Organising field meetings

Many of the environments where molluscs are found are dangerous and the Society has a rigorous attitude to health and safety. Before attending any field meeting it is important that you read the H&S policy but in addition care must be taken when organising field meetings (particularly when others are involved).

Overall responsibility for a Society meeting rests with the organiser. If you are the organiser it is important that you have assessed the site(s) that will be visited and appropriately briefed any attendees.

  1. Obtain the permission(s) (preferably in writing) of the land owners and obtain from them or elsewhere any local codes of practice or safety rules.
  2. If possible, investigate the sites in advance and look for (a) suitable places nearby to park sufficient vehicles, making a note of the grid references of the entrance to each site and of suitable car parking space and (b) list the potential hazards associated with the sites. Where marine sites are being studies it may sometimes not be possible to complete all the investigations if the tides are unfavourable at the time of the initial visit, in which case some of the risk assessment may be left until the day of the meeting. Detailed Ordnance Survey maps or Admiralty Charts may give some indication of the risk of being cut off by the tide.
  3. Select an assembly point for the start of each day of the meeting, preferably not too distant from the sites to be visited. There are advantages in choosing somewhere near a public transport node, or where there are toilet facilities, or opportunities to purchase refreshments. Railway stations, supermarkets, garden centres and public houses are among the possibilities. Car parks which charge for parking may be an unpopular choice. Make sure that the assembly point is not liable to be overcrowded, and ask permission where necessary.
  4. Prepare the risk assessment and consider what verbal advice to give the attendees. This should include local codes of conduct and safety rules. A risk assessment toolkit is available.
  5. Prepare an advance publicity text relating to the meeting for inclusion in Mollusc World and posting on the web site. This should contain locations/grid references for the initial meeting point, the date and assembly time, whether or not there are toilet facilities, advice on clothing, footwear, protective equipment such as hats or helmets, sun cream, sustenance, etc. Some of this advice may depend on time of year and should include details such as whether the meeting is unsuitable for children.
  6. Appoint a co-leader/deputy to assist if the group splits up or in case you are taken ill or have an accident.
  7. Before starting to sample any sites, inform the participants verbally of the hazards associated with working the particular site or sites. Your statement will need to be reasonably exhaustive and should include obvious risks as well as the less obvious ones such as poisonous plants or the danger from thorns in the eyes. Reserve the right to exclude anyone who has not brought appropriate clothing or safety equipment.
  8. Ensure that everyone attending the meeting hears the safety briefing and signs the briefing acknowledgement form. Anyone who does not do so will be regarded as not participating in the meeting and may not be covered by the Society's insurance.
  9. Leaders must ensure that participants are aware of the specific risks posed by traffic and that the Society is not insured to survey working quarries, or highways and their immediate vicinities.
  10. During the meeting, collect species records from all participants. The participants will supply you later with data on species retained for further examination or in samples of substrate they have taken.
  11. Send the completed risk assessment forms, the briefing acknowledgement form and details of incidents (if any) to the Programme Secretary.
  12. Write up the results of the meeting for inclusion in Mollusc World or delegate a volunteer to do this for you.
  13. Leaders (as well as participants) are encouraged to fill in a marine or land and freshwater record card for each of the field sites visited during the meeting and submit the completed record cards to the appropriate Society Honorary Recorder, or delegate a volunteer to do this.