PANDEMIC UNDERSCORES NEED TO IMPROVE BUSINESS TRAVEL DUTY OF CARE AND RISK MANAGEMENT
As 2020 illustrates, business travelers face unforeseen risks when they take their jobs on the road.
And travelers have a lot to be anxious about. In just a few months, they have been impacted by the worldwide coronavirus, Australian bushfires, Mississippi’s tornadoes and storms, floods and mudslides in Brazil, tsunami warnings in Russia, earthquakes in Croatia and Albania, and the list goes on.
To provide your road warriors with adequate safety and security in this environment, you need to up your duty of care and travel risk management game.
The Difference Between Duty of Care and Risk Management
Workers are pretty safe in the office, thanks to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act of 1970. Its general duty clause requires employers to provide a hazard-free place of employment.
But what protects business travelers on the road? According to Forbes, “OSHA’s requirements that employers must keep employees safe at work isn’t just limited to the employer’s offices or places of business. It can also apply when an employee travels overseas as a part of the job.”
This duty of care is the moral and legal obligation to be responsible for employee safety. It’s the “why” of the relationship.
The “what” of the relationship, travel risk management, is the strategy and action plan employers implement to reduce travel-related risk and fulfill their duty of care obligation.
“Duty of care has traditionally applied to protecting travelers and mitigating risk related to events that might occur during the flight or while at the destination. The coronavirus brings a whole new meaning to traveler safety. Now duty of care will likely cover traveler safety for the entire journey, from transportation to the airport until they return home.”
– Mike Cameron, CEO, Christopherson Business Travel
How Businesses Benefit By Providing Duty of Care
Duty of care is the number one priority for 80% of travel buyers, according to BCD Travel. While employers are legally obligated to provide it, duty of care benefits businesses by increasing employee engagement and improving their productivity.
Beyond reciprocation from employees, duty of care can increase an organization’s value. A study tested the hypothesis that reductions in a workforce’s health and safety risks are tied to increases in the company’s stock market performance. Companies with exemplary safety, health, and environmental programs outperformed the S&P 500 by 3?5%.
Chubb’s Pan-European study also shows that businesses benefit from implementing duty of care, including improved profitability, increased productivity, and attracting and retaining employees.
Telecom, construction, real estate, logistics, and distribution industries had the strongest correlation with duty of care increasing profitability. And 78% of all companies with a holistic approach to duty of care said it reduced employee absence.
If there is such a strong relationship between providing duty of care and improving employee performance–and even increasing a company’s value–why do so many organizations allow employees to book travel off-channel, outside the safety of their travel management company’s (TMC’s) umbrella?
Booking Off-channel Increases Risk
Whether you call it rogue booking, off-channel booking, or travel leakage, booking with outside vendors increases the probability of duty of care and risk management failures.
A live audience poll of travel managers at an Association of Corporate Travel Executives conference shows that risk management—the ability to locate employees in an emergency—is the number one concern generated by off-channel bookings. When travelers book on consumer sites, travel managers lose visibility and control.
Booking in-channel with a TMC provides managers with an employee’s itinerary and allows them to track and contact travelers during emergencies. The traveler, in turn, gets peace of mind and experiences less stress by knowing their employer is aware of and can contact them.
“Providers must have access to the traveler’s full itinerary including all work sites, stopovers, likely side trips, and potential itinerary changes.”
– CDC Yellow Book 2020
If an employee books off-channel and fails to provide an itinerary, forgets to update their itinerary, or doesn’t engage in a risk-monitoring discussion, employers may fail in their duty of care obligation: they can’t manage risk because they can’t locate the traveler.
“Coronavirus has highlighted that businesses didn’t know where their travelers were because they booked outside the system.”
– Matt Cameron, COO, Christopherson Business Travel
Booking In-channel Reduces Risk
Tracking your travelers is paramount to ensuring their safety. To provide real-time data on traveler location and the ability to filter travelers by events they might encounter (e.g., when will that tornado strike Alabama and which of our 17 traveling employees are going to, near, or through that area?), we developed SecurityLogic, which allows managers to track travelers, monitor their safety, and communicate with them in an emergency.
Companies Need Risk Management Technology
SecurityLogic, Christopherson’s risk management tool, provides time windows that look forward and backward (3 and 1 weeks, respectively) at each employee’s trip and its applicable travel alerts. Since some events can be anticipated—like hurricanes that are tracked as they develop—it makes sense to look forward to predictions for landfall, see who is traveling at that time, and determine whether their trip needs to be rerouted. The system updates travel alerts every 10 minutes via a data feed to keep travelers and arrangers apprised of world situations.
Using a series of filters, managers can view specific scenarios. For example:
- If an airline’s reservation system is down, you can look for your employees traveling with Delta to see who is impacted.
- If a flight were to crash, you can check to see whether you have travelers onboard that flight.
- In the case of a terrorist event, say in Hanau, Germany, you can filter travelers by city to see travelers who are in or near the area.
- In the case of a hotel fire, you can look at each hotel to see whether any of your travelers are staying at that hotel.
SecurityLogic’s world map gives you a high-level view of the traveler’s trip, such as the area of travel, and allows you to drill down to specifics, like the hotel where that traveler is staying. Through map links to itineraries, travel managers can find all travel and location information for each employee.
In addition, the map shows filterable past, current, and future safety alerts, as well as safety checks that were sent to travelers. Safety alerts are matched to trips and their geographic locations, including places of departure and destination, as well as segments that go through areas of concern.
Travel arrangers can customize the map by choosing which alert categories are shown (health, weather, transportation, natural disaster, security, political, other). These alert categories are further defined by four levels of severity (information, caution, warning, disaster). Each alert includes a link to its source, providing travel arrangers with more detailed, current information.
The map’s radius function allows you to draw and drag a circle to show only travelers within its radius, a function that is valuable when there are regional issues such as April’s earthquakes in Salt Lake City, Utah.
World-wide weather and U.S. doppler overlays can be applied to the map to track events. For instance, during hurricane season you can see the eye of the storm and follow the storm’s progress as it is affected by trade winds and high-pressure systems.
By turning on the map’s Global Disaster Alert Coordination System (GDACS) overlay in map options, you’ll access a government feed for natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, and volcanos. Clicking on the alert icon provides a link to the warning’s source so you can get a situational overview and drill into details, like wind patterns for hurricanes.
Although SecurityLogic was designed to provide disaster alerts for travelers and travel arrangers, clients also use it to track travelers, whether they have travel-related questions or need to see where someone is traveling on a given day.
Check Traveler Safety in Real-Time
SecurityLogic’s Safety Check tool allows managers to filter their list of travelers to travelers of concern level, then select “Safety Check” and prepopulate an alert notification for travelers at risk. The notification contains a link to alert information, a customizable message (for instance, stay out of this area or come home early) and find out whether they are currently safe.
The alert is sent via text, email, or both, depending on the traveler’s preferences set in our proprietary AirPortal software platform.
After receiving an alert, travelers can respond with “I’m safe” or “I need assistance.” If they click the need assistance option, a text box allows them to communicate their needs to the travel arranger. If they select either option, the tool requests permission to use their real-time location. Once they give permission, they are geotagged on the map.
According to Christopherson COO Matt Cameron, about 80% of travelers are generally safe. Of the other 20%, some may not have cell service, and some might need assistance. Safety Check’s functionality allows elimination of safe travelers so managers can focus on those who might need assistance.
For quickest resolution, a team can be used to eliminate travelers as they are contacted and their status updated by marking “resolved.”
Organizations Must Document and Verify Traveler Communications
According to International SOS, it is very important to have a program setup that ensures “each action can be documented and verified to reduce corporate exposure in case an incident does occur.”
“Businesses with any traveling workforce need to get out ahead of the duty of care . . . The goal, of course, is protecting both the employee and the employer.”
– Thomas Pecora, Pecora Consulting Services
SecurityLogic provides documentation and verification of alerts sent to travelers: the travel alerts page shows all alerts matched with specific travelers, along with links to the alert sources, and the notifications page shows the alerts sent to specific travelers, allowing you to verify the information they received.
These functions are extremely helpful when conducting a historical audit to confirm travelers received notices for alerts, such as the closing of the Canberra Airport in Australia, the suspension of European travel to the United States to stem the spread of coronavirus, a tornado warning in Stephens County, Oklahoma, or cautions about potential domestic terrorism in Santiago, Chile.
“With SecurityLogic, you add security component without incurring additional cost, so it’s a good value.”
– Matt Cameron, COO, Christopherson Business Travel
Implementing a Pre-trip Approval Process Reduces Risk
According to Business Traveler USA, more than 66% of American travelers had trips affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet 40% of GBTA members said they either have no travel risk mitigation program or have not reviewed their program since its implementation.
Developing and continually updating these plans is a fiscal no brainer, as duty of care negligence verdicts can impact the bottom line. For example, in 2017 a student who contracted a tick-borne illness during a study abroad trip to China was awarded $41.5 million.
With the potentially devastating financial consequences of duty of care negligence and the high risk associated with coronavirus, it’s no wonder organizations are hustling to implement trip approval procedures that mitigate travel risk.
“Pre-trip approvals are often a cost-control mechanism, but many organizations also use the process to watch for travel planned to risky destinations. This helps them ensure travelers are up to date on relevant vaccinations and can account for other safety and security concerns.”
– David Jonas, The Company Dime
An Automated Process Tool Makes Travel Approval Easy
To implement pre-trip approval for risk management and travel policy compliance, Christopherson provides the Travel Approval tool.
Travel Approval settings can be automated so organizations can determine whether trips to high-risk areas require approval or are not permitted. In the first case, trips requiring approval can be routed to a risk manager or risk management team. Managers also can track approvals throughout the process via an automated series of digital notifications.
Assess Your Plan with This Travel Risk Management Kit
If you’re among the 75% of organizations that rely on a booking tool to track employees, the 53% that don’t have or don’t know if they have the resources to assist employees in an emergency, or just think it’s time for a review, we offer a free risk management kit to assess and improve your duty of care program.
“September 11th reinvented the process for protecting airplanes. Covid-19 will reinvent the travel process around safety, cleanliness, and virus transmission protection. Terms like social distancing, personal protection equipment (PPE), and antibody immunity testing are now part of our new travel vocabulary.
We are up for the challenge, and we will reinvent ourselves to help you and the travelers for whom you have a duty of care responsibility.”
– Mike Cameron, CEO, Christopherson Business Travel