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Five health & safety tips for sending your team overseas

All eyes are on Russia as the countdown to the football world cup reaches its finale. England manager Gareth Southgate has picked his team to take overseas. Detailed preparations will have gone on behind the scenes to ensure their comfort and safety. Security concerns at the world cup have been well documented.

Many SMEs need to send staff overseas, whether that is for sales, conferences, consulting, engineering projects or another reason. Employers have a duty of care towards their employees on such trips.

You may not have the resources of The FA, but it is still something to take very seriously. Here are five health and safety areas for you to consider if you need to send staff overseas for the first time.

1.      Personal safety and security

Terrorism may grab the headlines in the age we live in, but there are many other threats to personal security that may be relevant.

Other risks to personal safety could include crime; danger whilst travelling by road, rail, boat or air; infectious disease (think the Ebola crisis, for example, and before that SARS); or even wild animal attacks – last year Brits were thought to have been killed by crocodiles in Sri Lanka and wolves in Greece, albeit while on holiday rather than on business travel.

Ensure people are clued up before they travel. The government FCO website has comprehensive travel advice for 225 countries, which makes an excellent starting point. Once you are aware of any specific risks, you can work towards mitigating them or making alternative plans.

2.      Attitudes to risk

When people travel abroad, their attitude towards safety can become lax. They may take risks that they wouldn’t normally dare on home shores. If personal protective equipment would be worn for work in the UK, make sure it is available to staff on overseas duties, and also stress the importance of wearing it. You may need to write this into your policies to emphasise it and give you the tools to discipline staff who do not take it seriously.

3.      Natural disasters and evacuations

At the time of writing a volcano is erupting explosively in Hawaii. In different parts of the world there could be the risk of earthquakes, major storms, floods or forest fires. Consider these risks for the area your staff are travelling to. What would be your recovery plan or crisis policy if disaster struck and left employees stranded and in danger? Will your employee know what to do to stay safe and get home?

4.      Food hygiene

Sometimes just a change of diet can be enough to make people feel unwell when travelling. But in many parts of the world, hygiene standards will be well below what we are used to in the UK. Bottled water will be advisable in some places as well as avoiding salad-type foods that may have been washed in unclean water. As with danger to personal security, ensure people know the risks and best practice before they travel.

5.      Local customs

It is not just crooks you have to worry about. The risks to employees could actually come from the authorities if staff do not heed local laws and customs. For example, regarding the consumption of alcohol, or LGBT rights. Practices and behaviour that are accepted as normal in the UK may be prohibited by law in some countries and carry severe judicial penalties. Understanding these might be crucial to a safe and successful trip.

Good planning will go a long way to keeping your staff safe when working abroad. Key documents that will help you prepare are: a travel risk assessment for the areas being visited; personal risk assessments for the individuals travelling, updates to any general company policies to reflect international travel and work, and a crisis management policy for if things do go wrong.

Sending people overseas?

For advice on this topic or help preparing any of these documents, give The H&S Dept a call on
0345 208 1120.