Do you meet your ‘Duty of Care’ requirement? What does duty of care actually mean, and is it even a genuine requirement?
Around the world, over 50 countries now have some form of legislation relating to providing ‘Duty of Care’ as an employer. In the UK, the ‘Duty of Care’ legislation falls not only under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, but also the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
“It is an employer's duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.
This means making sure that workers and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace.” (Health & Safety At Work Act 1974)
Duty of Care: Home and Away
In a traditional office or factory environment, this can be relatively straightforward. It can be as simple as undertaking a risk assessment to identify the hazards, and put in appropriate control measures to reduce the risk.
Now, send that employee overseas. What does ‘Duty of Care’ look like now?
Under Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulation 1999, employers have a legal obligation to protect the health and safety of their workforce, which in turn requires, among other things, that all employers assess the risks to health and safety of their employees.
Taking this into consideration, a UK company sending someone from the UK overseas has a legal obligation to assess the risks of sending that employee overseas. They will also have to operate under the laws and legislation of the country to which they are sending the employee.
So, it is getting difficult to find a reason to not risk assess the trip.
This is where the confusion can take place, which can lead to the adoption of incorrect solutions in an attempt to meet Duty of Care requirements.
Country Overviews Are Not Enough On Their Own
Getting an overview of a country collates some useful information, but doesn’t provide a risk assessment for the individual going to the country. If you send 100 employees to Brazil, based on this they would all have the same risk assessment. This doesn’t take into consideration the age, experience, health or even position they hold in the organization. Each employee will have a different risk profile, and this has to be taken into consideration.
Without the risk assessment you cannot identify what control measures you need to reduce the risk. How would you know if training, tracking or even a bodyguard would be the right solution for the traveler?
You don’t. Until you have first assessed the risk you won’t know what to put in place. All of the above control measures are good, but don’t solve a problem that you haven’t identified yet.
A yellow fever injection is great but doesn’t prevent against malaria. That is why you identify what the risks are then use appropriate measures to control them. Why would this be any different to you most important assets, your people?
I can’t tell you what control measures you need to put in for each individual person on each trip, and neither can you until you have assessed the risk.
To be fulfilling your Duty of Care requirement, you must first be assessing the risk of your employees before you can even think about what measures you can use to keep them safe.