Business travel safety and security reach new precedence

By Gina Sin on 19/10/2017


In the first global declaration committed to the mobile workforce, over 100 world leaders pledged their commitment to the health, safety and security of business travellers at the 21st World Congress held in Singapore in September 2017.

The Singapore Declaration, hosted by International SOS Foundation and supported by the Ministry of Manpower, is the first global declaration committed to the mobile workforce and underscores the importance of Duty of Care of employers to their employees. The official signing ceremony took place on the opening day of the XXI World Congress in Singapore on September 3, 2017.

Biz Events Asia asks Laurent Fourier, Co-Executive Director, International SOS Foundation, on what having the Singapore Declaration means, and the significance of Duty of Care among business travellers.

Duty of Care refers to the moral and legal obligations that employers hold to their workforce to maintain their wellbeing, security and safety at home and abroad.

The Declaration came about as International SOS recognised the following:

  • Firstly, considerable growth of international business due to globalisation, new markets and the need for services. This has resulted in an increased number of people travelling as part of their work or on assignment away from home.
  • Secondly, the shift in the profile of business travellers. In the past, focus has been on the executive traveller. Today, there are many types of workers travelling from one country to another for work.
  • Thirdly, demographic diversity of individuals is increasing.

“We are heartened that many countries and companies have demonstrated their commitment to protecting their mobile workers. Presently, we have garnered around 200 signatories. Among the signatories are Singapore’s Workplace Safety and Health Council, The Philippines, and Mauritius,” said Fourier.

"There is no cut-off date for the signing. Countries and companies interested to express commitment by signing the Declaration can still do so. By providing e-signatures for the Declaration, we hope that all organisations, wherever they are, pledge their commitment and push forward the Duty of Care agenda.

The Singapore Declaration is part of International SOS Foundation’s central goal to drive a Culture of Caring by improving the safety, security, health and welfare of people working abroad or on remote assignments through the study, understanding and mitigation of potential risks. The Foundation is a fully independent and non-profit organisation, established in 2011."

Further to the central goal, the Foundation is supported by five other pillars. They are:

  1. Study and research to better understand the health, safety and security risks linked to global mobility.
  2. Educate by providing information to workers and contractors, employers and governments on health and security risks.
  3. Strengthen corporate social responsibility in areas in proximity to worksites.
  4. Develop an international instrument for health and security risk mitigation.
  5. Disseminate information on risks to health and security in a variety of formats.

Why is Duty of Care so important for organisations?

A recently published Traffic and Market Outlook by two major aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, forecasted that the number of air passengers will double in the next 20 years and that the commercial fleet will also need to double to over 45,240 airplanes by 2035. This is a result of more and more people travelling, many of whom are doing so for work.

Companies, therefore, need to exercise their Duty of Care responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of their mobile workers.

With seemingly increasing political tensions and insecurity, different pandemics (such as Ebola and Zika), and natural and human-made disasters in both developing and developed economies, more attention needs to be on prevention and risk mitigation.

This is in addition to day-to-day issues facing the traveller such as threats, violence, injury, and disease. More organisations are therefore assigning increased importance to travel, safety, health, and security.

In fact, a new acronym has recently surfaced, VUCA, signifying that organisations today may be operating in challenging environments. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

To circumvent VUCA situations, International SOS Foundation recommends that companies adopt or attend training programmes. This came about as we recognise that the number of mobile workers continues to increase rapidly. At the same time, this travelling population is becoming increasingly diverse.

Similarly, businesses are increasingly growing through expansions in both established and new locations, from densely populated cities to remote territories. This creates greater potential risks and strongly reinforces the importance of prevention. These trends and others reinforce the fact that the Duty of Care will continue to be a vital topic for organisations for years to come.

Organisations are faced with an increasingly challenging and complex world of domestic and international pressures, the rapid growth of the mobile workforce and increased regulations. For this reason, the prevention of work-related travel safety, health and security incidents has become an integral element of occupational safety and health.

Risks and measures in place for meeting and event attendees

No matter what the destination is, there are always risks, according to Fourier. “There is an importance and value of prevention, and being proactive, rather than reactive. This is against the backdrop of increased fear and apprehension among travellers in an uncertain world - an Ipsos MORI survey revealed that potential terror attacks (71 percent) dominate global concerns, followed by the Zika virus (49 percent) and civil unrest (46 percent), with inadequate healthcare and road accidents both at 15 percent.”

Having a comprehensive travel medical and security risks assessment of the countries around the world will aid meeting and event attendees with their travel risk mitigation plans.

While it is crucial to focus on issues that have extensive coverage (e.g. Zika, terror attacks), common medical issues which don’t make the headline (e.g. traveller’s gastric issues or running out of regular medication) are more likely and can destroy a business trip. Some of the biggest risks to people abroad are the everyday occurrences: road accidents, falling ill, lack of regular medication for a pre-existing chronic condition.

In all cases, prevention is better than cure. However, most people tend to overlook this and will only seek help when something has occurred. The implication is that help is not as easily secured when abroad – people do not have the support they are used to of family and friends.

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