There is an ever-increasing interest, demand and requirement to provide adequate travel safety measures to business travellers. The steady growth in interest is in part fuelled by more specific legal requirements that have evolved to include mobile work environments to be just as safe as that of traditional physical workspaces. Additional focus is also the result of recent negative events, violence and terror related incidents affecting communities and locations never before affected or considered “safe” by locals and travellers. Lastly, but most significantly, there has been a significant marketing push by providers claiming they are the solution to a company’s “duty of care” obligations or the solution to travel risk management requirements. This raises a very real question for businesses, that is, can you buy or outsource travel safety?

Procurement Habits and Trends

Firstly, let’s examine the average company’s purchase that seeks to provide or solve the travel safety objective. While there are more products and services available that read more like a supermarket shopping list, few actually offer anything new or specific to the company or legal requirements related to occupation health and safety whilst travelling. Somewhat of a competition has emerged, where each product offering has “more” inclusions such as lost baggage, translations, number of medical clinics or total number of countries supported but all of this has very little to do with the primary business requirement of provision of travel safety and it certainly doesn’t mean that by purchasing one of these comprehensive insurance, assistance or “duty of care” products a company can simply consider the problem solved by this outsourced provider’s service. More concerningly, it can in some instances result in confirmation of negligence as the company identified the requirement for travel safety but provided inadequate management of the safety environment…much like wearing a baseball cap when riding a motorcycle, it’s not fit for purpose. Conversely, some of the bundled solutions are merely extended offerings and often are totally unrelated services, without actually providing travel safety; and should not be confused as such.

If a company’s procurement of ‘travel safety’ products and services consists of a list of inclusions/exclusions, based on market offerings then it is the first point of failure in the process. If the procurement of services implies or requires that the company assign all support, engagement and risk management to the service provider then that only compounds the failure. “More” is not better when it comes to procurement of travel safety, “specific” or “personal” would be better descriptors or purchasing criteria as it is most reflective of the practice and compliance associated with travel safety.

As part of the commercial focus on capturing buyers attention and playing to their fears or limited understanding of the requirement, everything now seems to contain “duty of care” solutions, ranging from purchasing of airline tickets, seat allocation, credit cards and even expense reports. The term and practice of associating all products and services with duty of care is beyond laughable now but buyers are not identifying or calling into question these continued false statements and nonsensical claims. A simple test of this is to have the procurement or travel manager explain in his or her own words what duty of care specifically means and which part of the legal framework does it fall under. If they can’t respond with a succinct explanation such as,

it is an employer’s obligation to provide as safe as reasonably practicable work environment, including travel, which is governed by the laws and regulations around occupational and workplace safety”,

then they really don’t understand the requirement and should not be purchasing anything until they do. If they understand the requirement, then why are they buying products and services that don’t meet the legal and business requirement? More aware companies and managers would understand that you can never 100% outsource your travel safety management obligations, as you can’t totally outsource your traditional workplace health and safety obligations.

Travel Safety Management

In order to effectively support travel safety, there needs to be context.

Context is already demonstrable throughout the travel process with passports, credit cards, airline bookings, boarding passes, accommodation bookings, meal receipts and expense reports all providing very specific context as to the journey, the individual and the overall travel.

Travel safety needs to be just as contextual. That is, as specific and individual as all these other elements, rather than a ‘one size fits all” notion that views all travellers, journeys and cities within a country as the same or within a handful of broad categories such as low, medium, high, etc. Without context and specific consideration, any and all measures are more akin to a blind newspaper subscription whereby everyone gets the same, shared content and information. That is not travel safety.

Hazard and threat identification is required at some point prior to travel. It is here that managers and travellers should identify the necessity for collaboration between subject matter expertise, service providers and internal elements to the business. This is further evidence that you can’t 100% outsource travel safety. You can have a burden shared, inject specialist products and services at various intervals but it can never be totally outsourced as the traveller and business have a shared obligation to their own safety and that of those they manage, as dictated by the basics of occupational safety law.

Consideration for the risk these hazards and threats present to the traveller and their specified journey must be considered. This is not something that can be achieved by external services. Support can be configured to evaluate and recommended but the so-called ‘risk appetite’ will vary from company to company and each traveller too. Therefore, it is collaboration, not merely a final go/no go assessment made by a tool or a person. At all stages this must be specific to the journey and the traveller with accurate and relevant documentation retained.

This means that in the event of an incident, claim or investigation, the traveller and company should be able to go back and review the specific travel safety assessment; advice and guidance given that approved the travel to be undertaken in the first place.

The simplest and fastest way to determine if a company has compliant and effective travel safety measures in place is to compare 20 travellers going to the same location.

If they all share exactly that same report, resources and rating…. then it is a newspaper, not a travel safety management system.

If it where a travel safety management system each and every traveller would be evaluated based on the variances in their journey and personal preparations/demographics, with a personalised and individual assessment generated, even if they are travelling to the same location; as simple things like first time travel, gender, health status and duration of stay all contribute to the overall travel safety status of the traveller.

The final measures whereby the risk treatment solution, communication, consultation and review/monitor travel safety management systems are all an internal obligation of the company. Yes, there can be collaboration and reliance upon external product or services but the company and it’s management must participate in the process in order to demonstrate engagement in the process and exhibit the basics of occupational safety management. Attempting to apportion the blame to an external provider in the event of serious injury, death and litigation will not succeed, as it is the employer that must demonstrated the existence and conformity to an effective travel safety management system, further negating the option to totally outsource the obligation.

If buyers and procurement departments understood even the basics of safety management they would quickly identify that most of the products and services they have been purchasing do not support travel safety nor do they comply with their legal obligations in provision of a safe work environment. With the evolution of safety laws in many jurisdictions, the managers are now personally accountable for these failings and their own assets and livelihoods are at risk from prosecution and litigation if found negligent in the selection and application of travel safety measures, just as they would for the poor/inadequate application of safety in the traditional, physical workplace. Companies need to stop attempting to outsource travel safety, stop wasting their money and most of all stop exposing their businesses to litigation with safety measures that fall short of even the most rudimentary requirements for ensuring a safer work environment.

Tony Ridley


Travel Safety Experts
Travel Safety Experts

Travel health, safety, security and risk management experts