Archaeology

Last updated: 14 May 2020

Returning to workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic

This page gives guidance on different aspects of returning to workplaces for archaeologists during the coronavirus pandemic.

This article includes information on:


Site work

All employers and employees must maintain social distancing and hygiene standards in line with Government advice. We expect most archaeological companies will be able to implement enhanced procedures and solutions due to the nature of the work.

  • Keep two metres apart on site except in an emergency.
  • Hands must be washed (or use alcohol gel) before entering a vehicle, after arriving on site, before entering the welfare cabin(s) – whether at break time or not – and after using the toilet.
  • Stocks of cleaning products should be maintained.
  • Equipment such as tools, pens, pencils, clipboards and PPE to be allocated to each staff member and not Labelling may be necessary. Do not pass tools and equipment to a colleague.
  • Equipment such as phones, tablets, cameras, survey kit etc, should be cleaned after each use or allocated to only one member of the site team.
  • One person per site will be responsible for dealing with paper Each staff member to be given their own supply of record sheets, or folders to be cleaned after each use. Digital recording (GPS, tablet context capture) will negate the need for paper records and sharing of recording equipment.
  • Storage and manual handling of items such as finds and samples will need to be carefully planned.
  • Avoid taking equipment or site files into the home or office unless thoroughly cleaned or quarantined in line with latest advice.
  • High-risk activities should be considered For example, confined spaces work, excavation with risk of services strike, UXO or contamination. Emergency plans need to consider the risk posed to the public, those who may need to be on-site tomonitor/fix any issues and the extra strain an incident could place on emergency services during COVID-19.
  • Site briefings should adhere to social distancing and be conducted outside. Technology can control this risk, eg sending briefing via email with read receipts.
  • Limit meetings and visitors or arrange video calls.
  • Sites should be inspected by the H&S manager (and H&S union rep if in place) within the first week of site.
  • If smaller teams are used, make sure work pressures are not increased (eg expecting staff to do more or asking for lone working) and archaeological standards do not suffer.
  • Staff should be briefed on how to deal with the The key government message is still stay at home and challenges may be made as to why we are working.
  • Staff should be provided with clear instructions on how to raise issues or concerns.

If you don’t feel safe, stop and raise it.


Working safe

If you are planning or undertaking archaeological work during COVID-19, you should stop and ask yourself, and colleagues, the following questions:

Planning travel or site work

  • Does your risk assessment cover COVID-19 specific hazard controls?
  • Does your risk assessment cover travel, site, welfare and accommodation ?
  • Do you have a Safe System of Work (SSOW) in place for site tasks during COVID-19?
  • Have you considered the mental health of the people undertaking the work?
  • Have you considered the effect to friends or family they live with?
  • If not undertaking the work yourself, would you be happy to do what you are asking?
  • Have you consulted with your staff or union reps?

Prior to travel or site work

  • Have you been given a copy of your employer’s COVID-19 RAMS and SSOW with enough time prior to travel orcommencement of work to read it, and been given the facility to ask questions or raise concerns?
  • Are the Principal Contractors/ contractors RAMS or SSOW available on site for all to read?
  • Have you been made aware of reporting procedures for issues, and provided with written reassurance you will not be victimised or bullied for raising legitimate concerns?
  • When deployed to site, has your mental health been considered?
  • When being deployed to site has the effect on anyone you live with been considered?

Beginning travel or site work

  • Have you received all site briefings, and are the relevant COVID-19 information displayed on site for reference?
  • Can you see that the RAMS and SSOW are being adhered to?
  • Are all the welfare, PPE and hygiene provisions in place?
  • Are RAs and SSOW being continually reviewed and communicated on site?

If you don’t feel safe, stop and raise it.


Site travel

All employers and employees must maintain social distancing and hygiene standards in line with Government advice. We expect most archaeological companies will be able to implement enhanced procedures and solutions due to the nature of the work.

  • All travel and accommodation needs to be risk assessed, and third party company COVID-19 procedures made available to staff.
  • No away work should be completed unless individual accommodation can be provided.
  • No should involve public transport unless absolutely necessary. Key workers need Individuals should only travel when two metres distances can be maintained. This may require off peak travel and staggered start/finish times. To be discussed with staff prior to deployment.
  • Movement of staff between sites should be limited.
  • Only one person per vehicle, or use vehicles where two metres distances can be maintained such as a large SUV or 4×4 with two This may only be relaxed with those who live together. Open windows will not prevent virus spread if there is contact between people or belongings.
  • Make sure there is adequate space to store and transport individual belongings
  • Staff should not be asked to travel or work where government social distancing rules cannot be maintained. This could create mental health risks for the individuals involved, and also creates elevated risks for those living but not working It also increases numbers who need to self-isolate should an individual become sick.
  • All vehicles should be cleaned before and after use if not sole use. Attention should be paid to door handles, steering wheels, buttons, gear sticks and interior surfaces. Cleaning time is considered work time.
  • Any extra expenses for cleaning of vehicles, or time for travel or cleaning should be factored into the working day and budgets.
  • Rest breaks on long journeys need to be planned to make sure services are open, and staff can maintain social distancing.
  • Gloves should be worn for refuelling.
  • Emergency or breakdown procedures need to be reviewed to make sure they are adequate.

If you don’t feel safe, stop and raise it.


Welfare provisions

All employers and employees must maintain social distancing and hygiene standards in line with Government advice. We expect most archaeological companies will be able to implement enhanced procedures and solutions due to the nature of the work.

  • Make sure cabins are big enough to allow two metres between staff, or only allow one person at a time with cleaning between uses. If there are larger canteens mark out two metres spaces.
  • Space out changing facilities and consider marking changing zones two metres Do not share pegs, lockers, benches. Make sure everyone has their own space. If this cannot be done, only one person at a time may use the facility and it must be cleaned after each person.
  • Mark out two metres spaces between urinals, wash basins and toilet If this cannot be done, only one person at a time may enter the toilet facilities, and it must be cleaned after each person.
  • Make sure there is sufficient space in walkways, carparks, entrances etc to allow two-metre distances.
  • Site offices must be organised to allow two-metre distancing.
  • Numbers of individuals entering smoking areas should be limited to maintain two-metre distances.
  • Provision needs to be made to allow hand washing (or use of alcohol gel) before entering a vehicle, after arriving on site, before entering the welfare cabin(s) – at break time or not – and after using the toilet.
  • Welfare should be thoroughly cleaned once a day, with localised cleaning after each use and/or before each break, including surfaces, toilets, door handles, light switches, generator buttons, kettles, microwave buttons/handles.
  • All food should be brought from home to avoid the need to visit shops during the working There must be no sharing of food or drinks.
  • All staff should have their own cups/cutlery/crockery and take them home to wash at the end of each day.
  • Sufficient stocks of cleaning products will be maintained. Any extra products you buy for cleaning at work can be expensed to the employer.
  • Registers should be maintained to document cleaning regimes.
  • Staggered start times may be required to facilitate the above.

If you don’t feel safe, stop and raise it.


Emergency provisions

All employers and employees must maintain social distancing and hygiene standards in line with Government advice. We expect most archaeological companies will be able to implement enhanced procedures and solutions due to the nature of the work.

  • All first aiders should be briefed on the updated instructions from St John Ambulance.
  • First aid kits should be checked and updated. Masks and gloves should be available with the kit. It is also recommended the kit contains a towel for CPR. Find out more on the Resuscitation Council UK website.
  • A provision for mental health support, such as Mental Health First Aiders and/or Employee Assistance Programmes should be available for staff.
  • Emergency details should be checked/updated. Some A&E departments and walk-in centres have closed.
  • No-one should attend site if they are unwell. Plans should be made and communicated to staff for how people will leave site should they become unwell.
  • As there may be fewer staff available, and it may take longer to mobilise replacements, contingency plans should be made ahead of time for if staff are unable to attend site.
  • Advice and procedures should be reviewed for emergency vehicle break downs or accidents
  • Increased emergency service response times should be factored in to any rescue plan.
  • High-risk activities should be thoroughly assessed.
  • Procedures and advice should be provided to staff should they face comment, criticism or conflict about being at work.
  • Lone working procedures should be in place if staff are working remotely.
  • Site evacuation procedures should still adhere to social distancing rules, and should be communicated to all Assembly points should be placed in an area large enough to accommodate this.
  • Staff should make sure their company has up-to- date contact details for themselves and next of kin
  • If staff fall ill and believe they contracted COVID-19 on-site they must report this immediately.

If you don’t feel safe, stop and raise it.