Dominica Health and Safety - Operation Wallacea

Expedition Information

Dominica Health and Safety

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
BS8848 compliance document
Dive Standards and Procedures
Dominica 2016 Medical Report

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

The first concern of all activities undertaken as part of Operation Wallacea expeditions is the reduction of risk to health and safety as far as practically possible. 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 Dominica.

  • 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 regular basis at each camp 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 (forest research centre, forest survey sites, marine site etc.), activity undertaken (eg diving, trekking, etc) as well as specific research project associated risks.
  • 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.

  • The risk assessments identify the main safety measures to reduce the risk to volunteers at the various camps and on different activities.
  • There is regular on site auditing to check that the risk reduction measures identified in the risk assessments are being implemented in full.

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

  • The forest research centre has permanent cell phone reception and there is cell phone reception at most of the survey locations in the forest. The buses and other vehicles are all equipped with cell phones and, in the case of the boats, VHF radios.
  • All teams working in the forest have to carry a cell phone and check in and out when operating from the research centre.
  • All teams leaving these camps have to carry a basic First Aid kit with them.
  • All dive boats have to carry a First Aid kit, an oxygen supply and delivery system capable of administering oxygen for sufficient time for the boat to return to the dive base and to the recompression facilities in Roseau. All dive staff supervising dives have been trained in oxygen administration.
  • There are hospitals with good facilities for most possible injuries (eg broken bones, dehydration, tropical diseases etc.) in Roseau and Portsmouth, and a decompression chamber in Roseau.
  • Evacuation plans for Medium, High and Emergency Priority evacuations have been developed for each of the sites.

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 site managers 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.
  • The accident and illness reports are published on the Op Wall web site.

General travel and health advice

It is worth checking the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office or the US State Departments’ web pages on travel advice to Dominica. Both stress that most visits to the country are trouble free but there are incidents of crime in the country, as in any country, and that visitors should take the same level of care that they would show if they were at home. The sites where you will be based on the Opwall expeditions are remote and relatively unpopulated, so crime is not likely to be an issue. However we always monitor the various government advice on travel to Dominica and will react accordingly should travel be deemed unsafe to any of the project locations. The main risk from crime is when you are travelling to and from the sites and you will be accompanied at all times on these journeys by experienced staff.

Physical Fitness

The level of fitness required to participate in the research programme is reasonably high.  Some of the forest is fairly steep and accessing the forest sites can require a hike of some 40-60 minutes in humid and hot conditions.  Surveys can require being out in the field for up to 6 hours and walking around constantly during this time so having a good level of fitness prior to coming out is preferable.

Before you join the project it is well worth starting a fitness routine so that you can get to the level required for the site at which you will be based. You will still have to acclimatise to the higher temperatures though when you arrive!