Kent Underground Research Group:
Procedures and Safety Protocols.
KURG MMXIII Page 1 of 29
This document outlines the Kent Underground Research Group’s underground investigation
procedures and safety protocols.
The Kent Underground Research Group are frequently asked, at short notice, to examine, report on,
and survey underground sites for various bodies including Local and County Authorities, landowners
KURG has studied the hazards likely to be encountered during underground investigations in Kent
and south-east England in some detail over many years and have produced a General Risk
Assessment and Safe Method of Operation which covers the various types of underground
features1 to be found.
Where time is not an issue a site specific assessment will be produced. Often there are tight time
constraints which do not allow a full specific site Risk Assessment and associated Safe Method of
Operation document to be produced before the proposed visit.
1 Including: Deneholes and Chalkwells, Chalk mines, Chalk tunnels associated with quarries,
Limestone mines, Ragstone and Sandstone mines, Sand mines, Wells, Ice-wells, Cisterns,
Cess-pits, Air-raid shelters, Bunkers, Cellars, Crypts, Conduits and Drains. Page 2 of 29
Kent Underground Research Group 3
KURG Investigations 4
General Safety Notes 5
Risk Assessment Methodology 6
General Risk Assessment 7
Method Statement – Safe Operational Procedures 9
Emergency procedures 11
Contact Details 12
Insurance Details 12
Appendix 1 KURG: Confined Spaces Regulations and
Approved Code of Practice 13
Appendix 2 NAMHO Guidelines 18
Appendix 3 BCRA Survey Grades 25
Appendix 4 Example Surveys and Photographs of KURG
Page 3 of 29
Kent Underground Research Group
The Kent Underground Research Group was founded in 1981 to promote the study of the origins,
history and uses of underground sites and associated surface features, especially within the ancient
county of Kent.
The members are a mix of Speleologists, Archaeologists and Mining Historians who carry out
academic research as well as fieldwork. They conduct underground surveys and investigations at
their own risk and do not charge for their expertise.
All investigations are carried out within the guidelines set out by the National Association of Mining
History Organisations. (NAMHO) See Appendix 2
Members are covered by Public Liability Insurance of £5,000,000.
The members are a unique mixture of the practical and academic. On the active side they explore
and survey underground features for which they have the necessary skills and equipment. Some
projects call for technical expertise in the use of pumps, winches, timbering, etc. Safety is a very big
feature in the Group’s activities and new members are taught the skills by others with many years’
experience. On the academic side, they carry out documentary research in local and national
archives. All these skills are brought together to publish the history of sites in the Group’s reports.
The Group produces regular Newsletters and also larger Research Reports are occasionally produced
on specific subjects where the content sufficient to warrant it.
The Group is willing, at short notice, to visit sites where they can advise on the origin and extent of
an underground feature. Although they concentrate on Kent, the Group has been called to sites
further afield. There are a number of experienced Field Officers who carry out the initial visit and, if
further work is needed, they will arrange for other members to join them to carry out exploration
The Group has a great deal of experience and knowledge in the field of underground exploration and
have produced specialist reports for such bodies as: InterRoute Ltd, National Trust, Kent County
Council (Highways), Kent County Council (Heritage Conservation,) Fort Amherst, Crossness Engine
Trust, Canterbury Cathedral, Thanet District Council, Bovis Homes, University of Greenwich, Hartley
Parish Council, and Maidstone Borough Council. The Group also manufactures and installs steel grills
over open shafts on behalf of the Kent Bat Group.
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A measured survey will be made using accepted cave survey techniques to a British Cave Research
Association standard (see Appendix 3) which will plot the underground structure and any historical
and archaeological features.
Note: Whilst the survey will show the general layout of the underground site, the limitations of the
methods used may render the survey unsuitable for any subsequent engineering purpose.
The underground structure and any associated surface features will be examined by a KURG
archaeologist who will endeavour to date the site and determine its original and any subsequent
Any artefacts found in-situ will be recorded and photographed in context and will not be removed
from the site without the express permission of the landowner. Removal of artefacts would only be
undertaken in extreme circumstances.
During the investigation notes will be made of any obviously unstable areas, loose or missing
brickwork, roof falls etc.
Note: Whilst KURG members are experienced in investigating underground structures they are not
structural engineers or engineering geologists so that any opinions given on stability will be based on
simple observations only. KURG will normally suggest that a professional structural survey be carried
out after the Group’s visit if stability is considered an issue.
As soon as practically possible KURG will draw up any measured survey and produce a report of the
investigation, copies of which will be provided to the landowner, tenant or contractor.
No external publication will be made of any survey, report, or photographs without the specific
permission of the landowner, tenant or contractor.
Unless otherwise agreed KURG retains the copyright of any such survey, report, photographic record
etc. Page 5 of 29
General Safety Notes
The team leader will gather as much information as possible on the site and underground feature
before the visit. This may be from the landowner, tenant, contractor or agent and from any archive
research that can be accomplished in the time available.
The Kent Underground Research Group (KURG) team are all competent speleologists with a great
deal of experience in underground exploration and recording. Several members of the team are also
members of the South East Cave Rescue Organisation (SECRO).
Members entering underground sites do so entirely at their own risk.
KURG members are covered by Public Liability Insurance (administered by the British Caving
Association) for £5,000,000 covering underground activities.
All members involved with the investigation will read, and agree to comply, with the provisions of
the Risk Assessment and associated Method Statement.
Members should all be up to date with anti-Tetanus injections.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
High visibility vests/jackets to be worn on site where appropriate.
All members will wear safety helmets to the required BS standard. Suitable stout footwear will be
worn. Electric cap-lamps will be used for personal lighting, normally of the type used by the British
Back up lighting will be carried.
In sites in which there is a risk of contracting Wiels disease, gloves and suitable clothing must be
worn at all times.
All ladders, belays, tethers, harnesses, ropes etc. used are manufactured to the relevant BS standard
and will have been regularly inspected/tested and approved by the KURG Equipment Officer.
All ladders, SRT lines etc. will be rigged by an experienced team member and checked by the climber
Ladders, SRT lines shall always use different anchor points to the lifeline.
A Mining Flame Safety Lamp will be used underground to monitor for low oxygen / explosive gases.
Winches, ventilation equipment will be under the control of an experienced member trained in their
use by the KURG Engineer.
Whilst voice communications will be sufficient in most circumstances radios will be used for
communicating down deep shafts. In case of radio failures an agreed system of whistle signals or
tugs on lifeline to be adopted. (See Appendix 2 – NAMHO Guidelines)
KURG members are experienced, competent, speleologists who are used to exploring and surveying
in extremely tight spaces.
Whilst the KURG is a volunteer group and members are not paid contactors or staff as applicable to
the Health and Safety at Work Act, the KURG are mindful of the provisions of the Confined Spaces
Regulations 1997 and the guidance notes given in the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 Approved
Code of Practice, Regulations and guidance published by the Health and Safety Executive (Second
Edition 2009) and have adopted a safe system of operation underground. (See Appendix 1)