Participating in the BOCN  
Volunteering Safely #3
  Some Safety Advice

Before you embark on conservation work of any kind, (e.g. erecting a nest box) take time to prepare for any hazards that you might encounter and consider the risks posed by the various hazards. Carry out a Risk Assessment* for every outing or task. This is standard practice for professionals and companies – but even if you are an amateur or a volunteer, you should aim to work to high standards where health and safety is concerned. Time spent in preparation is seldom wasted.

Try to avoid encountering hazards in the first place, but if you cannot, then you should take steps to minimise the risks posed by them. If it is not realistically possible to reduce risks to a reasonable level by working differently, then you should not do the task until a better situation can be achieved. (Consider teamwork, better methods, different weather conditions, etc.)

Hazards might include: falling from a ladder; material falling from unsound buildings; injury from heavy lifting; dropping something onto another person; or injury from tools. Although Advisors and volunteers involved with the BOCN are usually working with Barn Owls, the Tawny Owl may be encountered, which is notorious for very aggressive defence of its nest sites and territory.

If you incur an injury when working alone, or get stuck at a remote location, you could be in serious danger. Think about how you would cope.

The following are examples of precautions you should take to reduce the risk of accident while, e.g. installing or monitoring nest boxes:
1. If possible take a companion. However if working at an isolated site on your own, before you set off let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.

2. Carry a mobile phone if you have one. (Fully charged.)

3. Never carry a nest box up into position until all necessary preparatory work is complete. Double-check your measuring to confirm that boxes will fit in place before you climb a ladder, because you do not want to be struggling with it at the top.

4. Only use ladders in a safe condition. Then ensure that your ladder is secure before climbing it, tying it at the bottom and top before ascending.

5. Avoid over-reaching. Never attempt to carry out any task up a ladder if you cannot reach comfortably. Do not over-extend ladders or overload them, and follow manufacturer advice.

6. When planning how to position, support and fix a nest box, try to create a situation where the box can rest in position without being held. This will allow you to have both hands free to fix it safely.

7. When carrying a nest box up a ladder, ensure that it is kept low relative to your body (ideally not above waist height). Try to keep the box in front of both you and the ladder so that it pulls you towards the ladder - never hold a nest box behind or above you. This will keep your centre of gravity down.

You are responsible for your own safety – assess the risks and be careful.

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