South Africa Health and Safety Information - Operation Wallacea

Expedition Information

South Africa 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
South Africa 2017 Medical 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

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 South Africa.

  • 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 bush.

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 and activity undertaken.
  • 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 safe from attacks from large game species are implemented by having an armed FGASA qualified guard with rifle handling competency with each group of 8 and a vehicle nearby
  • Additional procedures cover aspects such as safe driving, hygiene, snorkelling and swimming and many other aspects
  • All diving is carried out in accordance with the strict procedures.

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

  • All sites are in telephone contact, and have mobile phone reception in almost all areas
  • All boats leaving the shore 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 reserves have to carry a radio and/or cell phone, and can ensure regular check in calls, and condition of the trekking team
  • All sites are within close evacuation proximity to western standard hospitals and medical advice.
  • 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 research centre The Mozambique base has extensive oxygen supplies with an adequate supply for evacuating two patients to recompression facilities in Richards Bay.
  • The Senior Dive Instructor is responsible for ensuring that all the medical kits and oxygen bottles are replenished as necessary.
  • Evacuation plans for emergency evacuations (normally by helicopter but in some cases in conjunction with overland routes) have been developed for each of the sites. Evacuation plans for High Priority (fastest overland route to a hospital) and Medium Priority (most convenient and comfortable overland route) have also been developed for each site and will be practised 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 Expedition Co-ordinator will keep records on accident and ‘near miss’ data reported by various staff as well as illnesses, in order to compile an accident and illness report.

General Travel and Health Advice for South Africa

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), US State departments’ and Canadian Consular web pages provide comprehensive travel advice for trips to South Africa. The FCO advises that whilst levels of crime can be high in certain areas of South Africa, this is mostly confined to townships, and thus the general risk to visitors is low. We advice exercising caution in Johannesburg International Airport as we do in all major airports – keep luggage in sight at all times, and don’t carry more cash than is necessary. However in general the people of South Africa are very friendly towards tourists, particularly in remote areas.

Physical Fitness

For the expedition in South Africa you will not be required to trek for long periods of time, or on particularly difficult terrain, and the temperature will not be overly severe. However you will still need a reasonable level of physical fitness given that you may be working in the bush digging or checking pitlines for several hours at a time. It may well be worth getting into a fitness routine before you arrive.