Safety is one word that should not be toiled with both in our personal and professional life. For the surveying profession, it is one area that is less talked about but that still does not negate the fact that surveyors encounter different levels of risk while on site. During a bathymetric survey, surveyors are exposed to different life-threatening dangers so it is important that surveyors have an accurate understanding of the environment in order to manage and minimize risk on site. A changing current on the water can easily sweep someone away in the event of a fall or slip and it is important that surveyors adhere to some safety measures in order to safeguard their lives and equipment while on site.

In this article, we are going to highlight some of the risks surveyors could face during a bathymetric survey or a hydrographic survey and some safety measures/tips to adhere to.

Some of the risks associated with bathymetric surveys include:

1. Drowning or hypothermia caused by falling into the water

2. Foot disorders caused by constant exposure of the foot to water

3. Health risks like contracting diseases or infections like typhoid, cholera, hookworm, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis, etc which are caused by coming in contact with water that has bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

4. Slips and falls caused by not wearing the appropriate site boot.


1. Never work alone:  when working on site, surveyors are advised to work in pairs and never alone but where it becomes imperative that they work separately, it is advised that they go with a walkie-talkie in order to be in communication with each other and immediately communicate any danger to their partner.  

2. Basic swimming lesson: it is advised that every surveyor should have basic swimming skills. This will enable them to be able to manage to stay afloat until help comes in the event of a fall, slip, or a capsized boat. 

3. Never go without a life jacket/personal flotation device (PFD):  it is a known fact that the weather at sea can be very unpredictable, it can be very calm when you leave the dock but there is no guarantee that it will stay that way. You are advised to always wear a lifejacket wherever you go aboard a boat for any bathy survey. Research has also revealed that about 85% of people who drown at sea were not wearing a life jacket.

4. Dress to stay warm: Hypothermia is one of the effects of standing or staying out for too long in the water. Surveyors are advised to protect their health and wear appropriate clothing while doing a bathymetric survey in order to avoid the risk of getting hypothermia.

5. Ensure the safety of transport means and appropriate size: when using boats during a bathymetric survey, supervisors are advised to ensure that the boat is in perfect condition before surveyors board it. There have been several reported cases of boats failing engines in the middle of the sea/waterbody endangering the safety of surveyors. Again, because survey equipment needs to be mounted on the same boat, supervisors are advised to make sure that the right size of a boat is being used to avoid overloading the boat and drowning the occupants of the boat.

6. Ensure you use site boots: because there are chances of surveyors standing for a very long period of time, they are advised to wear the appropriate site boot in order to avoid fungal infection or foot disorders caused when the foot is constantly warm and wet.

7. Seek and adhere to the weather forecasts as regards possible flood warnings and stay out of water during those periods.

8. Always go with a first-aid kit. 

N.B Survey employers are advised to give adequate training to employees on risk management and safety measures. They should always pair old and experienced employees who are familiar with the terrain or work demands and its risks, the weather conditions, and equipment with new and inexperienced employees.

You, as a surveyor, are also advised to get a copy of the surveyor’s safety handbook and be familiar with the guidelines.