Despite the flurry of policy updates which occurred in the lead up to the first stage of harmonised workplace health and safety laws rolled out in January this year, new research has indicated employers are falling down in the detail of their duty of care policies.
According to the results of a duty of care and travel risk management study, Australasian companies are grossly underestimating the risk to their travelling employees and just 37% of Australasian companies assess risk prior to international travel. “Every travel approval should include an employee risk assessment prior to departure,” Lisbeth Claus, Professor of Global Human Resources at Willamette University said. “Your Duty ofCare obligation to your employees is ensuring that employees are oriented to the foreseeable risks and threats they are likely to encounter,” she added in her report.
In light of changes to WHS laws, companies need to be aware that the term ‘worker’ now includes employees, volunteers, contractors, sub-contractors, apprentices, work experience students and outworkers and the term ‘workplace’ has been broadened to include any place where a worker goes or is likely to go while at work. “One of the basic findings of the study is that all countries are eventually risky locations when employees or workers cross borders, and it’s not just the medical and security environment that presents risks, but the unfamiliarity that the worker faces when they are in a different environment,” Professor Claus said.
In looking at International SOS data of the top security incidents in 2011, India was in the top three most risky countries. However, Japan and Egypt ranked above India because of the ‘crisis effect’. This is because while people regularly travel to countries that would typically be classified as low-risk, it is possible for high impact events to occur – so when preparing workers for travel, employees much be prepared for high impact events even in a low risk country..
The 10 best practices for companies which emerged from the report included:
Plan with key stakeholders
Expand policies and procedures
Communicate, educate and train
Assess risk prior to every trip
Track travelling employees at all times
Implement an employee emergency response system
Implement additional management controls
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