Geological Hazards: How safe is Britain?

The Engineering Group (EGGS) and the South East Regional Group (SERG) of the Geological Society had a joint evening meeting on 14 October 2014. However, a technological hitch almost prevented Martin Culshaw giving his lecture entitled ‘Geological Hazards: How safe is Britain?’.  Not one to be defeated by such matters, the SERG Chairman Simon Holt, saved the day with his resourcefulness and sourced the group an alternative venue.  After a shuffle around of chairs, the 40 attendees squeezed into the rather cosy room and Martin’s whistle stop tour of geohazards that the UK is susceptible to ensued.


Martin explained that the UK is predominantly affected by secondary geohazards, being those that are partly predictable through having an understanding of the processes which cause them.  These secondary geohazards are best mitigated by planning, insuring and through site specific design.  Although this form of geohazard is commonly natural, they also have the propensity to be manmade through three main facets:

  1. Extractions of minerals and the after affects;
  2. Activities on or just below the ground surface (including unforeseen ground conditions); and
  3. Waste materials being placed upon or within the ground.

Martin rounded up his lecture through questioning the reliability of using probability as a means of assessing hazard and risk.  As probability assumes steady state conditions (which are not apparent within the natural environment), it is therefore difficult, all be it impossible, to predict the frequency of geohazards.  Despite this, through his extensive experience, Martin has observed that we have a better chance of understanding the processes which occur as a result of the geohazards. 

Martin’s powerfully worded closing statement enforced the need to fully understand the geological processes through data collection in order to determine the relative susceptibility to a particular hazard and combine this information to determine the likelihood of the occurrence of future events.

Meeting synopsis by Hannah Breen

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