The first step to ensuring your employees are safe and sound abroad or during a business trip is to produce a decent travel risk assessment. If your company’s workers are supposed to travel to high-risk countries, then recognize that you need to reduce risks before travel. For example, this is often the case with executive protection agents and other security industry specialists. They need to know what awaits them.
Two vital steps in designing an appropriate travel risk assessment are the following:
- Identify the potential risks, and,
- Manage them.
That’s pretty much all there is to it.
Except it isn’t. Travel risk assessment is an utterly complex topic, which we will endeavor to reduce to its bare essentials.
The Purpose of Travel Risk Assessment
The ultimate aim of a travel risk assessment is to identify any employee threats during travel. Yet, travel risks are regularly changing. Therefore, an evaluation of this kind may cover everything from missing a flight to a global pandemic. Sound familiar?
The sooner your organization performs its travel risk assessment, the better policies and procedures you will establish. The next step in the process is informing your employees about the results of the TRA. After all, it impacts them the most. They have the right to know what could happen to them when traveling to a Third World country or a high-risk mission.
As soon as you identify the risks, now is the time to manage them. To do that, you must take into consideration two main factors:
- Likelihood or probability, and,
- Impact or severity.
Simply put, to make the right decision, you should analyze the balance between probability and severity. For instance, you can tolerate some severe risks if you have limited control over a situation. There could be a violent coup d’état happening in the city your employees are working in. You have zero power to stop it, so you just go with the flow and wait it out.
On the other hand, there could be a probable risk of stomach sickness due to different hygiene practices. However, the impact of that is limited. It’s all a matter of balancing that which you can control and that which you can predict and mitigate beforehand.
Core Components of a Travel Risk Assessment
Three elements play the most important role when an individual employee travels abroad:
- Traveler patterns: What are the employee’s plans? Will they book a car rental? Consider the travel itinerary and its impacts on the employee. Could somebody recognize their movement patterns?
- Traveler health: Is the employee sufficiently healthy to undertake the travel? How about allergies or health conditions that could pose a threat on the probability-severity spectrum?
- Traveler gender: If LGBT employees travel to some parts of the world, they could face assaults or persecution. Generally speaking, female travelers are more likely to fall prey to criminals than other traveler types. Sadly, sexual preferences and gender affiliation still play a dangerous role in some countries.
Consider the Environment
Of course, not everything depends on the individual, but also on his surroundings. In other words, you need to thoughtfully consider the environment the employee will encounter. And here are the four crucial aspects when it comes to regulating and predicting the environment:
- Illness or disease: If an employee travels to Africa, they could catch an infectious disease or an illness. Do you need to provide a vaccine or medication to the employee? How about on-the-ground support? Are health services available, or should the employee bring a first aid kit?
- Transport type: Think traveling by car in a country with low road quality. Keep in mind any travel restrictions or laws. Your employees could rightfully be enraged if they were to find out you didn’t tell them about all the dirt roads.
- Crime rate: Is crime at the destination at an all-time low or high? In any case, should you bring a gun? Does the destination country have regulations to allow you to carry a firearm? How else could you protect your employees and yourself? How about hand-to-hand combat?
- Natural disasters: Will there be volcanic eruptions taking place at the time of the employee’s arrival at the destination? How about a tsunami, a hurricane, or an earthquake? What’s the probability and severity of all these scenarios?
The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of how travel risks can change quickly. Really quickly. It has ruined countless plans and made numerous organizations reconsider their travel risk assessment practices. Mostly for the better. Well, at least something we can be thankful for.
You don’t always need a travel risk assessment. It doesn’t have to be sticking out of your pocket every time you go out on the street. It isn’t that kind of thing. Sometimes you can just ignore it. Or can you?
Well, as with everything else in the TRA domain, the answer is: maybe, it depends on the case.
When TRAs are Redundant
If your company’s employees travel to the same destinations repeatedly, it might be unnecessary to perform a travel risk assessment every time. One will usually do the trick and protect your workers in the long run. Nevertheless, if a political, social, or health situation changes by the hour, it would be wise to produce a TRA. And yes, even if you have flown to the destination dozens of times already. Just think of all the full-blown civil wars that erupt in a matter of days or even hours. Nobody saw them coming.
TRAs may also be unnecessary when your employees travel domestically or when they visit a nearby city. There is a relatively low likelihood something severe could happen to them. The only exception here is if a trip lasts for longer than a week. In this case, it’s better to ask your team to perform that travel risk assessment. Better be safe than sorry.
The third instance when TRAs aren’t needed is during last-minute travel. If you can’t conduct a full risk assessment, then have your employees purchase additional insurance. Although not obligatory, experts advise that companies perform a basic type of a TRA in this case. Something is better than nothing.
And some countries even have policies in place that mandate businesses to carry out travel risk assessments at all times. This can sound dissimulating for many firms, but it’s actually a wise move to ensure employee safety.
So, instead of waiting for the state authorities to force you to implement travel risk assessments, beat them to it. You will all be better off.