Expedition Information

Fiji 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

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 Fiji.

  • 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 diving and trekking through 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 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, forest base camp, trek location) 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 main base in the forest and at Natewa Bay all have radio and/or handphone contact with the Natewa Bay Marine Research Centre.
    All boats leaving the marine base have VHF radios and a check in check out procedure for each journey. These radios can communicate with the research centre in the event of an emergency.
    All teams working in the forest have to carry a radio and check in and out when operating from the forest base camps.
    Each site has a qualified Medical Officer and extensive medical supplies.
  • All teams leaving these camps have to carry a 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 Natewa marine base. The base has large oxygen bottles with an adequate supply for evacuating two patients to be transported to recompression facilities. All dive staff supervising dives are trained in oxygen administration.
  • The Medical Officer is responsible for ensuring that all the medical kits and oxygen bottles are replenished as necessary.
  • There are hospitals with good facilities for most possible injuries (eg broken bones, dehydration, snake bites, tropical diseases, a decompression chamber) for stabilising patients.
  • Evacuation plans for Medium, High and Emergency Priority evacuations have been developed for each of the sites. Medical and evacuation insurance cover has been purchased for all participants and costs and payment methods agreed in advance with the

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.
  • The accident and illness reports are published on the OpWall web site (unless the site is in its first year of operation).

General Travel and Health Advice for Fiji

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides comprehensive travel advice, but we must stress that this is just ‘advice’. The FCO advises that most Fijian visits are trouble-free although care should be taken when visiting city areas, particularly in more remote areas. Additionally, whilst cyclone season occurs between November and April, weather can be unpredictable at times throughout the year.

More information on health and safety issues relevant to Fiji can be found by clicking on the following links:

British Government Travel Advice: www.fco.gov.uk
US Government Travel Advice: www.travel.state.gov.
Independent Air Travel Advice: www.airsafe.com
Indonesian Ministry of Transport: www.transport.gov.fj
PADI Dive Safety: http://user.itl.net/~gemble/ob/main/safe.htm
Australian Venom Research Unit: www.avru.org
Marine Specific Medicine: www.marine-medic.com.au
Dangerous Marine Organisms: http://www.afpmb.org/pubs/Field_Guide/field_guide.htm
Diving Related Medicine: www.scuba-doc.com

Physical Fitness

The level of fitness required to participate in the research programme varies depending on the site at which you will be based. The most physically demanding part of the expedition is probably the PADI Open Water dive training course, if you choose to do this. In order to be able to participate in the Open Water Dive Training programme you will need to be able to swim 200 metres, and tread water for 10 minutes unaided.

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!