Cambridge Underground 1984 pp 33-34

Draft EEC Caving Regulations

It has come to our notice that caves do not fulfil the EEC aim of standardisation throughout the community, and that they are generally in contravention of EEC Health and Safety Regulations (H&SR). We have therefore drawn up a standard for caves that will be enforced by new legislation.


This raises questions of both length and depth. Many caves pose unacceptable strains on the stamina of cavers, and the general aim here is to shorten all caves to an acceptable size. Many will also need enlarging, the Commission feeling that the "squeezes" and "crawls" that are found underground are too dangerous.

As a general rule all cave passages will be large enough as to permit the passage of a beach-ball of 2m diameter. This will, we feel, help to reduce the incidence of both back-ache and abrasion of elbows and knees among cavers, bringing the sport into line with the H&SR.

There are also many caves that are too deep. Pitches are another unacceptable hazard, and must therefore be brought under careful control. We propose two alternative systems.

a) For larger caves, a chair-lift system. These will be operated in accordance with safety regulations similar to those used in mountainous regions.

b) For smaller caves, pitches will be eliminated and slopes with an angle not exceeding 45° instituted. These slopes will have numerous holds within them, and will not exceed 7m in length. Professional staff will be employed to supervise their use, and to ensure that the slopes are kept clean and dry. Lifelining will be compulsory, and performed by the above staff.

Concerning the lengths of caves, we feel that no caver should cave for more than 4 hours without rest. This leads us to the provision of facilities within caves.


These are currently in a deplorable state. Refreshment is normally limited to a soggy chocolate bar, while there are no provisions for rest or recovery after or during strenuous exercise. This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. The commission therefore proposes the following changes.

a) Rest stations. These will consist of warm and comfortable cafés, with showers and rapid drying rooms attached. Warm, non-alcoholic, beverages will be served, as will hot food, reasonable prices being guaranteed by an EEC subsidy. Stops at rest stations will be compulsory, to prevent cavers reaching dangerous states of exhaustion and exposure.

b) Communications. This is another area which has led to accidents in the past. Thus, emergency telephones will be installed at 100m intervals within the cave to prevent cavers becoming lost. They will be clearly signposted, and a map of the cave will be posted by each telephone showing its position.

c) Lighting. This is currently the most urgent problem. The current lighting in caves is appalling, falling below the most lax H&SR requirements. Natural lighting is virtually non-existant, while personal lighting is often minimal and unreliable. We therefore propose to install low-power lighting throughout the cave, with high-powered lighting at all awkward and potentially dangerous places. Back-up generators will be installed in case of power failure.

We now consider the question of equipment used by cavers.

Personal Equipment

This is often dangerously varied and of questionable reliability. We therefore feel it necessary to impose certain guidelines.

a) Clothing. The existing wetsuit is barely adequate given that its method of operation requires the wearer to be wet. This must therefore be replaced by a drysuit with a portable temperature control unit. Full-face helmets complete with visors will also we worn to avoid accidental injury on any remaining rock prejections. The existing harnesses are in the main inadequate, but in future two will have to be worn in case a failure.

b) Ropes and Ladders. Ropes are seen by the commission as being among the most dangerous pieces or equipment used, especially when employed in the "SRT" mode. In future, any remaining "SRT" pitches will be done with a lifeline, although given the changes outlined above we can see both ladders and ropes ceasing to become important.

Temperature and Water levels

The question of H&SR also raises the issue of cave temperature and water levels. Many caves are dangerously prone to flooding, so that streamways will need diversion into reservoirs separate from the main body of the cave. From here the water can be heated to a suitable temperature and released back into the streamway at a safe, controlled rate. These provisions will both raise safety standards and increase comfort.


This report outlines the standards to which member countries will, in future, be expected to conform with regards to caves. The commission realises that reaching these standards may well prove costly, and has several suggestions to make.

a) All real caves should be sealed and new ones created by roofing over derelict quarries, the new cave being constructed of strong but lighweight synthetic materials. This would have the added advantage of reducing the danger in the event of the cave collapsing due to unforseen stresses.

b) Local caving councils should apply for EEC Rural Development Grants. Another source of grant income could be CAP-aided mushroom production. Either request should prove fruitful.

c) Part of the cost of re-modelling existing caves could be met by offering a section of the cave as a storage area for EEC agricultural products; however, any attempt to store wine surpluses by circulating them through streamway networks will be opposed and funds not granted or withheld.

d) A final source of grant aid may be found by clubs appealing for EEC funds for the assistance of ethnic minorities, the current rather exotic clothing and quaint rituals of cavers almost guaranteeing a sympathetic hearing.

Hopefully this memorandum has made clear the impending changes in speleology. We at the commission feel sure that all cavers will join with us in seeing these new standards as a major advance, and will therefore hasten to implement them.

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