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Coronavirus and Caving

Please read the following message from Russell Myers, the Acting Secretary of the British Caving Association, regarding the BCA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updated 5th July 2020

Update – October 14th

A BCA Covid-19 Risk Assessment and Delivery Plan template is now available for member clubs to download here. Please address any questions you may have to the Secretary at secretary@british-caving.org.uk

Update – September 29th

New guidance has been released on Single Rope Technique Training in England – other parts of the UK may have different rules that make this guidance too restrictive or not restrictive enough. You can find the document here.

Update – July 5th

BCA notes that travel restrictions across England, Scotland and Wales will, by the 6th July be removed. It is also noted that the various governments have introduced different limits on the numbers of people who may congregate as a ‘gathering’. BCA now considers that the risk from the Coronavirus Covid 19 is sufficiently well understood that caving and mine exploration may be resumed subject to a number of considerations. They are:

  1. Some landowners may have changed the conditions they impose on access to their caves and mines, so do consult your Regional Caving Council web sites (links below) for more information;
  2. Plan for an alternative location if the location is already occupied, so as to minimise the risk of transmission of the coronavirus between groups;
  3. Noting that whilst some rural communities are content to see cavers, others may still be reluctant to have visitors, so check local information before visiting and take care when approaching any location;
  4. The ‘service’ provided by cave rescue organisations may be reduced and could take longer to arrive at the scene of an incident, so cavers and mine explorers should special care to reduce the risk of a call out;
  5. Follow government guidance on contact with shared tackle, hand washing / use of hand sanitizer and maintain an appropriate social distance where reasonably possible both above and under ground, so as to minimise the risk of transmission of the coronavirus; and
  6. Keep a record for 21 days of whom you have associated with in case they subsequently realise that they are infected, so as to facilitate the government’s test and trace program.

It is noted that the BCA considers that clubs with tackle should be able to set up a suitably safe and secure loan system involving a quarantine period to enable the tackle to be available. (Advice on cleaning tackle can be found here.) A similar quarantine based system could also be applied to other club possessions such as library books and keys to caves.

Whilst the government in England has reduced the legal restrictions which cover the use of club huts, some remain. The regulations do require both a risk assessment and also that all reasonable measures have been taken; reasonable measures being those specified in government guidance. One relaxation is that the hut may be occupied by more than 6 people up to the capacity limit identified in the assessment of risk and as considered compliant with government guidance. But the guidance notes that “any individual groups should not interact with anyone outside of the group they are attending the venue with – so in a group no larger than two households or six people if outdoors”. So social distancing is required between groups. The opening of huts is therefore a complex question and very dependent upon the layout of the hut. Some guidance is available at here and here. Advice targeted at the UK Hospitality sector can also be found here . Not only will a risk assessment be required but it is also considered prudent to have recorded information on how reasonable measures in government guidance have been considered. BCA has prepared a document entitled “Advice on Inspection of Huts prior to re-opening”. The BMC’s equivalent document can be found here.

The Scottish and Welsh governments have indicated relaxations in the law covering club huts might occur from the 15 and 13 July, for which guidance can be found here and here respectively.

For guidance on the situation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, see the Speleological Union of Ireland web site.

Please consult your local Regional Council for further advice.

One reply on “Coronavirus and Caving”

Reference the use of face covering underground. Within the instructed side of caving we, amongst many other instructors, LCMLA and CIC’s have been using face coverings for extended periods underground with no major issues. These have also been used by clients during the majority of situations. While they may be hot and you do find quite a bit of condensation underneath, they work quite effectively. Even when operating in vertical caves and using SRT or Ladders they work well as a method of reducing potential transmission. I would personally and professionally recommend all cavers to use face coverings during their trips. When you take into account the nature of air flow underground then anywhere other than the largest of passageways or in chambers would be considered acceptable areas to not wear one when keeping a good distance apart. If anything by wearing them we are showing that we understand the risks and are caving in a socially responsible manner.

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