Madagascar health and safety information - Operation Wallacea

Expedition Information

Madagascar 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
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 & 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 Madagascar

  • 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 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 (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

  • 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 camps have been put into position and search and recovery procedures for teams missing return and contact deadlines.
  • Additional procedures cover aspects such as safe driving, hygiene, snorkelling and swimming and many other aspects

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

  • There are radio communications between teams in the field and the camps at either Mariarano village or the Western Forest. There is a satelite phone in Mariarano.
  • No teams can leave camp without a radio, without a guide, and without signing out. All teams to sign in on return.
  • Each of the camps has a qualified Medical Officer who must be contactable at all times.
  • The Medical Officer is responsible for ensuring that all the medical kits are replenished as necessary.
  • There are hospitals with good facilities for most possible injuries (eg broken bones, dehydration, scorpion stings, tropical diseases) in Mahajanga (approximately 4 hours by car) and extensive hospital facilities in Antananarivo (approximately 3 hours by helicopter) for any emergencies where there is a threat to life or limb.
  • Evacuation plans for emergency, high, and medium priority evacuation routes have been developed for all 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 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 or the US State Departments’ web pages on travel advice to Madagascar. Both stress that there is a low threat of terrorism in Madagascar but the country has ¬†political unrest in its recent past and the situation in the centre of the capital (Antananarivo) should be carefully monitored. It is also advised that those travelling to Madagascar do so with established operators who can monitor the national media and react accordingly. The sites where you will be based on the Op Wall expeditions are remote and relatively unpopulated, and are vast distances (both geographically and socially) from the disturbances in the capital. Volunteers will not spend any time in the centre of Antananarivo and will be in a hotel in a very safe area on the outskirts of the city. However we always monitor the local media and work with in-country partners who are able to quickly adapt travel plans and advice if necessary.

Physical fitness

The level of fitness required to participate in the Madagascar project are relatively low: although you may be required to trek considerable distances with your rucksack, the terrain is fairly flat and the temperatures during the June-July period are not as hot as during the “summer” months. However it can still get very hot during the day, and is very dry (on average it rains less than one day per month during June and July), so precautions are taken to ensure all volunteers and staff remain hydrated.