A look at recent news headlines from media around the world suggests that we live in dangerous times. Whilst there are more than 8 million people airborne every day, a few will become crime statistics after landing.
Headlines confirmed our worst fears with reports on hijackings, tsunamis, civil disorder, muggings, hotel burglaries, disease, fire, floods and kidnappings.
Given the volatile nature of travelling to and operating in certain countries, companies need to plan, resource, implement and maintain a corporate travel security programme. In this way, employers can manage travel risks and fulfil a moral and legal duty of care towards their personnel operating in foreign destinations, especially hostile environments.
Whilst duty of care is a phrase often bandied about by companies and legal counsel, few employees understand how such duty of care involves them or their families. We hope to change this by ensuring that during our travel security consultancy, we encourage the use of the corporate intranet and other internal communication channels to make personnel and their management aware of the company’s duty of care responsibilities. In common law jurisdictions, an employer is obliged to ensure that employees operate in a secure and safe working environment, both at home and abroad.
A company’s failure to provide suitable protective measures for their employees against any reasonably foreseeable loss of life, limb or liberty, exposes that company to a lawsuit for negligence. In 2007, the United Kingdom passed its Corporate Manslaughter Act and many companies have business continuity plans to minimise business disruptions and promote the continuity of operations in the event of a disaster.
However, to prevent any criminal liability or claims of criminal negligence, a robust corporate travel security programme must be implemented. Such a programme should include, but not be limited to, the following six steps:
Before any flights or hotel bookings are made, the individual employee must acknowledge that they have read and understood a country risk profile about their specific destination.
If travelling to several destinations during their scheduled trip, the employee must read and acknowledge on the company intranet a country risk profile for each place to be visited.
These country risk profiles will provide a background about the current political, economic and social situation, as well as an analysis of the security environment with regards to terrorist activity, malicious, sectarian violence, government corruption and political allegiances.
The HR department, in conjunction with the Corporate Security department, must maintain updated details about the staff member who is travelling to ensure that proof of life questions and DNA, voice and fingerprints are available for comparison and verification purposes.
In order to empower staff with the self resilience needed to operate outside of their comfort zones and in hostile environments, all corporate travellers should attend a three-day hostile environment awareness training course. These courses equip attendees with an understanding of the priorities of surveillance and immediate action drills in respect of handling roadblocks, being shot at, maintaining privacy of their communications and emergency medicine.
The HR department and the business unit for whom the staff member works need to review the travel insurance cover on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, travel insurance can cover mundane risks such as delayed flights and incorrect seat allocations. But, more comprehensive insurance includes kidnap and ransom, extortion and evacuation for both medical and humanitarian purposes. Such insurance cover needs to be reviewed on a periodic basis to ensure that the staff member is adequately covered in terms of their work responsibilities and duties.
The company should provide a meet and greet service at the chosen destination and secure transport to an accredited hotel. Having attended a H.E.A.T. course, there is no need for the company to provide the employee with close protection or armed escorts.
Further local assistance can include the issuance of a travel package which will include a fully-charged mobile phone with a local sim card and pre-programmed emergency contact numbers; an explanation of local laws; and immediate action drills in the event of a motor vehicle accident, crime or suspected disappearance of a work colleague.
In much the same way that companies monitor their mobile assets such as trucks, vehicles and high-valued goods, so key personnel should be monitored when operating in foreign countries or hostile environments. The purpose of such monitoring is not to impact on the employees quality of life when abroad, but rather to provide both employee and Head Office with a quick and effective means of emergency communications when everyday situations turn critical.
At Zero Foundation Africa, we have the experience, local assets and capabilities to design and implement a Corporate Travel Security Programme that will ensure that your staff return home safely, whatever crisis they find themselves in whilst abroad.