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Practicalities of Ground Investigations

Practicalities of Ground Investigations

agb Environmental has been fortunate enough to work on a wide variety of ground investigation project types, with a significant number of different clients. Over the years, the team has built up experience of what it takes to ensure a ground investigation can run smoothly, meaning on time and to budget delivery.

This blog explores some of the common issues that the team has faced, in delivering high quality ground investigation services.

Health & Safety

Arguably this should be top of everyone’s list. By the nature of ground investigations, they present a risk to the workers. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure full consideration has been given to the risks posed by ground investigations.

There are two main types of risk; one in using the equipment itself, and the second in what risks lie beneath the ground waiting for the unsuspecting engineer.

Fortunately, the risks posed by use of the equipment can be easily dealt with by only instructing competent contractors, and checking that they have safe systems of work in place (risk assessments).

What lies beneath is more challenging. The most common risk is that of buried services. Fortunately this can be easily overcome through acquisition of buried service plans from the Statutory Undertakers (power companies for example), and through on-site buried service scans.

agb Environmental has safe systems of work in place for all jobs, including requiring buried service plans prior to commencing any instructive works.

CDM Regulations

Perhaps closely allied to H&S is CDM. It is worth remembering that ground investigations are considered part of the construction project, and should be covered under CDM requirements.

In many cases, ground investigations precede any main construction, including the development of the core CDM and H&S information. Nevertheless, ground investigations must still adhere to the CDM requirements.


The equipment required for ground investigations can be large and challenging to manoeuvre. On tight sites, this may mean using a smaller piece of equipment, which is less efficient, or securing parking restrictions so the equipment can get onto the site. On sensitive sites, such as schools, it may mean working with site managers to avoid certain areas or working during particular times of day.

Access restrictions need to be established up front to ensure the right equipment can be scheduled. In all cases, this will mean considering the access pre-quotation or during a site walkover as part of a Phase 1 desk study.

Neighbourhood Issues

There is a long list of example projects where local politics have played a critical part in managing the practicalities of ground investigations.

By their nature, ground investigations are intrusive – they can’t be hidden away. One common result is that a development still at the pre-planning stage can be thrust into the spotlight when drilling equipment begins work on-site. In some cases this can mobilise communities and local Councillors to become involved in the project, which inevitably can lead to delays for the project and ill feeling amongst locals.

Consideration of noise, dust and fumes are common, especially on tight or sensitive sites.

Reinstatement Standards

Ground investigations can be a messy operation. Soil, water and heavy disturbance can lead to disruption. In some cases, investigations in sensitive areas (such as playgrounds, active car parks or roads) can significantly raise the standards of reinstatement required. In some cases, the cost of the reinstatement can double (or more) the cost of the investigation.

As a result, it is important to establish the reinstatement standards at the outset, so these can be programmed and costed into the project.

Our Services

agb Environmental has developed a checklist for clients to review prior to instructing a ground investigation. The checklist helps ensure that the most common issues have been considered upfront, which will reduce the risks to the project. For more information on the practicalities of ground investigations, or to obtain a copy of the checklist, contact Simon Pike, Principal Consultant, on 01638 663226 or

Geotechnical, News