THERE are always risks that travellers need be aware of regardless of their destination. What is important is for travellers and organisations to understand these travel risks and have processes and systems in place to mitigate these risks. Preparation and mitigation of travel risks is paramount to ensure a safer travel.
The risk for a worker travelling or working abroad can cover a wide range of issues in addition to the traditional occupational safety, health and security considerations.
Some of these issues are: health issues such as cardiovascular diseases; quality and accessibility of adequate healthcare; location-specific infection risks; lost medication; lost travel documents; the quality of state security and emergency services; road traffic accidents; political unrest; violent crime, terrorism and conflicts; major accidents; natural disasters; as well as cultural and legal complexities.
A recent Ipsos Global Advisor study found that although 80 per cent of travellers had concerns about safety abroad, less than four in 10 travellers research about the level of crime at a destination, what neighbourhoods they should avoid, the safety standards of public transport, or security features at their accommodation before they travel.
The study also reported that while 71 per cent of senior executive travellers had experienced a medical problem abroad, only 15 per cent assessed the adequacy of local healthcare before travelling. In addition, nearly one in three trips abroad are to countries with higher risk ratings than the traveller’s home country.
For companies, Duty of Care to employees is the expectation – not the exception. International travel is a large component of many organisations to such an extent that the definition of the workplace is evolving, integrating professional travel and assignments.
In order to fulfil its Duty of Care responsibility to employees, organisations need to consider the different needs of the many types of working travellers. They can be a senior executive who is travelling to close an important deal, a consulting technician who is travelling to service a system or a manual labourer working with a large group building a road through a jungle.
When employees feel unwell or unsafe when travelling, it will cause them to feel extremely vulnerable. As such, organisations need to ensure that adequate measures and support are in place for their employees.
A practical framework which organisations can use should include these elements: policy development and implementation; dynamic threat and hazard identification and risk assessment; organising, planning and implementation; evaluation; and action for improvement.
Organisations should ensure that adequate health, safety, security and legal protection measures are in place for their workers on international travel assignments for the following reasons.
First, prevention, timely intervention and mitigation of incidents reduce costly disruption to business activities, help to improve morale and strengthen productivity.
Secondly, an adequate identification of threats and hazards, and the management of risks during an incident may allow for the continuation of activities or the development of new opportunities, which could have otherwise have been lost.
Meeting these responsibilities can mean a positive return on investment. Moreover, this protection is an important part of corporate social responsibility. It is important to ensure that all relevant legal obligations are met, hence reducing risks that an organisation could face with litigation.
Juliana Gim is the managing director of International SOS Singapore.
By Juliana Gim