Expedition Information

Cuba health and safety information

Risk is inherent in everything that we do in life. Without accepting and understanding these risks, we would not be able to do anything at all. The first concern of all activities undertaken as part of Operation Wallacea expeditions is to gain an understanding of the environments we will be working in, and from this to reduce risk to health and safety as far as is possible. These pages are devoted to explaining our approach to health and safety, and to giving as much advice as we are responsibly able.

Health & safety documents

Risk Assessments
Medical and Evacuation Procedures
Health and Safety Information for Local Education Authorities
2016 Health and Safety Report
BS8848 compliance document
Dive Standards and Procedures

After an independent assessment Operation Wallacea has been awarded the Learning Outside the Classroom badge for safety and quality.

Operation Wallacea’s Approach to Health and Safety

Operation Wallacea has a seven point health & safety policy which is reproduced below together with notes on how each of these policy points are implemented:

1. Provision of relevant health and safety information to all volunteers before they arrive in Cuba

  • All volunteers are provided with information on the immunisations and prophylactic medications required before they join the project.
  • Information is also provided on necessary equipment for activities such as trekking and staying in the forest.

2. Ensuring that appropriate qualified and experienced staff are employed on the project and that all field staff and group leaders are trained in the safe operating procedures.

  • All staff have to go through an on site induction course which includes training in the relevant procedures.
  • Auditing of operating procedures on a monthly basis at each site followed by meetings of all relevant staff to identify corrective actions needed.

3. Identification of the risks associated with activities and locations, as well as the development of measures to minimise these risks.

  • Risk assessments are produced by the relevant staff for each location visited (dive site, Felipe Poey) activity undertaken (eg diving, turtle monitoring, transect surveys, etc).
  • Staff are required to consult these reports before visiting a new site, undertaking a new activity or participating in a new project. The risk assessments are continually evaluated and updated.

4. Development and implementation of safe operating procedures for each of the activities undertaken

  • Sign out/in procedures for all groups leaving camps have been put into position and search and recovery procedures for teams missing return and contact deadlines.
  • Additional procedures cover aspects such as hygiene, snorkelling and swimming and many other aspects
  • All diving is carried out in accordance with the strict procedures.

5. Ensuring there are adequate communication, medical and evacuation procedures in position

  • The Colony Hotel has handphone and landline telephone connections as well as email.
  • The Marina and Research Centre has handphone connections and radio connections to all the research boats being used.
  • All boats have VHF radios and a check in check out procedure for each journey.
  • The hotel has 24 hour nurse cover and a well stocked clinic on site.
  • All boats being used for diving have a First Aid Kit, Oxygen supply and delivery system capable of administering oxygen for sufficient time for transport to the recompression chamber in Nueva Gerona (approximately 1 hour transit time from the marina). All dive staff supervising dives are trained in oxygen administration.
  • The ranger station has a First Aid kit.
  • There are hospitals with good facilities for most possible injuries (eg broken bones, dehydration, tropical diseases) in Nueva Gerona and for serious emergencies then there are really top class hospital facilities in Havana.
  • Evacuation plans for Emergency Priority evacuations (normally by speedboat with ambulance to meet the patient at the marina have been developed for each of the sites. Evacuation plans for High Priority (fastest overland route to a hospital) and Medium Priority (most convenient and comfortable overland route) have also been developed for each site and will be practised before the start of the season.

6. Training of all volunteers on arrival in the safe operating procedures, and acquainting them with the medical facilities available.

  • All volunteers on arrival are given a general health and safety briefing.
  • Additional briefings are given by leaders as the volunteers join new projects or visit new areas

7. Recording all illnesses, accidents, near-misses or incidents which may have a bearing on health and safety and using this information as part of an ongoing refinement of the operating procedures.

  • The Medical Officers keep detailed confidential medical records on all staff and volunteers, which are used in combination with accident and ‘near miss’ data reported by various staff, in compiling accident and illness reports.

General Travel and Health

It is worth checking the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office web page on travel advice to Cuba. It stresses that most visits to the country are trouble free but that petty and occasionally violent crime can be a problem in the country. The isle of Youth sites where you will be based on the Opwall expeditions are so remote and unpopulated that this is not likely to be an issue when you are working at these sites. The risk is slightly higher while in Havana, though the local police service is very good.

Please note that before you join the expedition that you should have completed and returned the detailed and confidential medical form sent to you by Operation Wallacea. On occasions these questionnaires reveal conditions that need further investigation before you join the expeditions so please make sure you return the forms as early as possible so that the Operation Wallacea medical staff can check them and make any necessary additional enquiries. Many GPs will usually only be giving advice to holidaymakers. You are going on expedition, living in fairly remote areas – so make this clear to your GP.

We strongly advise that you see your dentist for a check-up and any necessary treatment 2-3 months before the expedition starts. Usually there is no dental treatment available on expedition.