5 ways to keep employees safe while travelling

In a globalised market, travelling is increasingly common within large companies that have a worldwide footprint. It has become a necessary part of many global company employee’s typical work life. So as a responsible employer, how do we need to act?

With extensive travel, comes increased risk. This means that taking care of travelling workers requires even more rigour and organisation.

As Head of Security Excellence for Global Operations at ISS, it is part of my role to ensure our global teams develop and adhere to a process that delivers safety and security as a priority, protecting our most precious asset - people.

While there are many procedures that work together as a whole to safeguard workers, here is a top five list of priorities for keeping mobile workforces safe.

1. Having a good travel system and policy is vital

First and foremost employees must understand the parameters within which they can travel. Employees must be aware of their company travel policy and read it. They should use one central travel booking platform to allow for monitoring of all travel, helping raise red flags for any potential high risk trips. If an employee does not use the company travel system, nobody will know when and where they are travelling.

2. Adhering to the approval process based on country risk rating

Security risks vary significantly from one country to the next and employers need to monitor real-time risk ratings for relevant travel countries. This requires access to live intelligence from a credible source. It is important to have an approval process in place for countries that exceed the acceptable level of risk, when an employee is wishing to travel. The employer and employee are both responsible for ensuring the travel is flagged and the purpose of the trip evaluated. Depending on the level of risk, the viability of the trip needs to be scrutinised and if approved, appropriate actions put in place.

3. Doing a personal travel risk assessment

Depending on where an employee is going and the risk associated with a location, an assessment will be required. A risk assessment will take the gender, age and experience of the traveler into account.  It will also evaluate a worker's understanding and their familiarity with the country they are travelling to, asking such questions as 'how well does the traveler know the country they are visiting?', ‘Do they speak the local dialect?’

It will also highlight the main risks in that country including crime, terrorism, kidnap & ransom and less obvious factors such as cultural differences. The key elements driving the risk rating should be reviewed as a priority.

The outcome of the assessment determines the advice that is required for the individual traveler.

4. Providing travel safety training 

Basic training should be delivered as a standard to all employees and there should be specific training for high-risk locations. The specific training should explain the outcome of the risk assessment, focusing on the key risks for that trip and measures to mitigate them.

Areas of discussion should include: 'How should you [the employee] act?'; 'Where are the high risk areas to stay away from, and where should you be able to walk more freely?'; 'Which hotel should you stay in?'; 'What transport should you use in a specific country?'; 'Should you have a local escort that speaks the dialect?' and ‘is there a need to deploy a close protection team or local escort?’

We have a system we use in ISS for higher risk trips, where their trip is loaded onto an app on their phone and they are asked to check-in when they land. Every few hours they must check-in to confirm that they are safe. The frequency of the check-in requirement is based on the level of risk.

5. Knowing how to raise a distress call

The final priority is for employees to have the ability to raise the alarm if they need help. Mobile telephones are often used to raise an alarm, however, if an employee is in a difficult situation it may not be possible. The app we use in ISS has a distress call facility that discretely raises the alarm and pinpoints their GPS coordinates. This allows for a response to begin, either confirming their safety, or engaging a response plan and local support if required. 

In summary, as security professionals we must have the ability to know where our teams are travelling at any given time. We must receive advance notice of travel and be able to intervene and approve or reject if the risk rating is above the acceptable level. We have to prepare our employees for trips by assessing their personal profile, and advise them on the necessary steps to stay safe, equipping them with a distress call facility that allows for their location to be tracked once activated.

About the author:

Robert WilsonRobert Wilson

ISS Head of Security Excellence