International travel is a common requirement for many employees working for organisations that have global operations.
The hazards posed by international travel must be managed by employers like any other. This will include undertaking a risk assessment and taking appropriate safety precautions. A key part of this safety management will be to provide training to those who undertake international travel so that they are properly prepared and able to implement the safety controls developed.
In this travel safety course, we will take a look at the hazards involved in international business travel, as well as the steps employers can take to meet their legal responsibilities, and keep employees safe.
Business travellers make up a huge percentage of total global travel. International travel statistics suggest that in 2018 alone, over eight million business travellers departed from the UK, with 6.6 million business travellers arriving from elsewhere.
Though COVID-19 has seriously impacted international corporate travel, its effects post-pandemic remain to be seen. International business travel plays a vital part in the growth and overall success of global businesses, even in the age of Skype and Zoom. Business trips are almost certainly set to bounce back, likely with a host of new safety considerations for both travellers and the businesses they represent.
Though modern international travel is incredibly safe, like anything, it is impossible to entirely avoid danger.
The challenges of international travel are generally managed by travel companies, airport staff, and those with a responsibility for ensuring the safety and welfare of travellers. There will usually be processes in place to avoid or resolve these problems.
Despite this, these challenges can be time consuming and stressful, which is why it is important for travellers themselves to be aware of these risks and make their own arrangements.
Some of the potential risks and challenges faced by those travelling for work include:
This should be the main concern for both the employee and employer when travelling for work. Though the potential is generally low, there are a range of risks to employee wellbeing, including:
- Political unrest/terrorism
- Natural disasters
- Illness due to food or lack of vaccinations
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many airlines, travel companies, and hotels have instituted strict measures to minimise the transmission of diseases. However, these measures are not foolproof, and travellers should still be careful.
Employees should have a comprehensive travel plan in place, and vet all transport and accommodation before the trip takes place. This will minimise the impact of these risks as much as possible.
It is impossible to account for all variables when travelling. During business trips, employees will encounter third parties, some of whom may be malicious. Pickpockets and other criminals are a potential hazard when travelling anywhere. These criminals can not only pose a potential risk to the employee themselves, but might also endanger data security, as the employee will almost certainly be carrying work-issued devices.
It is the responsibility of employees to take reasonable steps to protect these devices. This includes:
- Having a good understanding of the potential risks in the area they are travelling to.
- Ensuring devices are kept secure when not in use, such as in a hotel safe, or out of view when travelling.
- Avoiding unnecessary risks, such as travelling alone at night.
While employees are expected to be responsible when handling company property, they should not be expected to put themselves at risk. If an employee is threatened over company devices, they should be advised to surrender these devices and escape. Company data should be wiped remotely where possible.
Though productivity may seem like a small concern when compared to the health and safety of employees, it is nonetheless an important one. Though some drop in productivity is expected when an employee is travelling, there are many external factors that may have a more serious impact. These include:
- Location and quality of accommodation: poor rest or anxiety about sleeping arrangements could affect the quality of work or performance in important meetings.
- Quality of meals: if the employee cannot find suitable food, they could suffer from low energy and reduced output. Worse, this could potentially affect their health through food poisoning.
- Long transit times/uncomfortable transport: long haul flights or even low-quality short-haul flights can seriously impact the performance of employees, leading to tiredness, stress, irritability, and reduced effectiveness.
To make a business trip a success, an employee should feel at ease during travel. Proper preparation before the trip takes place is key.
Though many employers may leave the organisation of travel up to the employee, there are in fact some legal guidelines the employer must follow. As on-site, it is the responsibility of an employer to minimise employee exposure to health and safety hazards as much as possible when carrying out work.
As with any work activity, both the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 offer guidance and legislation for employers regarding international business travel.
Managers should endeavour to:
- Deliver relevant instruction, training, and administration to employees who undertake business travel.
- Provide a written, accredited policy for business travel.
- Make an appropriate valuation of the potential health and safety hazards to the employee in the form of a risk assessment.
The onus is not just on employers to ensure employee safety during business trips, however. The employee taking the trip should make all reasonable preparations for their own safety and wellbeing. Generally, the employee can minimise most potential risks by simply being sensible and aware of their surroundings.
Employees should keep in mind that whilst the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) does not apply when abroad, its general principles remain relevant. Employees are also legally required to comply with the legislation of their host country.
To maximise their own safety, those travelling abroad for business should follow this basic checklist.
- Research their host city and country to get a basic understanding of the local culture, international travel restrictions, and ongoing events that may affect them.
- This is even more important recently in light of COVID-19 – though many nations may be accepting travellers, arrivals may have to quarantine or get special permission.
- Create or arrange a travel advisory map for guidance, and to identify routes and locations. Though Google Maps and similar apps can be handy, they are not always reliable.
- Research and organise all necessary documents including passport, visa, and any other relevant paperwork. These should be kept safe either in a bag, when needed or in a hotel safe.
- Get up to speed with the company’s travel payment plans.
- Get basic international travel advice These courses can offer vital international travel safety tips and help prepare the traveller for unexpected challenges.
- Follow all legislation, as well as relevant guidance from travel companies, airports, and public transport firms.
One of the most effective ways to ensure employee safety when travelling abroad is to cover the planning of these trips as part of in-house health and safety training. This can be carried out internally or through the use of an external e-learning course.
The course you choose should cover in detail the potential risks and challenges of international business travel, and offer useful resources for the employee to use when travelling. It is vital the employee feels confident and prepared for travel to maximise comfort and minimise risk.
Human Focus has decades of experience in providing effective training programmes for international travel safety. These are ideal for protecting employees abroad and complying with all relevant legislation.
We currently offer two online training programmes designed to help both employer and employee create a safe process for business trips abroad:
- International Travel Safety – Preparation & Planning
- International Travel Safety – Travelling Safely
This online training designed to build awareness around international business travel, the risks involved, as well as how best to deal with them. The training is aimed at those without prior knowledge, making it suitable for any employee who is engaged in international travel.