Mexico health and safety information - Operation Wallacea

Expedition Information

Mexico 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
2017 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.

  • 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 (forest camps, trek locations, dive sites) 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 practiced 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, trekking, diving and many other aspects .

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

  • Phones are kept at each of the forest camps, and radios are used to communicate between survey groups and the camps.
  • All teams working in the forest have to carry a radio and check in and out when operating from the forest base camps.
  • Each of the camps has a qualified Medical Officer and extensive medical supplies.
  • There are hospitals with good facilities for most possible injuries (eg broken bones, dehydration, snake bites, tropical diseases) in Chetumal approximately 3 hours from the forest camps, or Playa del Carmen close to the marine site.
  • Evacuation plans for High Priority emergency evacuations (normally by plane/helicopter but in some cases in conjunction with overland routes) have been developed for each of the sites. Evacuation plans for Medium Priority (fastest overland route to a hospital) and Low Priority (most convenient and comfortable overland route) have also been developed for each site and will be practiced 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 or the US State Departments’ web pages on travel advice to Mexico. Both stress that most visits to the country are trouble free but that petty and occasionally, violent crime can be a problem in the country. The sites where you will be based on the Op Wall expeditions are remote and relatively unpopulated, so this is not likely to be an issue. 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 Operation Wallacea staff. The FCO also states that ‘the terrorism threat is low, but you should be aware of indiscriminate attacks from terrorists in public places ….. throughout the world’.

Physical fitness

It is a good idea to work on your fitness prior to going on expedition, as the heat and humidity in tropical forests can make trekking more tiresome than in a temperate climate. In general however, Mexico’s forests are relatively flat, but due to the heat and humidity, trekking can be tiring.