Written by Dr Michael Braida -
The landscape of employee safety is ever-changing. Did you know, for example, that from spring 2017, fatal accident inquiries will have the authority to investigate the deaths of Scottish nationals killed while working abroad?
In order to help understanding in this area, our sister not-for-profit health organisation, The International SOS Foundation, has collaborated with Scottish commercial law firm Burness Paull to produce a white paper detailing the obligations required from both employers and employees in order to promote a safe working environment for all.
The white paper, Sending Workers Abroad: The Employer’s Duties In Relation To Health, Safety and Security, reflects on the HSWA and familiar risk aversion techniques such as risk assessments and control of worksite precautions.
In Britain, most workers know that their right to a safe working environment is part of the legal duty of care and implied duty of mutual trust provided by their employer. This right is part of the terms contained within the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA).
But what happens to this right when an employee is contracted by a British firm to work abroad?
A case study highlights the potential risks of an organisation not understanding and implementing appropriate health and travel risk mitigation plans:
An oil worker was assigned to a job in West Africa by his employer. As his work was to be carried out on an offshore oil rig, he was advised that anti-malarial medication would be unnecessary as there would be no risk of infection out at sea, and so he did not acquire any.
Unfortunately, while in transit to the rig, the man died as a result of a malarial mosquito bite inflicted during an overnight stopover on land. The High Court ruled in favour of his widow, and found that the employer had neglected to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of the oil worker while in the course of his employment, regardless of the incident having occurred abroad.
While this landmark example may be unusual, the importance of comprehensive safeguarding of employee wellbeing remains the same – no matter where in the world persons are deployed or which tasks they undertake in the course of their employment.
The global business community is increasingly aware of their obligations when it comes to employee safety. In a recent survey of over 1,000 business decision-makers, almost half of respondents (48%) say their organisation’s investment in travel risk mitigation has increased in the past year, and 47% believe this will increase further in the coming year.
The International SOS Foundation and Burness Paull also outline the duties of employees to their employers, as workers have a statutory duty to comply with any requirements imposed by their employers in order to ensure their safety or security.
There are practical tips provided in the White Paper as well as the Travel Risk Management Toolbox, an essential checklist of health and security risk measures that organisations can use to help fulfil their responsibilities to their mobile workforce.
Thanks to the legal expertise of Rona Jamieson, a partner and head of health, safety and corporate crime and her team at Burness Paull, the white paper is an indispensable reference point for organisations committed to improving the health and safety of their mobile workforce.
Increased awareness of the rights and responsibilities attached to employee health, safety and security will help secure your wellbeing and safety, whether you’re three miles or three time-zones away from home.
Dr Michael Braida is regional medical director at International SOS.
The white paper is available at www.internationalsosfoundation.org