Health and Safety on Business Trips
Business today is a global activity. Communication is fast and there are so many different ways to close a deal without actually being present almost anywhere in the world.
Despite this, there are still many occasions, when a personal human touch is essential for business. It must be, why over 3.5 million people a year travel abroad due to work motives.
In a busy working environment most people could get to the other side of the globe in less than a day.
Occupational travelers are becoming a bigger group every year- either they are business representatives, directors on their way to close a big deal, seasonal workers, offshore staff, workers on a temporary assignment and/or sales staff etc.
There is however an employer’s obligation regarding health and safety on business trips and to keep the workforce safe, no matter where they are located.
The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) doesn’t specifically contemplate responsibilities for the employer during overseas or other worker’s trips but according to Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999), the employer has to try to make any work related activity as safe as possible for the employee. Also under Civil Law, there is a potential for employees to sue employers if injury, illness or death occurs when on a work related trip.
Organizations are becoming more aware of the safety and security hazards that conducting business abroad involves. Certainly, there is a need to carry out a pre-travel risk assessment on a trip- by - trip basis, which would help to plan what is necessary to do in case of a crisis, especially when traveling abroad.
1. Determining the particular hazards for the trip
Consider matters like the political situation in the country you are traveling to and if there are any possible security hazards for the employee, act in accordance (hiring private security, informing in advance the Foreign Office or Embassy).
Health and safety on business trips risks- a basic and obvious solution would be an international private medical health policy (not really necessary if traveling around EU), making sure your employee has the necessary vaccines and equipment beforehand, assuring that any pre-existing health conditions are known and if prescription for medicines are necessary, make sure your employee has enough of those in order to avoid having to search and buy them in a foreign country (buying the wrong medicine on its own could be a serious hazards leading to an illness or injury).
Other Health and safety on business trips matters to be considered would be problems such as jet lag, risk of deep- vain thrombosis (DVT), adverse reactions to climate, cultural awareness of the customs of the country (kissing in public and so-on), specific driving regulations of the visited country, taking own PPE, etc.
Infectious diseases, for which vaccination is not available (like diarrhea or a mosquito spread Dengue fever), or may be the employee due to travel didn’t get certain vaccines as a child, the most common one being measles.
Climate and altitude of the visited country is to be considered. The employee has to be trained or briefed on how to deal with heat and humidity, especially if work is to be done outdoors.
Education on water and food hygiene could prevent any highly uncomfortable gastrointestinal infections.
Psychological and stress problems. These are prone to appear during prolonged periods of the employee residing in the foreign country. Arrangements for family visits, talking to colleagues and managers, or even having a psychologist in the visited country could be helpful. Mental disorders and stress are highly likely to happen to business travelers.
2. Raising awareness for the employee for any risks and possible solutions.
It is employer’s obligation to make sure the employee is well trained to perform the particular job in the particular circumstances of health and safety on business trips.
It is essential to assure yourself of the level of training and understanding of the situation of the employee. Basic knowledge of the country’s medical and legal systems might be useful; arrangements for interpreting services in case of emergency would be helpful as well.
Malaria awareness and education on how to recognize symptoms is a must and compliance with the correct medical procedures is essential for saving lives, especially regarding the prolonged taking of malarial chemoprophylaxis.
3. Always plan in advance. Preventing and reducing the risks will always be helpful.
And remember, you could be liable for any injury that could happen, while your employee is on a business trip.