Duty of care: Workplace health and safety for your business travelers

Introduction

Duty of care: workplace health and safety for business travelers

If you want to know more, or don’t understand how duty of care and workplace health and safety affects your business travelers, then you must read this article. In this article we will examine duty of care, workplace health and safety and the how it relates to your business travelers.

After reading this article, you will have the correct understanding and subsequent approach to ensure you meet or exceed your obligations to provide a safe and secure environment for your business travelers.

The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice, is general in scope and will not substitute a specific approach for your company.

Duty of Care

Duty of care and the requirement for employers, so far as reasonably practicable, is to ensure that employees are not exposed to risk to their health and safety at work has been in place, in numerous countries for over 30 years. It is not however the primary act or legislation but rather a subset of the workplace or occupational health and safety laws.

The realization or acceptance that duty of care applies to business travel, equally if not more so than traditional static workplace environments, is a relatively new occurrence. This is not due to any significant alteration or refinement of related legislation or laws but more an awakening of conscious and greater volume of informed employees that are both aware and exercise their right to a managed workplace.

Improvement and adherence to workplace health and safety should be the primary focus to all businesses in support of business travel, not duty of care.

Workplace Health and Safety

Workplace or occupational health and safety systems, standards and requirement are already well developed. By expanding these systems and standards to include business travel activities, all companies can quickly and efficiently enhance the safety, security, health and environment of their business travelers without the adoption, implementation of completely new or foreign concepts. For some inexplicable reason, too few businesses have already included business travel as part of their workplace health and safety systems, exposing them and their employees to significant and foreseeable risk.

It has only been in recent times that the definition of the workplace and the conduct of business have been refined to include business travel activities. This and poorly understood or applied risk management systems that encompasses business travel created an Achilles heel for most businesses, who assumed that duty of care was their only corrective imperative.

While proof regarding taking steps to ensure “reasonably practicable” health and safety measures for employees, or the failure to do so, rests with the prosecution in countries such as Australia, the onus of proving reasonable practability rests with the defendants in the United Kingdom, Singapore and Canada

Workplace Health and Safety for Business Travelers

An increasing number of legal cases are presenting that challenges and repositions the traditional notion that the work place is a single static location. More-and-more, the legislation and legal view is that the workplace is anywhere that a person or business conducting an undertaking is present. Additionally, the conventions that govern the definition of an employee are also expanding to include labour for hire, contractors and other temporary workers. This has clear implications and inclusions for business travel too.

Not withstanding the fact that business travel is likely to be undertaken by the top 5% of talent within an organization, in the pursuit of revenue as high as fifteen dollars per profit for every dollar spent on business travel, it is typically a competitive and financial advantage for businesses. This coupled the growing acceptance that it is considered a place of work by an employee means that all the typical hazard identification and risk mitigation strategies applied elsewhere in the companies processes, need also be applied.

The act of business travel result in numerous variations such as location, gender, airlines, weather, personal health, supporting infrastructure, crime and so on, it therefore stands to reason that commensurable threat analysis, risk mitigation, control measures, compliance, tracking and disclosure should follow. Too few are at this fundamental stage.

For those companies or managers that continue to permit this “grey area” of business travel not to be considered or treated as required; part of the workplace health and safety system, your time may well be up sooner than you would like. More-and-more business travellers themselves are questioning or demanding they be afforded the same standards and considerations for a risk free work environment. The courts support their views also.

Business travel constitutes a workplace hazard to all employees, until proven otherwise. Only though demonstratable and consistent systems and processes can this be defensible with evidence of due diligence in the area of business travel and workplace or occupational safety.

Conclusion

You should now understand that there is a workplace health and safety obligation to your business travelers and how you must prepare or review adequate systems. Failure to do so may result in reputation, retention, safety, legal, market share and business operations disruptions or failures.

In this article we identified and explained the relationship between duty of care, workplace health and safety and business travelers. Apply this new understanding or review your current perceptions immediately and identify any corrective actions required to achieve adequate or advanced safety, security, health and environment support to your business travelers.

Tony Ridley

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