. Make a note of any potential hazards and plan any adjustments (e.g. are there any obstacles which might impede social distancing, such as gates, styles etc.).
- Do not allow participants to carry out fieldwork without approval from your group’s organisers/committee or the Leicestershire Fieldworkers Committee (for members not affiliated with a local group). Issue a letter/email notifying individuals that they are approved for fieldwork.
- Do not send participants to a site without a RAMS document approved by your group’s committee or the Leicestershire Fieldworkers Committee. Share the risk assessment with participants before the activity/event. If you have any concerns about the risk mitigation strategies your group has put in place, please raise them with the Leicestershire Fieldworkers Committee (email@example.com) and they will liaise with you and your group to address your concerns.
- Ensure that participation is limited to 6 people (see Being Outside and Being Inside below).
- Ensure that the group has provided sufficient resources (cleaning products, sanitising products and access to water, tools, vehicles and welfare etc.) to enable participants to follow the risk assessment.
- Ensure that the group has provided participants with all necessary PPE to do their work. Advice participants to bring a mask in case it is needed.
- Do not let activities and events which cannot operate in line with this guidance take place.
- Do not let participants take part activities and events if they are restricted by current government guidelines (e.g. self-isolating or sharing accommodation with someone else self-isolating or in the At Risk category).
- There are currently no restrictions on how far you can travel to get to the countryside but be aware of any local restrictions which may limit travel inside/outside a designated area.
- Walk and cycle if you can. Where this is not possible, use public transport or drive. If using public transport is necessary, wearing a face covering is mandatory.
- Ideally, travel in a private vehicle, alone or with other members of your own household and/or social bubble. Do not share a vehicle with people outside your household/social bubble.
- Make sure you park where you can maintain a 2m distance from other people at all times.
- When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that you respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and do not travel to different parts of the UK where your intended activities would be prohibited by legislation passed by the relevant devolved administration.
- While this guidance applies to England, you should always consider whether there are local restrictions in place in your area. If you live, work or volunteer in an area that is experiencing a local COVID-19 outbreak and where local restrictions have been imposed, different guidance and legislation will apply. Please consult the local restrictions pages to see if any restrictions are in place in your area.
- People should continue to socially distance from those they do not live with wherever possible.
- From 14 September it WILL BE AGAINST THE LAW to meet people you do not live with in a group larger than 6 (unless you are meeting as a household or support bubble). The police will have the powers to enforce these legal limits, including to issue fines (fixed penalty notice) of £100, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £3,200.
- You should be alert to other people nearby, 2m or 1m with risk mitigation (where 2m is not viable) are acceptable.
- Ensure that you follow the guidance for providers of outdoor facilities on the phased return of sport and recreation in England.
- REMEMBER: It may not be possible to share detailed sight of a find e.g. pottery with companions while in the field, while still maintaining social distance. Develop a strategy for important finds to be lodged with the person best placed to identify them.
- If participants are unable to work according to the RAMS or are working alongside people/organisations who are not operating in accordance with the RAMS, stop work immediately and leave site.
- Events can proceed with caution in venues that have been made COVID-19 secure. Premises or locations following COVID-19 secure guidelines will be able to hold larger groups of people, subject to their own capacity limits, but but no one should visit in a group of greater than 6. When you visit a venue you should:
- Follow the limits on the number of other people you should meet with as a group – no more than six people unless you all live together (or are in the same support bubble).
- Avoid social interaction with anyone outside the group you are with, even if you see other people you know.
- Provide your contact details to the organiser so that you can be contacted if needed by the NHS Test and Trace programme.
- It is important for people to maintain social distancing and good hand hygiene when visiting these spaces. People using community facilities should continue to limit their interactions with those they do not live with outside of any formal activities they are participating in to help control the virus.
- Ensure that you follow the Working safely during Coronavirus COVID-19 guidelines for protecting people working in and visiting any indoor areas during the fieldwork.
- Group finds identification sessions, which involved the shared handling and close inspection of archaeological material should not take place without special protocols being put in place. Follow applicable Covid 19 regulations and create a RAMS which is separate to any fieldwork.
- If you are meeting outdoors, advise participants to bring their own face mask in case of an emergency.
- If you are meeting indoors then you should follow government guidance on face coverings.
- People should use their own personal tools and records wherever possible. No sharing.
- If shared equipment (e.g. geophysical and survey equipment) is to be used, all surfaces should be wiped down before receiving or handing it over. Ideally, as few people as possible should be allowed to use any shared equipment.
REMEMBER the 5 steps to working safely:
- Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment.
- Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
- Help people to participate from home
- Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
- Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk
COVID-19 RISK ASSESSMENT AND METHOD STATEMENT TEMPLATE
The following template is a tool to help you plan and lead Leicestershire Fieldworker (inc. affiliated group) activities/events safely in regard to COVID-19. YOU MUST do a COVID-19 risk assessment for each activity/event (e.g. for every fieldwalk, geophysical survey, excavation, talk etc.).
REMEMBER – you still need to complete a standard risk assessment for each activity/event (see https://leicsfieldworkers.co.uk/our-resources/fieldwork-guides/ for more information).
Use the template to assess whether your group activity/event is safe to go ahead.
We have included suggestions for the ways to control the risks – you do not need to tick every box. The important thing is to identify the potential hazards and note the actions you will take to reduce the risk for your activity/event. For instance, if you are fieldwalking you do not need to consider/implement actions for indoor meetings.
It is important to carry out a risk assessment before the activity/event takes place. You should start filling it out when planning your activity/event and update it with any extra hazards that you notice on site before you start and/or during the activity/event.
Think about the different types of hazards and risks. We’ve included some common examples but think carefully about your own activity/event in case anything needs adding (there is space at the bottom of the risk assessment to add extra items).
REMEMBER: This IS NOT an exhaustive list, so think carefully about any specific risks you may encounter at you activity/event.
Next, consider the steps you can take to minimise the risk. Remember that this may sometimes mean changing your original plan.
If you’re not sure what to do to reduce the risk, contact the Leicestershire Fieldworker committee at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
EXAMPLE FIELDWALKING METHOD STATEMENT
The following is an example method statement for how Leicestershire Fieldworkers may carry out fieldwalking activities under COVID-19 restrictions. Please see separate risk assessment for more detailed identification of hazards and measures put in place to control risk.
- Field setup to be carried out by group organisers/designated people before participants arrive. Setting up field will be limited to 2 people.
- Shared equipment used during field setup to be cleaned before and after use. Hand sanitizer and cleaning materials to be provided. Gloves to be worn.
- Participants to arrive at site at specified time by own means. No sharing of vehicles with anyone not in the same household or social bubble (staggered arrival times/rota to be used if necessary).
- Register of who attended event to be kept by group and kept for 21 days to support NHS contact tracing.
- Participants to be briefed whilst maintaining appropriate physical social distance.
- Participants to bring their own finds bags and marker pens and to not share equipment.
- Transects to be walked by 1 person being careful to maintain physical social distance when walking. Transects to be a minimum of 2m apart.
- Participants to not crowd around to see a special find and to not pass finds around people who are not in the same household/social bubble.
- Finds to be taken home and washed by individual fieldwalkers (if group members).
- If finds to be collected in the field (e.g. from participants from outside the group), participants to place all finds bags in a sealable easily cleanable box. Box to be left in a well-ventilated space for suitable period before opening and processing.
- Participants to be reminded at the end of the event if they develop symptoms within 48 hours of the fieldwalk to apply for a COVID 19 test, and to support NHS contact tracing if requested.
For more information, read: