I know that it seems rather early in the year to talk about safety when collecting specimens in the field, but here it is March 1st and due to some extraordinary nice weather in the Ohio valley, Judy and I have been out and about a number of times. Most of the time all we need to use common sense and courtesy in collecting is a gentle reminder. Well, here it is.
Each situation is unique but the first thing is to use the buddy system. If you must collect alone, then at least let some-buddy know where you plan to collect and when you expect to return home. A cell phone is great to have in an emergency but you had better make sure that the batteries are good and that you can get a signal out from your 'gold mine' location. Take along (if you don't already have one in each vehicle) a first-aid kit, bottled water, energy bars etc. Yes, it may be a pain taking stock of supplies each time but it can be more of a pain if you don't have something when it's needed. I will assume that you gave your trusty vehicle the attention it needed before it runs out of its vital fluids. Don't forget road maps. Also for brevity I will assume that if this site is on private property that you have the owner’s permission to be there at that time. I would hate to travel any amount of time/miles only to find a site closed.
Road cuts abound in the tri-state and are the source of many good collecting sites. OBEY THE LAW. If the area is posted NO STANDING, NO PARKING, NO STOPPING, NO ANYTHING...then DON'T. It simply is not worth the potential trouble to you or your fellow rockhounds. Where you can stop, park the vehicle as far off the roadway as you safely can and in sight of your collecting area. Just a thought...you might think of posting a small sign in the driver’s window so that if 1aw enforcement stops to check out the car, they would know where to look for you.
You would already have inspected your collecting equipment before you left home, but let's do it again. Steel tipped boots, safety glasses, hard-hat and gloves top my list. Knee pads are good if that's your collecting posture. Remember the sun screen and sun glasses if the weather is nice. If going after a rain, road-cuts can be slippery.... watch your step. Rock hammers, chisels, anything else needed to collect should be checked to see if it is still serviceable. A hammer with a loose head is called a WEAPON. DON'T USE IT. Bring paper to wrap specimens but also bring something to carry your treasures in that leaves your hands free for climbing/balance.
To close, I would urge all who go out to be cautious and courteous; it will serve us all well.