Employers are required to take every reasonable step to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees.
But what happens when your employees are travelling away from the office?
Since the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act in 2007 the HSE has been actively prosecuting directors and managers for health and safety failings within their company.
While most HSE prosecutions relate to site-based accidents, companies also have a duty of care to their employees who are off site on company business.
In the case of business travellers, employers would be wise to actively consider the many problems their employees could face while they are away from base and plan how each one would be handled. Because if they are on your business they are on your watch – and the cost of prevention is less than the cost of dealing with incidents.
Plan here for problems there
Sadly there are many real risks facing business travellers, especially those heading abroad. At one end you have the (rare) cases of terror attacks, kidnapping, epidemic diseases and natural disasters, at the other the far more frequent incidents such as road accidents, illnesses and falling victim to petty crime.
These and more could be considered under the Duty of Care section of a comprehensive and robust Travel Management Policy.
The Duty of Care aspects could sit with your company’s security team or your HR department, but meetings and travel managers, organisers and bookers should also be able to contribute to the document and keep it updated to reflect new and changing information.
Looking at the potential pitfalls already mentioned (terror attacks, kidnapping, epidemic diseases, natural disasters, road accidents, sudden illness, petty crime) each one of them could be considered alongside a list of questions that would need to be answered – fast – in each scenario:
- Who would they contact, and how?
- Who would take responsibility for their wellbeing?
- Who else would need to be informed?
- What steps would be taken to improvetheir situation?
- How would those steps be funded?
While some incidents are statistically more likely than others, this does not mean that nothing can be done to prevent them. After all, risk management is a refusal to believe that ‘accidents happen’.
Take road traffic accidents, which would rank as
a higher risk event for employees travelling abroad. The fact is that different countries have different rules that can catch people by surprise.
So while your employees may be perfectly able to drive, part of your Duty of Care could involve advising them how to drive elsewhere.
1. Create destination guides
Prepare guidelines for your travellers explaining any local rules, regulations and customs that could get them into trouble if not adhered to. The UK Government’s Foreign Office keeps its website updated with travel alerts, local laws and customs, health advice and more covering 225 countries and territories and should have most of the information you need to create bespoke sheets for your regular business destinations. (See www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice).
2. Secure appropriate insurance
Standard terms and off-the-shelf policies may not offer adequate protection for all business travellers. Check the small print to see what exemptions are listed under the terms and conditions.
3. Enable two-way communications
Travellers should set off knowing who they are supposed to get in touch with if they have problems and how. They should also know how to inform you of their whereabouts and status, so ensure you have a communication channel that will be open around the clock to cover different time zones.
4. Centralise critical data
If you are organising meetings or events, gather your delegate registration details into one centralised system. This will make it easier and quicker for you to find important information (names, contact numbers) and send out urgent communications.
5. Inntel i-Care
A central source of critical information for crisis management
Inntel has developed its own bespoke traveller tracking tool that sits within the company’s online booking platform (i-Central) and provides clients with real-time information on their employees’ locations, including their scheduled journeys and destinations.
Should a crisis occur, employers can use the detailed traveller information in i-Care to locate, contact and protect their employees as quickly as possible.