Full Guide to Trip Risk Assessments to Keep Employees Safe
As the corporate travel or HR manager, it’s up to you to compile a travel risk assessment to ensure employee safety during corporate business travel.
You’ll need to decide whether the level of risk for a trip is acceptable. Then educate and equip employees with the information and protocols they’ll need to reduce this risk as much as possible.
The world can be a dangerous place. Hazards abound.
And when you’re traveling for business, there’s no shortage of things that can go wrong.
By performing a critical travel risk assessment first, you’ll put your team in the best position to conduct valuable company business and return home safely.
Let’s talk about how to perform this crucial function successfully.
The Basics: Why Perform an In-Depth Travel Risk Assessment?
As a business preparing to send employees on a business trip, it’s important to understand that it’s your responsibility to keep them safe.
You have a duty of care toward your employees. Ensure everyone’s safety by assessing any risks and forwarding all relevant information to your team.
Are You Required by Law to Protect Your Employees From Travel-Related Risks?
Employers, businesses, and organizations have a legal responsibility and obligation to make sure that their employees stay healthy, safe, and secure while traveling on their behalf.
Even though laws differ from country to country, many governments are holding organizations increasingly accountable for the security of their traveling employees.
In the United States especially, a “duty of care” program has become a legal requirement for organizations of all sizes.
United States companies are being sued more and more often for negligence involving the death or injury of traveling employees. (This includes overseas travel.)
Companies that breach their duty of care responsibilities not only put their employees at risk — they also risk legal ramifications in the event that something goes wrong.
Understanding Likelihood and Impact – the Risk Assessment Matrix
All potential safety and security threats have a likelihood of occurrence and carry a certain level of impact.
Rating potential dangers along these two scales will help you understand what may (and may not) constitute an acceptable level of risk.
Creating a travel risk assessment form to measure the potential for disaster is necessary to find out the risk level for any given destination (and the severity of the potential for danger).
Generating a report that tracks both of these factors will help your company plan ahead to protect its employees while they travel.
Tracking and Assessing the Likelihood of Danger
Every type of danger that could rear its ugly head during a business trip will carry with it a certain percentage chance that it’s likely to happen.
If a type of danger isn’t very likely to happen, it’s deemed a “low risk” factor. If it’s very likely to happen, it’s considered a “high risk” factor.
Risk management starts with assessing the likelihood that certain dangerous circumstances might indeed take place.
In order to assess the likelihood of all possible dangers, you’ll generally need to do some research about the area.
You’re planning to send a journalist into a country to cover a story about minor political unrest. In researching, you might come to find that the danger of “civil unrest” is relatively high.
At the same time, you may come to find that the likelihood of natural disasters in that same country is quite low. Therefore, civil unrest would be a higher risk, while natural disasters are lower risks.
Tracking and Assessing the Potential Impact of Those Dangers
Along with figuring out the likelihood that danger will occur, you also have a responsibility to determine the possible impact of said dangers.
This will help you create a complete “risk assessment matrix” that’ll give you the power to determine:
- Whether the level of risk and potential impact of all potential danger is within acceptable limits to approve the trip
- What you can do to ensure employee safety in the event of a disaster
You determine the impact by rating how much of a risk it would pose to the safety of your team if said danger were to manifest itself during the trip.
Say your reporter visited another country and ran into a peaceful protest. You can consider the level of impact as “low risk” because the likelihood of injury or suffering harm as a result of the danger would be minimal.
On the other hand, a mass political riot characterized by violent civil unrest would carry a very high-risk level of impact. Because the odds for injury or harm grow much greater due to the severity of this specific type of danger.
At the same time, a natural disaster, such as a tsunami, may technically be even more dangerous than a political riot. Therefore carrying an even higher-risk level of impact.
Yet, if the risk for experiencing a tsunami at this particular place and/or time is virtually nonexistent, it may be an acceptable level of risk. As the likelihood that this danger will present itself is still very low to negligible.
If a violent political riot is a strong possibility considering the social/political climate of the destination — then that’s a different level of risk.
Not only is it more likely to occur, but it would also be considered a “high impact” danger if it does.
Maybe this isn’t as dangerous as a tsunami would be. But the fact that it’s so likely to happen, coupled with the fact that it’s highly dangerous, makes it a much higher priority on the risk assessment matrix.
Trip Risk Assessment: Six Risk Factors to Check Pre-Travel
It’s crucial to determine how accessible the location is before approving a business trip to that area.
You’ll want to check local news sources, information sources, and possibly even make phone calls to local contacts (or even the embassy) to see if there are any:
- Trade embargoes
- Travel restrictions
- Travel bans
- Any other possible restrictions that could make accessing or escaping that area or locale difficult, dangerous, or impossible
This is primarily to avoid having travelers getting stuck at airports or the border, though it can also affect domestic travel. For example, closed freeways or airports can even make domestic travel difficult—and natural disasters and political demonstrations can certainly happen domestically, just as they can abroad.
But it’s also for safety. Getting stuck outside or inside of a dangerous region can seriously compound the level of risk.
Checking local crime statistics will help you stay aware of potential criminal activity that could pose a risk to your employees.
But checking gov websites and news sites can also help you figure out which specific areas might be best to avoid.
Use this information to create travel plans and brief your employees to keep them as safe from potential risks as possible.
3. Civil Unrest
Suppose there are riots, marches, political demonstrations, or any other type of civil unrest going on in the area. In that case, you’ll want to double-check and rethink your decision to approve travel to those regions.
Civil unrest isn’t always a situation that’ll compromise the health and safety of your employees — but it can quickly become an issue if things escalate.
4. Infectious Diseases
In a post-covid world, it’s more important than ever to have a travel policy that reflects risk ratings for infectious diseases, exposure to viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens while traveling.
In researching this specific risk category, it’s also important to know whether your employees have had all their relevant vaccinations — as that factors into the riskiness of the situation.
5. Natural Disasters
Sending employees into areas where natural disasters are possible exposes them to catastrophic levels of risk.
You’ll want to look at the potential for disasters like:
- Severe weather
- Lightning strikes
- High-velocity winds
If there’s a chance that your group might encounter a significant natural disaster, make sure to take that into account before approving the trip.
6. Other Significant Hazards
Sometimes you may find risk factors that don’t necessarily fit the “normal chart” of potential dangers.
But it’s still essential that you take these hazards into account, even if they’re not typically dangers that you’d need to worry about.
Examples of high-level threats that don’t usually present themselves when companies are assessing basic-level travel threats include:
- A country being at war
- Acts of terrorism
- Nuclear disasters
What’s Next? Threat Reduction and Mitigation
Once you determine that the level of danger falls within “acceptable risk” parameters, your next responsibility is to make travel booking decisions that will reduce or mitigate those risks.
This is especially true if you have team members who tend to travel to help with disaster relief.
It’s vital to assess all possible risks and make protocols to ensure that employees are only exposed to an acceptable level of risk.
Preparing Your Team: Travel Safety Training
After you’ve done everything within your power to manage employee travel risks on the booking/planning end?
The next step is to train/brief employees on how to perform relevant trip risk assessments on-location. Prepare them to spot, assess, reduce, and mitigate close proximity threats to their safety as they may arise.
There are several ways to go about this process.
1. Help Your Employees Understand the Risks and Significant Hazards
Briefing your team of any dangers and the potential impact of those dangers are two vital aspects to protecting them from risks and hazards.
Remember — information is key!
2. Develop Safe, Concrete Travel Plans
Making a travel itinerary that keeps your team as far away from danger as possible is another measure that you can take. Ensuring that they don’t fall prey to security risks while traveling is a critical trip risk assessment protocol.
3. Institute Safety Control Measures
Instituting some basic measures to help keep your team safe while they’re traveling is also important.
This could mean doing simple things like:
- Choosing one team member as an emergency group leader
- Making sure that your team has access to a first aid kit
- Making sure that there’s a backup plan in case danger does threaten the safety of your team
4. Set Up an Emergency Contact Protocol
This could mean giving each team member phone numbers or emails for various contact points within the company to report any potential risks immediately.
That way, your company can hear of a potentially dangerous situation quickly so that you can work with your team to ensure their safety in real-time.
5. Make a Plan for Dealing With Medical Conditions or a Medical Emergency
This could mean providing:
- Quality travel insurance
- Contact information for local medical clinics/hospitals
- A plan of action in case of a medical accident
Once you’ve finished your travel risk assessment, read: How to Create an Employee Travel Budget for Small Businesses
Creating a trip risk assessment for your employees is an essential step in protecting them as they travel and conduct business for your company.
Not only does this fall under legal “duty of care,” it’s undoubtedly in your company’s best interest to protect its team.
Putting this assessment together will take a bit of work, but keeping your team safe is worth it.
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Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.