37% of all Australasian companies assess risk prior to their employees travelling internationally – and 15% use legitimate resources to assess travel risk (Source: Global Business Travel Association).
Tragic incidents over the past few years have highlighted the dangers of travelling overseas. All travel, even short-term travel to familiar overseas locations for meetings and conferences, involves risk. These risks are now YOUR business, because changes to Australian legislation make employers directly responsible for the safety of their staff while travelling.
Australian legislation not only makes employers liable but also places the onus on directors to show that appropriate steps have been taken to ensure traveller welfare.
As an employer you are now required to ensure:
- a personal (and ongoing) awareness of the hazards and risks which arise from the business’ undertaking
- an awareness of their legal obligations and those of the business
- oversight of the processes and resources used by the business to manage risks
- processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards and risk
- procedures to ensure there is a timely response to any such information
- procedures to ensure the business complies with its legal obligations under OHS laws Verification of the appropriate use of the resources and processes outlined above. (Source: International SOS)
Ensuring traveller safety
Some hints and tips on what you can do to ensure your traveller's safety include:
Have a risk strategy and manage risks
Ensure you have effective risk management and contingency planning arrangements. This includes identifying risks, implementing a clear and detailed risk assessment process and train staff and managers in adherence to safety protocols
Increase awareness of destinations
Early research and planning is an integral element of managing the risk of overseas travel. You should ensure your travellers familiarise themselves with the risk profile of their destinations. There are various resources, including Federal Government information services (i.e SmartTraveller).
Be ready to respond
Organisations should routinely rehearse crisis response plans and ensure that all staff understand these arrangements and their respective roles in a crisis. The Department of Foreign Affairs suggests that these tests ensure you have:
- knowledge of travellers whereabouts at any given time
- effective means of contacting travellers in the event there is a breakdown in local communication networks
- ability to contact and support the travellers’ next of kin and other family members
- plans for delivery of routine and emergency medical services to all travellers
- plans to facilitate the travel of staff to the nearest safe location.
When in doubt - hire an expert
There is a multitude of resources available to help you with this, including:
Existing internal resources
Ensure that all travel is centrally booked and managed so that you are at least aware of who is travelling. Your travel policy should address travel risks and you should implement an approval process that at least flags "risky" destinations.
Your TMC should be able to assist by maintaining up to date records of travellers and where they are located. This means that in the event of an emergency they can automatically identify "at risk" travellers and notify your organisation, allowing you to follow up with these travellers.
Third party services
There is a range of service offerings available from third party providers, from pre-trip destination advice to traveller tracking, remote contact and on-the-ground support. Some of these services (such as destination information) are available free and online. Others come at a cost but can be completely configured to your organisations requirements. Risk management providers such as International SOS for example, provide a wide range of services from pre-destination advisories to medical assistance and evacuation. The nature of these services is that you can have as much or as little support as you need.
Having said all of the above about your responsibilities.... your travellers should also be encouraged to take some responsibility for their own welfare. They should be encouraged to:
- be aware of relevant travel management plans, risk assessments and contingency/emergency plans
- familiarise themselves with accepted practice and behaviour in their destinations
- avoid risky, dangerous and illegal behaviour
- ensure adequate supplies of fuel, food and water are on hand at residences and other accommodation to survive the duration of any crisis or emergency
- ensure that vehicles are properly maintained and fuel tanks regularly topped up
- communicate information on changing safety and security circumstances to managers.
Where to from here?
Duty of care is more than a moral obligation. It is now a legal requirement, and employers who do not take adequate steps to protect their travellers from harm can face severe penalties.
Given the wide variety of support available from a broad range of sources, there’s no excuse for not adequately addressing travel risk.
With appropriate planning, thoughtful use of existing resources and processes, and some support from your TMC, every organisation should be able to adequately address traveller safety and ensure that staff get the most from their business trips.
Contact us to find out more.
Download our Duty of Care factsheet, find out about the QBT options.