Working Safely on the foreshore during the COVID-19 Outbreak

Last updated on 3 September 2020.

Monitoring Visits

This guide is for FROG volunteers with Thames Discovery Programme taking part in Thames foreshore monitoring visits during the COVID-19 outbreak. It covers the steps you need to take before, during and after the visit, to ensure that they’re safe, welcoming and accessible to all.

Read Returning to the Foreshore: Taking part in in monitoring visits in a COVID-secure way

This guide has been put together in consultation with TDP volunteers, based on our Risk Assessment and Method Statement (RAMS) for Monitoring Visits during the COVID-19 outbreak. It sits alongside the existing health and safety information for FROGs, which is covered on Day 1 of FROG Training.

This guide will be reviewed regularly, particularly when the Government Guidance is updated. We’ll let FROGs know about any changes and the most up to date version will always be available on this page on our website.

Health and Safety on the Foreshore

Working on the tidal Thames can be a risky business, but following a few health and safety rules means that you can protect yourself from potential hazards. Each foreshore site is different, and each group of people working there will have different abilities and requirements. As part of our work on the foreshore, we carry out risk assessments before we work on all our sites, and we will give all participants a full induction to each site before the activity begins. The risk assessment helps us decide if the areas we want to work in are safe enough, and allows us to decide whether we can go ahead with site visits. The health and safety checklist is a useful baseline for any activity on the foreshore.

There are a number of potential hazards working near the river Thames – safe access to site; the risk of being caught by the tide and at worst, drowning; slips, trips and falls; injury caused by vegetation such as brambles, giant hogweed and nettles; the danger from discarded hypodermic needles; risk of injury from equipment and illness from contaminated water – and this list is not exhaustive! It is essential that every Thames Discovery Volunteer has undertaken a full health and safety induction, which we cover as part of our FROG Training.

A Few Essentials to Remember:


Make sure your tetanus jab is up-to-date

Wear wellingtons or sturdy boots, and comfy clothes, that are easy to move in
and you don’t mind getting dirty

Carry only essentials and preferably in something that can get dirty.

Cover any cuts or abrasions on your hands and feet with waterproof plasters

Avoid eating and drinking on the foreshore, and clean your hands beforehand. Never smoke on the foreshore, including e-cigarettes.

Never go on the foreshore alone

Always carry a fully charged mobile phone in case you need to call the coastguard/lifeboat

Avoid muddy areas and walk on stone or shingle

Weil’s Disease: What is it?


Weils disease warning!

Weil’s disease or leptospirosis is a rare but serious bacterial disease which causes liver and kidney damage and, in 5 – 10% of cases, can be fatal. It is spread in water and soil contaminated by the urine of rats, voles, and other rodents, as well as cattle, foxes and other wild animals. The disease is especially associated with urban waterways and slow moving rivers, and there are higher levels of risk after heavy rain, when drains and other areas inhabited by rats have been flushed out. The bacteria can survive in water or wet environments for up to 45 days after leaving their host animal. Humans become infected when their cuts or mucous membranes (ears, eyes, mouth, nose) are exposed to contaminated water or soil. (Information from Thames21)

Preventing Weil’s Disease

Cover all cuts and abrasions on your hands and feet with a waterproof plaster.
Wear waterproof footwear.
Never touch your eyes, ears, mouth without washing your hands first.
Wash hands throughly before eating, handling food or smoking.
Wash all body areas that come into contact with river water.
Wear gloves and use the antiseptic handrub provided by the TDP team.


Raised temperature and/or ‘chill’ feeling.
Pain in joints or muscles, often more pronounce in the calf muscles.
General feeling of an influenza-like illness

If you suffer from any of the above symptoms after a possible exposure, see a doctor immediately. Tell your GP that you may have been exposed to contaminated water and mention Weil’s disease. The disease is confirmed by an ELISA blood test and is easily treatable with antibiotics in its early stages.

The incubation period varies from 2 – 21 days.

If you have any doubts contact a healthcare professional

Useful Information

Guidelines for Safe Working in Estuaries and Tidal Areas

Information for working in tidal areas provided by the Health & Safety Executive

Tide Tables

Tide tables for the Thames provided by the Port of London Authority