Ecuador 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
|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 Ecuador
- All volunteers are provided with information on the immunisations and prophylactic medication 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 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 (camp or trek location) or activity undertaken 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.
- Procedures to ensure trekking teams remain in contact with all the members of the group are practised by ensuring the slowest volunteer is put at the front of the trek, all volunteers and staff carry whistles and torches and that there is a staff member at the front and the back of each trek line.
- Sign out/in procedures for all groups leaving the camp have been put into position and search and recovery procedures for teams missing return and contact deadlines.
- Additional procedures cover aspects such as hygiene and trekking and many other aspects
5. Ensuring there are adequate communication, medical and evacuation procedures in position.
- A medical officer will be on site to deal with any medical queries or illnesses.
- All camps have their own first aid kits for emergency use and all those trekking into the forest carry a mobile first aid kit.
- All teams trekking into the forest will have a guide with them and in case of emergency communications procedures are in place to ensure that contact is made immediately with the nearest camp.
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 Advice for Ecuador
It is worth checking the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Canadian Consular Affairs or the US State Departments’ web pages on travel advice to Ecuador. We are continually monitoring the situation in Ecuador and will update our advice according to the latest information available. All stress that most visits to the country are trouble free but that petty and occasionally, violent crime can be a problem in the country. They also advise against travel to the border regions with Colombia and to some departments and regions in the country, none of which the project operates in. 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 Op Wall and Ecuadorian staff.
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 by 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 outdoors 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.
The level of fitness required to participate in the research programme varies depending on the programme you are participating in. You will e required to do several hours of trekking in often difficult terrain, also the humidity levels and higher altitudes can make trekking difficult and so a decent level of fitness is required. Because of the heat and humidity, a decent level of fitness is always going to improve your comfort in the rainforest.
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!