Popular media fails to capture the dynamic, wide-ranging, remote, and often physically strenuous nature of archaeology in Southern California. From busy city streets to mobile-home parks to forests to deserts, fieldwork takes place in a variety of locations, each with their unique set of challenges.
Members of the PanGIS, Inc. staff have received 40-hour HAZWOPER training, providing extensive knowledge regarding workplace safety and practices. When required, staff receive specialized safety and environmental training, allowing members to work on active railways, roadways, and military bases.
The safety team provides periodic safety bulletins regarding matters pertinent to projects and conditions. In addition, team members often participate in tailgate safety meetings and actively promote safety in their work environment.
While administrative and engineering measures seek to minimize the risks in the field and PPE provides a final line of defense against the unexpected, constant vigilance and acquired experience further protects staff from workplace risks. This includes knowledge of local flora and fauna, fire prevention and response, geology, and terrain.
Archaeologists are adaptive, a necessary skill for successfully operating in the diverse settings they work in.
A novel challenge emerged in the field of archaeology this year: COVID-19. The virus originated in the Hubei province of China, quickly spreading through its population and beyond borders. Countries began implementing quarantines to isolate infected residents and slow the spread.
Despite this, the virus has reached and impacted every continent (except Antarctica) today. A delayed response and lack of available testing coupled with carriers expressing little-to-no symptoms allowed the virus to silently spread through the United States, now present in every state yet hitting places like New York, Washington, and California the hardest.
In the state of California, Governor Gavin Newsom implemented a stay-at-home order asking residents to only leave their homes only for essential purposes, such as purchasing food or medication.
Many businesses were asked to work from home, however certain sectors, such as essential critical function sectors, have been permitted to continue operations. These sectors are viewable here. Archaeology qualifies as an essential service as we operate with construction projects deemed critical infrastructure. Our practice allows these companies to stay in compliance while also documenting and protecting cultural resources.
As the construction industry continues to operate, so too must archaeologists. With this in mind, companies have begun implementing best practices to keep field employees safe, including disinfecting vehicle surfaces, washing hands with soap for 20 seconds after potential exposure to the virus, avoiding shaking hands, and maintaining at least 6 feet between individuals. These steps are critical to eliminate the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus and ensure workers remain safe.
Most recently, new regulations mandated that anyone out in public must wear a protective mask (for instance, a bandana, a t-shirt wrapped around the face, or modified fabric fitted with bands to wrap the mask around the face). Coupled with protective glasses, gloves, a long-sleeve shirt, and pants, archaeologists effectively prevent the virus from contacting our bodies. With these new strategies, paired with continued discipline in avoiding touching the face and constant social distancing with others, we can keep one another safe while practicing our trade.
As more information is acquired about the virus and its spread, and as our society continues to adapt to the dynamic challenges the virus presents, so too does the PanGIS, Inc. team.