SCRCA Project: Health and Safety Advice for SCRCA Project Volunteers

Coronavirus / COVID-19
Please note that all SCRCA Project activities have been SUSPENDED for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak, except where they can be carried out legally and safely in full compliance with all relevant legislation and advice. For information regarding the outbreak and the associated restrictions / advice, please refer to https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. To be on the safe side, SCRCA Project volunteers are advised NOT to carry-out any project-related activities that involve the use of public transport or that involve visiting indoor locations (regardless of their 'COVID-secure' status) or outdoor locations that are likely to be busy.

Preamble

These notes have been written to inform and help protect volunteers performing activities associated with the SCRCA Project.

These notes are intended to be read in conjunction with the information contained on the pages entitled "SCRCA Project: Getting involved" and "SCRCA Project: Risk Assessment".

If you have any questions or concerns about the material contained on this page or in the related Briefing Documents, or any suggestions for improving this material, please contact the SCRCA Project Coordinator without undue delay.

A: Home working

A1: General advice and instructions

  • Consider the immediate and long-term health and safety of both yourself and others: do not work, or use equipment, in a manner that could cause harm. Take extra care if vulnerable people (e.g. young children, frail or elderly people, expectant mothers, etc.) or pets have access to the workplace and / or to any work-related materials or equipment.
  • Work in safe and comfortable conditions, with plenty of space, good lighting and adequate ventilation.
  • If you are using any form of Display Screen Equipment, you are STRONGLY ADVISED to review section C below.
  • Keep work areas tidy and clear of obstructions. Do not leave objects lying around that could cause someone to slip or trip. Clean-up any spills without delay.
  • Ensure that all equipment and materials used for SCRCA Project activities are suitable for the intended use, that they are (and remain) safe to use and that you use them correctly and safely. Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • If lifting, carrying or otherwise moving heavy items, do so safely. Advice on manual handling is available online at http://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/manualhandling.htm
  • Take regular breaks and try to vary the nature of the task(s) being performed. This will aid concentration, reduce fatigue (and the risk of boredom) and help prevent repetitive strain injuries.
  • Do NOT give-out the names, addresses or contact details of other SCRCA Project volunteers unless they have given you explicit permission to do so. You are also STRONGLY ADVISED NOT to give-out your own name, address or contact details. Remember also that all communications with third-parties relating to the SCRCA Project are to be dealt with by the SCRCA Project Coordinator, unless otherwise agreed in advance in writing. If you need to give someone a means of contact at short notice, refer them to the SCRCA Project's dedicated 'Contact us' form. All such communications are reviewed by the SCRCA Project Coordinator.
  • Working at home can be a lonely experience, especially if there is no-one else at home. To counter this, it may be necessary to actively seek-out or initiate opportunities to have regular face to face and / or indirect contact with other people (e.g. by arranging social activities with friends and family).

  • If you will or might need to work alone while undertaking SCRCA Project activities at home, you are STRONGLY ADVISED to review section B below.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about working at home, please discuss them with the SCRCA Project Coordinator without delay.

A2: Reporting incidents or accidents

Should any incidents or accidents occur while you are carrying-out SCRCA Project activities at home, deal with them in the same way that you would normally deal with them. It is NOT necessary to record or report any incidents or accidents that occur while working at home unless those incidents or accidents will or could have an impact on the SCRCA Project, or on other SCRCA Project volunteers. If the latter applies, the relevant information MUST be communicated to the SCRCA Project Coordinator at the earliest possible opportunity, preferably in writing (e.g. via e-mail) in accordance with FoSCL's current accident reporting policy / procedure (see attachments towards the bottom of this page).

A3: Further reading

General advice on home safety is available from the following online source:

While conducting the research for these notes, a lengthy HSE publication entitled "Health and safety of home workers: Good practice case studies" was reviewed and found to be both interesting and helpful, despite it being aimed at employers. The key (relevant) advice from this document has been extracted and included in the notes above. However, for those who may be curious about the broader topic of safety for home workers, the document can be downloaded (in pdf format) from:

B: Lone working

B1: Introduction

As one would expect, lone working exposes the individual(s) concerned to all of the hazards normally associated with the activity in question. However, in some cases, it can also:

  1. significantly increase the level of risk associated with those hazards and / or
  2. expose the lone-worker to additional hazards.

Volunteers carrying-out SCRCA Project activities are not, strictly speaking, 'lone-workers' for the purposes of Health & Safety legislation as they are volunteers (not employees) and neither FoSCL, nor the SCRCA Project Team, have any employees. However, keeping people safe is important regardless of the fine print of Health & Safety legislation, hence the information and advice contained in this section.

In terms of SCRCA Project activities, the increased level of risk and the likelihood of additional hazards associated with working alone are limited to just two of the activities:

SCRCA Project volunteers carrying-out either or both of these activities are therefore STRONGLY ADVISED to review the information and heed the advice contained in sub-sections B2 and B3 below.

For all other SCRCA Project activities, working alone at home is:

  • UNLIKELY to expose the volunteer - or other parties - to any significant additional hazards (beyond those posed by choosing to undertake the same activity in the presence of others); and
  • UNLIKELY to increase the level of risk associated with those hazards (beyond that which is posed by choosing to undertake any normal domestic activity alone at home).

In other words, if the average British adult is capable of safely conducting normal aspects of their everyday lives at home when alone, they should be perfectly capable of safely undertaking the home-based SCRCA Project activities at home when alone. That said, the information and advice contained in sub-sections B2 and B3 below may still be beneficial, so ALL SCRCA Project volunteers are STRONGLY ADVISED to review these sub-sections. This is especially recommended if a volunteer intends to carry-out 'home-based' activities in a location other than his or her own home.

B2: Advice for activity 4 (Conducting on-site structure assessments)

For the most part, conducting on-site structure assessments alone should not pose a significantly higher level of risk than conducting them with a colleague or companion as the activity itself (i.e. conducting the assessments) can be done safely by one person working alone. However, undertaking this activity alone WILL increase the level of risk in two ways:

1: The threat of violence / aggressive behaviour is generally considered to be higher for a person alone than for a person with a companion or in a group.

2: If a person alone becomes ill or suffers a debilitating injury, he or she may not be able to render the required first-aid, contact the emergency services and / or otherwise obtain assistance. This becomes particularly significant when conducting assessments in remote locations. Should such a situation arise, the likely consequences range from a long and painful wait for help, through to a potentially avoidable death.

Provided that a few simple rules are followed, the likelihood of the first situation arising is extremely low, given the nature of the activity and the locations / areas in which it is being carried-out (see section E).

The likelihood of the second situation arising is significantly higher, but still reasonably low in most cases. Furthermore, the risk can be reduced by adopting a few precautions:

  1. Follow the advice contained in the briefing documents listed in sub-section D4 below.
  2. Tell someone whom you trust: what you plan to do, where you plan to do it, and when you expect to return and ask them to contact the police if you have not returned by an agreed time. (Don't forget to let them know that you have returned safely.)

The exception is when underfoot conditions are icy or otherwise exceptionally slippery. In such conditions, the likelihood of suffering a debilitating or fatal injury increases SIGNIFICANTLY (arguably, to an unacceptably high level) and it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that SCRCA Project volunteers do NOT walk alone in remote locations when the ground conditions are (or are likely to be) icy or otherwise exceptionally slippery.

Many people enjoy walking alone in remote rural areas and many people do so on a regular basis. However, for structures in remote locations, it will be SIGNIFICANTLY SAFER to undertake this activity with a trusted and experienced companion.

It IS permitted to ask other carefully selected people (e.g. adult family members and / or good adult friends) to assist with SCRCA Project activities, including conducting on-site structure assessments. However, if you do so, you do so entirely at your joint risk AND you will become jointly responsible for your joint and individual safety.

Volunteers assisting with the SCRCA Project are under no pressure to do so. If a volunteer does not feel safe undertaking an SCRCA Project activity alone, he or she MUST refrain from doing so. If you have any concerns in this regard, please discuss them with the SCRCA Project Coordinator without delay.

B3: Advice for activity 7 (Research / document review that requires outside visits)

The generic risk-assessment and the nature of the additional risks for this activity are the same as those for conducting on-site structure assessments (see sub-section B2 above). However, the level of risk should be significantly lower as the places being visited will almost certainly be located in relatively safe (and relatively busy) urban areas. However, the final caveat applies here too: Volunteers assisting with the SCRCA Project are under no pressure to do so. If a volunteer does not feel safe undertaking an SCRCA Project activity alone, he or she MUST refrain from doing so. If you have any concerns in this regard, please discuss them with the SCRCA Project Coordinator without delay.

C: Using Display Screen Equipment (DSE)

C1: Introduction

Note regarding the use of television sets, DVD players, VCRs, etc.
The advice given in sections C2 to C6 below will need to be adapted to suit the use of this equipment. However, the key principles will apply. For example, consider the remote control unit in a similar manner to a keyboard and mouse - i.e. use it in a manner that is comfortable and do not use it for extended periods as this could cause repetitive strain injury.

For the purpose of these notes, Display Screen Equipment (DSE) includes:

  • desktop and laptop computers operated via a keyboard and / or a mouse, trackball, graphics tablet & pen, etc.;
  • touch screen devices such as tablets, smart phones, etc.; and
  • television sets with associated DVD players, VCRs, etc. (see notebox to right).

Using equipment of this kind now forms part of normal everyday life for the majority of British adults. However, it is recognised that:

  1. many people do not fully understand (or they significantly under-estimate) the potential risks associated with using such equipment, especially when using the equipment for prolonged periods, and / or
  2. they do not know how to adopt safe working practices in order to minimise these risks.

The information and advice contained in sub-sections C2 to C6 below is being provided to both enable and encourage volunteers to use their Display Screen Equipment in a safe manner, regardless of whether it is being used for Project-related or personal purposes.

Source and copyright:

The information and advice provided in subsections C2 to C6 has been extracted (with minor amendments) from a downloadable (pdf format) leaflet published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) entitled "Working with display screen equipment (DSE): A brief guide" (leaflet reference INDG36(rev4), issue date:  05/13).

The information is repeated here under the terms of the 'Open Government Licence’.

The full leaflet is aimed at employers (which is the reason for the minor amendments). However, it can be downloaded from the HSE's "Display Screen Equipment (DSE)" page at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/dse/.

C2: What are the health risks associated with using DSE?

Some users may experience fatigue, eye strain, upper limb problems and backache from overuse or improper use of DSE. These problems can also result from poorly designed workstations and / or work environments. Following the advice below will help you to work in a comfortable and safe manner when using DSE.

C3:Getting comfortable

Make yourself comfortable:

  • Forearms should be approximately horizontal and your eyes should be the same height as the top of the screen.
  • Make sure there is enough work space to accommodate all documents or other equipment. A document holder may help avoid awkward neck and eye movements.
  • Arrange the desk and screen to avoid glare, or bright reflections. This is often easiest if the screen is not directly facing windows or bright lights.
  • Adjust curtains or blinds to prevent intrusive light.
  • Make sure there is space under the desk to move your legs.
  • Avoid excess pressure from the edge of seats on the backs of legs and knees. (A footrest may be helpful, particularly for smaller users.)

C4: Well-designed workstations

Keyboards and keying-in (typing):

  • Provide and maintain a space in front of the keyboard to help you rest your hands and wrists when not keying. A suitably designed cushioned wrist rest or wrist support can be used to make this more comfortable.
  • Try to keep wrists straight when keying.
  • Good keyboard technique is important – you can do this by using a soft touch on the keys and by not overstretching the fingers.

Using a mouse:

  • Position the mouse within easy reach, so it can be used with a straight wrist.
  • Sit upright and close to the desk to reduce working with the mouse arm stretched.
  • Move the keyboard out of the way if it is not being used.
  • Support the forearm on the desk, and don’t grip the mouse too tightly.
  • Rest fingers lightly on the buttons and do not press them hard.

Reading the screen:

  • Make sure individual characters on the screen are sharp, in focus and don’t flicker or move. If they do, the DSE may need servicing or adjustment.
  • Adjust the brightness and contrast controls on the screen to suit lighting conditions in the room.
  • Make sure the screen surface is clean.
  • When setting up software, choose text that is large enough to read easily on screen when sitting in a normal comfortable working position.
  • Select colours that are easy on the eye (avoid red text on a blue background, or vice versa).

C5: Changes in activity

Breaking up long spells of DSE work helps prevent fatigue, eye strain, upper limb problems and backache. It is good practice to interrupt prolonged use of DSE with changes of activity and to take frequent rest breaks. The following may help:

  • Stretch and change position.
  • Look into the distance from time to time, and blink often.
  • Change activity before you get tired.
  • Short, frequent breaks are better than longer, infrequent ones.

C6: Portable computers (including laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.)

In addition to the advice given above, the following may also help reduce manual handling, fatigue
and postural problems when using laptop and / or hand-held devices:

  • If you have to carry heavy equipment and papers, consider potential risks from manual handling as per the following webpage: http://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/manualhandling.htm.
  • Whenever possible, use a docking station or firm surface and a full-sized keyboard and mouse.
  • The height and position of the portable device’s screen should be angled so that you are sitting comfortably and reflections are minimised. (Note that specially-designed raiser blocks are available to adjust the screen height of portable devices.)
  • More changes in activity may be needed than might be the case when using desktop DSE.

D: Hazards associated with walking in urban and rural areas

HSE Risk Matrix
The risk matrix displayed above has been downloaded from the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/faq.htm and it is used here under the terms of the Open Government Licence).

D1: Introduction

Walking in urban and rural areas could potentially expose the participant(s) to a wide-range of hazards with levels of risk ranging from the 'Slightly Harmful' to the 'Intolerable' as defined by the HSE risk matrix (see right).

Depending on the circumstances, the potential 'harm' could span the full range from a minor blister or bruise through serious illness or injury up to and including death.

D2: Walking in urban areas

Walking in urban areas (i.e. cities, towns and villages) forms part of normal everyday life for most able-bodied British adults. For SCRCA Project activities that are carried-out entirely within such areas, the associated hazards and risks will lie well within the experience and capabilities of virtually every healthy and active volunteer. All that will be needed to minimise the risk of harm is to take the 'normal' precautions for such an activity, most notably: to wear suitable footwear and clothing, to pay attention to the surroundings and to take a reasonable degree of care when walking around. The last two items are especially important when taking photographs and making notes as these activities are likely to distract the volunteer's attention away from potential hazards.

D3: Walking in rural areas

Safely carrying-out SCRCA Project activities in rural areas (especially the more remote upland areas) requires a knowledge and skill set which extends well beyond that held by the average British adult. Such activities will, therefore, only be assigned to individuals who can demonstrate that they already have the fitness, experience and equipment necessary to enable them to walk safely in the hills and fells of the Yorkshire Dales and northern Pennines (or similar terrain). These individuals will already have gained the skills and knowledge required to safely perform the activity. Nonetheless, the information and advice contained in the briefing documents listed in (and accessible via) the next sub-section may still prove useful / informative. All volunteers carrying-out SCRCA Project activities in rural areas are therefore STRONGLY ADVISED to review each of the documents listed in sub-section D4 below and to heed the advice contained in those documents.

D4: Briefing documents

The following documents were originally written for volunteers undertaking and / or leading extended walks in the Yorkshire Dales and northern Pennines, especially those intending to walk (or lead walks) in the more remote upland areas. However, the information and advice contained in these documents may be of interest and potential benefit to all volunteers undertaking SCRCA Project activities that involve walking, most especially those that involve walking in rural areas. Each of the documents listed below can be download (in pdf format) by clicking on the relevant document title.

D5: Risk assessments

For the volunteers currently authorised to undertake SCRCA Project activities that involve walking in urban or rural areas, the principle of 'dynamic risk management' is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. This relatively simple principle is explained in the briefing document entitled "Risk management and scenario planning". The same document also includes lists of:

  1. key hazards and scenarios that may be encountered during a walk in the urban and rural areas covered by the SCRCA Project; and
  2. preventive actions / control measures that, if followed, will minimise the levels of associated risk.

Note that the preparation of formal (written) risk assessments for site visits associated with the SCRCA Project is entirely OPTIONAL.

D6: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The briefing document entitled "Essential and optional equipment for walkers & walk-leaders" includes lists of footwear, clothing and equipment that will help to significantly reduce the level of risk associated with walking in rural areas. These items are NOT considered to be 'Personal Protective Equipment' for the purposes of Health & Safety legislation. However, the use of items listed in the briefing document as being 'essential' is STRONGLY ADVISED for all volunteers undertaking SCRCA Project activities that involve walking in rural areas. In fact, walking more than a few hundred metres in the rural areas of the Yorkshire Dales and northern Pennines without at least some of this equipment would be both foolish and dangerous.

D7: Reporting incidents or accidents

Any incidents or accidents that occur (while carrying-out SCRCA Project activities that involve walking in urban or rural areas) should be dealt with in the same way that the volunteer would normally deal with them (preferably bearing in mind the information and advice given in the documents listed above). However, all such incidents MUST ALSO be reported in writing (preferably by e-mail) to the SCRCA Project Coordinator at the earliest possible opportunity. This is especially important if the incident causes (or may have caused) any form of injury to either yourself or a third-party. When reporting incidents or accidents, FoSCL's current accident reporting policy / procedure must be followed (see attachments towards the bottom of this page).

E: Violence / aggression

The likelihood of a volunteer undertaking SCRCA Project activities being subjected to violence or aggression is relatively low, provided that the volunteer:

  • remains polite, considerate and vigilant;
  • obeys the law;
  • avoids trespassing or causing damage to property; and
  • adopts the common-sense policy of avoiding locations and / or circumstances where there is a higher than normal risk of violence / aggression.

With these provisos, the risk of violence or aggression towards volunteers undertaking SCRCA Project activities should be no greater than that posed to the average British citizen going about his or her normal daily activities.

General advice on personal safety is available from the following page on the Suzy Lamplugh Trust website:

Review / revision history

Created by Mark R. Harvey on 3rd August 2015.

Review cycle: to be reviewed annually.

Last reviewed by Mark R. Harvey on 7th November 2019.