Has business travel expense management become the new proof of travel safety and duty of care, or negligence? What your business spends and where, along with travel expenses claimed by your travellers contributes to your proof of compliance/guilt.
Travel Safety Proof
Travel is not the only business activity that consumes or creates expenditure across numerous verticals within a business, but it is still one of the few that still overlooks the evidence created by the activity and how it relates to workplace health and safety. In other words, how you prioritise safety, what you spend and evidence of compliance/negligence can all be found in business travel expense reports. And this evidence or practice can be used for either legal defence or prosecution if not correctly managed, not to mention the risk business travellers are exposed to as a result.
Travel Safety Analysis
Consider a typical business travel event or journey, that consists of 3 days international travel, accommodation, business activities and various sundries. Because all of this expenditure appears neatly on a post-travel expense report or even a pre-travel approval forecast, we can see where the money goes and the “value” of each item. This now gives us a great insight into variations and costs for each product, service or resource consumed within the journey. But this is where it gets interesting. When it comes to health and safety, which is where the notion of “duty of care” resides, there is consideration for whether a cost for provision of safety and control measures was ‘acceptable’ or prohibitive. For example, personal protective equipment [PPE] is used the world over and while cost of purchase may vary due to economy of scale or local procurement costs, you are unlikely to be found to be compliant or genuinely contributing to health and safety of your personnel if you gave them paper tissue hats and basketball shoes and called it PPE for the purposes of safety and protection from hazards in the environments where PPE is required. But what about travel safety?
Breadcrumbs Lead To…
Is there a formula, cost centre, expenditure tracking or investment model for travel safety, for each and every journey made? Given that so many other elements, from salary, business/commercial costs, accommodation, flights, meals and even communications are tracked, where/when is travel safety expenditure considered? Do you, as a business, know exactly how much you spend, and on what and why, for each business trip that is undertaken, as it relates to safety? Why not? You will be asked to demonstrate or prove it if contested, investigated or prosecuted.
Umbrella or One-Size-Fits-All Expenditure
You are facing a court of law and victims of a tragedy. You are asked, in your defence, to explain why there was loss of life on your business premises due to a fire, when the regulations require smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and emergency exits. Your response is “Well, we have invested a lot of money across the company and on average we are happy that our business premises meet regulation and have the necessary fixtures and resources required”. Simple photographic evidence is then produced, that shows while your statement is factual as to expenditure, the specific location in question had none of these resources nor fixtures and the resulting fire lead to the death of those trapped and unable to contain/fight the fire. Your response [remembering that safety negligence cases are typically criminal in nature] is “we have a company safety policy, we take it very seriously and we have spent a lot of money to protect our premises and people, perhaps just not in this case, at this location, for these specific people, for that specific event”. Perhaps there are more instances of these oversights, despite the all-up costs incurred? Do you see how concerning and reckless this scenario is? Substitute this for business travel, and many businesses have this very same exposure and risk due to their “one-size=fits-all” approach, just not any specific person, journey nor destination. Furthermore, your business expense report helps prove it as there isn’t even any costs for “PPE”, job specific travel safety expenditure. This applies to travel insurance too.
As per safety regulations/legislation and risk management standards, relatively consistent around the world, apply travel safety on a “per person, per journey and per destination” basis. Itemise your expenditure for each journey, and identify the exact amount apportioned to travel health, safety, security and risk management. Not in preparation for a legal defence but that is what is actually required. If upon examination you discover that you are spending just $1 for a million dollar asset [traveller, business opportunity, etc], then you may find you have a significant single or annual risk of loss, injury or litigation in the event of a negative event. Regardless of how “duty of care” ready you think you might be. As you can see, it is a pretty simple and straightforward process for employees, victims and lawyers to “measure” just how effective your travel safety or travel risk management systems really are, which may also void your insurance for both the business and the traveller.