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Why are Lone Workers More at Risk When Travelling Abroad?

16 October 2012
 October 16, 2012

Any task undertaken whilst working alone can present particular risks. It’s indisputable that travelling abroad on your own is more risky. Yet it is still your employer’s responsibility that all precautions have been taken to ensure the employee has a safe trip.

So, why are employees more at risk when travelling abroad alone?

  • Tend to carry more cash and valuables (laptops, passport, etc)
  • Find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings
  • A potential language barrier can cause conflict where it could’ve normally been avoided
  • Not familiar with local customs and etiquette
  • Criminals target tourists / travellers

Some alarming statistics…

Whilst most visits abroad are trouble free, there are some alarming statistics about travelling abroad.

  • Over 19,000 reported incidents involving Britons in 2010/11
  • Year-on-year increase in British deaths abroad – just under 6,000 last year.
  • Number of those hospitalised has also shown a year on year increase – up to nearly 3,800.
  • Seven of the top ten countries where assistance has been required are in Europe.

Your employer should ensure that UK health and safety law is used as best practice to cover your employee’s activity throughout the world; however if local law requires a higher standard of compliance, this must be adhered to.

Off site overseas work visits should be categorized according to risk. In the first instance, this categorisation should be determined by the person intending to travel.

The following hazards should be assessed as part of a risk assessment process:

  • Hazards associated with the activities carried out during the off site visit
  • Inability to maintain an appropriate work life balance
  • Health effects due to long haul flights
  • Dealing with the public
  • Terrorism and security threat including kidnap
  • Political instability
  • Competency of the traveller (previous experience of business travel, culture being visited and location)
  • Inability to communicate
  • Inability to summon help in an emergency
  • Inability to locate employee in an emergency

Examples of visits falling into a high-risk category would include visits to areas for any purposes where the foreign office travel advice states there is a high risk for security and terrorism, any visit to a remote area, fieldwork and research with significant risks attached, or any overseas activities to new or existing areas.

It may be possible for one basic risk assessment to be prepared which covers a number of trips to the same destination. However, this must be frequently reviewed prior to departure to ensure any changes to the risk status of the destination are taken into account.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have produced the ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign to help those travelling abroad stay safe. Skyguard offer the first and only service of its kind in the world to provide full police, paramedic and fire response in 36 countries across Europe and South Africa.

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