The British Drilling Association (BDA) is the UK's trade association for the ground drilling industry.

Current Issues

At any one time we are dealing with a variety of industry matters, some new but many ongoing. The list below is not exhaustive and enquiry should be made to the BDA on any item not listed.

BDA - AGS Industry Task Force 

Trade Associations take action in response to recent statements regarding the UK Ground Investigation industry. 

The Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) have partnered with the British Drilling Association (BDA) to create ‘The Task Force’, a collection of industry practitioners brought together to provide a ‘Spotlight on the Industry’. One of the key drivers for the conception of The Task Force was industry representatives being told by a major client that they believed the most hazardous part of their project would be the ground investigation phase. The Task Force are keen to develop tangible deliverables which can really help move the industry forward in reaction to these beliefs, real or conjectured. To achieve this, the collective has been asked to conduct a far reaching and industry wide survey on behalf of the two Trade Associations.

The initiative has been set up principally to provide a collaborative investigation into current industry standards. It is hoped that the project’s survey will produce some interesting statistics, points of view and exposures that can be utilised to shine a light on what is actually going on in the UK ground investigation industry.

A Position Paper is set to be released on June 1st which will set out the current "official” standards recognised by both Trade Associations and advocated by their respective members. Following this, there will be a single, all-inclusive survey created that everyone in the industry will be invited to complete in order to obtain a full, all-encompassing view of UK GI. This Survey will be open to all and will run throughout the month of July. Data will be collated and interpreted in August before the results are openly revealed and discussed across all media. 

It is hoped that this initiative will be a stimulus for involvement, change and the start of a new era of working together for the good of the entire UK Ground Investigation industry.

Structural stability during excavations

What you need to do

The law says you must prevent danger to workers in or near excavations. To maintain the required precautions, a competent person must inspect excavation supports or battering at the start of the working shift and at other specified times. No work should take place until the excavation is safe.
Commercial clients must provide certain information to contractors before work begins. This should include relevant information on:
  • ground conditions
  • underground structures or water courses; and 
  • the location of existing services.
  • This information should be used to during the planning and preparation for excavation work.

Key issues are:

  • collapse of excavations
  • Falling or dislodging material
  • Falling into excavations
  • Inspection
What you need to know
Every year people are killed or seriously injured by collapses and falling materials while working in excavations. They are at risk from:
  • Excavations collapsing and burying or injuring people working in them;
  • material falling from the sides into any excavation; and 
  • people or plant falling into excavations.


  • No ground can be relied upon to stand unsupported in all circumstances.
  • Depending on conditions, a cubic metre of soil can weigh in excess of 1.5 tonnnes.
Trenchless techniques should always be considered at the design stage as they replace the need for major excavations.
Underground and overhead services may also present a fire, explosion, electrical or other hazard and will need to be assessed and managed.
Collapse of excavations
Temporary support – Before digging any trench pit, tunnel, or other excavations, decide what temporary support will be required and plan the precautions to be taken.
Make sure the equipment and precautions needed (trench sheets, props, baulks etc) are available on site before work starts.
Battering the excavation sides – Battering the excavation sides to a safe angle of repose may also make the excavation safer.
In granular soils, the angle of slope should be less than the natural angle of repose of the material being excavated. In wet ground a considerably flatter slope will be required.
Falling or dislodging material
Loose materials – may fall from spoil heaps into the excavation. Edge protection should include toeboards or other means, such as projecting trench sheets or box sides to protect against falling materials. Head protection should be worn.
Undermining other structures – Check that excavations do not undermine scaffold footings, buried services or the foundations of nearby buildings or walls. Decide if extra support for the structure is needed before you start. Surveys of the foundations and the advice of a structural engineer may be required.
Effect of plant and vehicles – Do not park plant and vehicles close to the sides of excavations. The extra loadings can make the sides of excavations more likely to collapse.
Falling into excavations
Prevent people from falling – Edges of excavations should be protected with substantial barriers where people are liable to fall into them.
To achieve this, use:
  • Guard rails and toe boards inserted into the ground immediately next to the supported excavation side; or 
  • fabricated guard rail assemblies that connect to the sides of the trench box 
  • the support system itself, eg. using trench box extensions or trench sheets longer than the trench depth.

A competent person who fully understands the dangers and necessary precautions should inspect the excavation at the start of each shift.
Excavations should also be inspected after any event that may have affected their strength or stability, or after a fall of rock or earth.
A record of the inspections will be required and any faults that are found should be corrected immediately. 

Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions - Cancer Risk 

Employers are required to prevent or, where that is not reasonably practicable, adequately control exposure to materials in the workplace that cause ill health like dermatitis. Exhaust emissions from diesel engines are made up of a complex mixture of gases, vapours, liquid aerosols and soot particles. It contains many known carcinogenic substances such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (known as PAHs). These PAHs are adsorbed onto the soot which makes them easy to inhale.

The quantity and make-up of DEEEs depends mainly on the engine type and setting, how it is maintained, fuel quality, the demands placed on the engine and temperature that it is working at. Three different types of visible smoke may be produced:

  • blue smoke (mainly oil and unburnt fuel) which indicates a poorly serviced / tuned engine
  • black smoke (soot, oil and unburnt fuel) which indicates a mechanical fault with the engine
  •  white smoke (water droplets and unburnt fuel) which is produced when the engine is started from cold and disappears when the engine warms up

The major source of DEEEs on a construction site is likely to be from generators and heavy vehicles like lorries, excavators or telehandlers. The more significant risks are linked to longer periods of work with this equipment in enclosed spaces and / or situations where there is blue or black smoke.

Breathing DEEEs can cause a number of ill-health effects. Short-term exposure may cause eye or respiratory irritation. This should stop when you are in fresh air. Longer periods of exposure, in particular to any blue or black smoke, can lead to coughing, chestiness and breathlessness.

There is also evidence that repeated exposure to DEEEs over many years can increase the risk of lung cancer. HSE commissioned research highlighted it as a significant risk to construction workers from DEEEs, estimating that over 200 died prematurely in 2005. It is important to note that this estimate is based on past exposures up to 50 years ago. Engine and fuel technology has changed significantly since then. However, risks remain that need to be controlled.

Preventing Dermatitis and Urticaria


Employers are required to prevent or, where that is not reasonably practicable, adequately control exposure to materials in the workplace that cause ill health like dermatitis.

(COSHH) require employers to:

  • assess risks;
  • provide adequate control measures – and ensure the use and maintenance of these;
  • provide information, instruction and training; and
  • in appropriate cases, provide health surveillance.
Read the HSE's guidance document here.

Maintaining Roadworthiness for Commercial Vehicles (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency)


The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has produced a Guide to explain the
responsibilities and systems involved in maintaining vehicles in a roadworthy condition,
regardless of operating conditions, fleet size or vehicle type. The procedures and systems
explained in the Guide are useful for operators, drivers and all those who are responsible for
operating, maintaining or providing commercial goods and passenger carrying vehicles. The
general principles apply equally for light goods and passenger vehicles below the operator
licensing thresholds and for vehicles that are otherwise exempt.
It is not enough to rely on a maintenance system alone, because this cannot ensure that
vehicles are roadworthy. To ensure best practice, you will need to combine good quality
maintenance practices and skills with supervision and effective management of the system.

Read a copy of the guidance through this link.

Transport For London - Low Emission Zone 

Outline of Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) Emissions Regulations 

Assessing Work at Height

The law requires that employers and self-employed contractors assess the risk from work at height and go on to organise and plan the work so it is carried out safely.
Try avoiding work at height, if you can. You must otherwise prevent or arrest a fall and injury if work at height is necessary.
Instruct and train your workforce in the precautions needed. Method statements are widely used in the construction industry to help manage the work and communicate what is required to all those involved. 
Key issues for all work at height are:

  • Risk assessment
  • Precautions required
  • Method statements
Work at height is the biggest single cause of fatal and serious injury in the construction industry, particularly on smaller projects.
Over 60% of deaths during work at height involve falls: 
  • from ladders, scaffolds, working platforms and roof edges; and 
  • through fragile roofs or rooflights.

Risk assessment

Employers and self-employed contractors must: 
  • Assess the risks; 
  • Decide on the precautions required; 
  • Record the significant findings; and 
  • Review the assessment as necessary. 
Do not overcomplicate the process. For many firms your work at height risks will be well known and the necessary control measures easy to apply.

Precautions required

The law on work at height requires that you take account of your risk assessment in organising and planning work and identifying the precautions required. Your objective is to make sure work at height is properly planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner. 
The approaches you can adopt for work at height are to:
Avoid work at height where it reasonably practicable to do so, e.g. by assembly at ground level and:
Prevent any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury e.g. by using a scaffold platform with double guard-rail and toeboards; and
Arrest a fall with equipment to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, e.g. safety nets, where work at height cannot be avoided or the fall prevented.

Method statements

A method statement is a useful way of recording the hazards involved in specific work at height tasks and communicating the risk and precautions required to all those involved in the work. The statement need be no longer than necessary to achieve these objectives effectively. 
The method statement should be clear and illustrated by simple sketches where necessary. Avoid ambiguities or generalisations, which could lead to confusion. Statements are for the benefit of those carrying out the work and their immediate supervisors and should not be overcomplicated. 

Equipment needed for safe working should be clearly identified and available before work starts. Workers should know what to do if the work method needs to be changed. 

Musculoskeletal Disorders 

The term MSD covers any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or back. For advice on preventing and managing MSDs, including tools to assess the risks of manual handling and repetitive tasks, visit HSE's MSD website.


Back pain is common in tasks that involve:

  • lifting heavy or bulky loads;
  • carrying loads awkwardly, possibly one handed;
  • repetitive tasks, packing of products;
  • long distance driving or driving over rough ground, particularly if the seat is not, or cannot be, properly adjusted;
  • stooping, bending or crouching;
  • pushing, pulling or dragging heavy loads;
  • working beyond normal abilities and limits;
  • working when physically tired;
  • stretching, twisting and reaching;
  • prolonged periods in one position.

Warning signs

If you have severe pain which gets worse over several weeks, or if you are unwell with back pain, you should see your doctor.

Back pain is not usually due to any serious damage or disease. The pain usually improves within days or a few weeks, at least enough to get on with your life. Only a few people have back pain that is caused by a more serious issue such as a slipped disc or a trapped nerve and even these usually get better by themselves.

If you do have back pain and suddenly notice any of these symptoms, which are rare, you should see a doctor straight away:

  • difficulty passing or controlling urine
  • numbness around your back passage or genitals
  • numbness, pins and needles, or weakness in both legs
  • unsteadiness on your feet 

Rig Guarding

The issue of rig guarding has been ongoing since 1998 and in August 2014 BS EN 16228 Drilling and Foundation Equipment -Safety, was published (BS EN 791 Drilling rigs and BS EN 996 Piling rigs have now been withdrawn) (see Standards) to reflect this.

In January 2105 the HSE published revised guidance on the 'Prevention of entanglement on rotating parts of drilling & piling rigs' on their website  

The new publication is a full revision and is aligned with the new BS EN 16228. The HSE do not expect that this will cause difficulty for members in relation to drill string guarding in GB as we have a head start on other EU countries.  Hopefully procurement of new rigs or hire rigs from EU suppliers will also be easier.  Existing guards that exceed the height/reach dimensions given in the new Standard should stay in place unless safety will be improved by making alterations and control systems to allow Restricted Operating Mode should not be altered to take advantage of any flexibility contained within the new Standard.

The previous guidance was drawn up following an approach from The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to the BDA in 1999. The BDA published guidance in 2000 (see Publications) and a letter from HSE in 2007 fully clarified the HSE's position - HSE letter.

Following this letter the HSE has been proactive in serving prohibition or improvement notices on vertical drilling rigs that don't conform. It went further in October 2009 holding clients of drilling services accountable if rigs are unguarded - HSE letter Oct 2009.

Regarding rigs that perform inclined drilling, a BDA working party sitting with HSE issued a joint statement in May 2010 - BDA / HSE Joint Statement.

It is fundamentally clear that drill rigs in the UK, at whatever angle of drilling, have to have interlocked guards (or protective devices that prevent access to rotating parts). With regard to manufacturers / suppliers, HSE fully expects that rigs sold on UK market also conform to this. 


From 2 March 2015, a new European regulation EU 165/2014  will replace EEC 3821/85, setting out requirements for the construction, installation, use, testing and control of tachograph recording equipment.

The new regulation increases the journey distance for exemptions from 50km to 100km from the operator's base. 

This will apply to vehicles or vehicle and trailer combinations with a maximum weight of 7,500 kg which are used to carry materials, equipment or machinery for the driver's use in the course of his work and when driving the vehicle is not the driver's main activity

From 2 March 2015, these vehicles will no longer have to be fitted with tachograph recording equipment and the drivers will not have to comply with EC drivers' hour rules. Instead, drivers of these vehicles must meet GB domestic drivers' hours rules.

Download and read these rules by clicking here. 

PAS 128 Launch

The new Publically Available Specification (PAS) 128 was launched on 30th June 2014. PAS 128 provides a specification to which utility survey practitioners have to comply.

New construction often conflicts with existing underground infrastructure. Existing underground utilities and their related structures constitute inefficiencies and risks on projects

Underground utility mapping and an engineering practice called subsurface utility engineering (SUE) have been developed and used to address this issue with great success in other international markets.

There is now a need for a standard to support the subsurface utility engineering (SUE)/utility mapping industry in the UK. Whilst there is significant knowledge and expertise in the industry, the market is largely unregulated.

This standard will help to increase market confidence regarding not just the definition and delivery of the SUE process but also the further professionalization of the industry.

For more information click here.  

Hazardous Gases - Coal areas

An incident in 2005, whereby two elderly people died overnight from carbon monoxide poisoning adjacent to an air flush drilling site on coal measures, has given rise to the formation of a working party to produce guidance on drilling into coal. The working party, principally Coal Authority, Health & Safety Executive and BDA, is producing a document titled "Guidance on Managing the Risk of Hazardous Gases when Drilling or Piling Near Coal". The document will be published in early 2011.

Coal Authority permission has to be obtained when drilling into its property. For further details click here. Water flush is generally required when property and public is nearby. Please also read the HSE Position Statement.


Current Issues ShaftsIn 2009 a drill rig and its steel platform disappeared into a shaft that collapsed in North Wales. The drilling operatives stepped off just in time.

You can see the drill rods and flushing hoses. The rotary rig was not found even though the ground was excavated subsequently to 13 metres to cap the shaft.

BDA together with Coal Authority will be producing guidance for shaft drilling works. A major review on platform requirements and design will be addressed in the guidance.

Buried Services

Consider this picture of a road crossing in London. Where would you drill?

                                      Current Issues Buried Services

Buried Services are the greatest hazard to any drilling operation and not just in urban areas. The picture below is a USA gas pipeline explosion in a country area.

Current Issues Buried Services

BDA in its guidance documents (see Publications) stresses that buried services should be located and avoided.

At any drilling position a hand dug inspection pit to 1.2 metre should be excavated prior to commencement of drilling.

This issue is ongoing in that many clients and drilling contractors are not sufficiently aware of the risks and not taking appropriate actions.


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