The Travel Health and Safety Mistake That Could Cost Your Company Thousands

Introduction

Workplace health and safety has become commonplace for most companies globally. However, the same basic standards and compliance are conspicuously absent for those whose workplace includes travel. If you want to know more about this mistake that could cost your business thousands if not rectified, then read on. In this article we will look at workplace health and safety, travel hazard identification, travel health and safety in conjunction with the potential business losses. By the end of this article you will have the four basic steps to evaluate your risk and the correction steps to save your business from significant loss.

Workplace Health and Safety

All developed countries have very mature workplace, site or project health and safety regulations, many with stiff penalties for noncompliance. While the overarching legislation provides compliance and standards guidelines, companies are able to apply their own evaluation and measurement of foreseeable threats, following a standardized methodology. This enables companies to benchmark their final results and permits replicatable processes.

Due to this common approach and process maturity, many companies have ventured even further by creating self imposed higher standards such as “no harm”, “zero loss”, “100% safe” and other similar internal campaigns to reduce or eliminate any-and-all injury in the workplace, site or project.

Workplace health and safety is not just practiced in the country of origin but also applied to all their various projects and worksites around the world as a global health and safety standard.

Construction companies have taken this philosophy to the nth degree by displaying at the point of entry to their project, all incidents, days lost, days since last safety event and so on.

Why is none of this applied to travel health and safety?

Travel Hazard Identification

Following on from the workplace health and safety model, activity and location risk registers are typically made before commencement of works and maintained throughout the life of the work activity. When was the last time you saw a travel health and safety risk register or hazard identification register that used a standardized methodology?

If you already have a workplace risk register, documenting the foreseeable threats, naked threat levels, treatment solutions, control measures and residual risk level following all modifier actions, why don’t you have the same documentation for travel health and safety?

If you don’t apply the same process, maintain the same documentation and conduct the same degree of education and communication to reduce the risk, for travel health and safety then you don’t a travel safety program at all. This mistake will not only cost you from a productivity and efficiency perspective but expose you to legal recourse should it be proven you have failed to mitigate the travel health and safety threats of your extended workplace and travel activity.

Travel Health and Safety

Travel health and safety is not an unachievable task. All the steps have been exhibited above. The only reason it has not already been applied to any company travel management program is due to ignorance, laziness, lack of education, lack of resources, over confidence and avoidance. None of which are defensible for companies that suffer loss of life, reduction in people capital, decreased productivity and financial loss.

Due to the amount or time consumed in business travel, travel may actually constitute a majority component of your overall “workplace”. This is particularly acute for companies with high people capital business models, that sees a lot of consultants, academics, professionals or contractors traveling to the client’s physical business site/s from their respective city/country of residence.

Business Loss

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Travel health and safety should be measured for loss to the business ranging from productivity to direct financial losses. The problem is that because the cumulative losses are rarely identified in a single cost centre or business unit and more likely spread across multiple functions and business units, businesses fail to identify or acknowledge these overall travel health and safety losses.

Tangible losses are one issue whereas the intangible losses are another matter entirely. Reputation, legal, market share, new business, training and development are all plausible losses from foreseeable risk.

Failure to implement a travel health and safety strategy will in time be discovered as a grave mistake and cost the company/business unit thousands of dollars (or more) in losses.

Conclusion

There is no requirement to do anything new, simply extend the current workplace health and safety methodologies to encompass “all likely places of work” which would include travel.

The four basic steps to correct this mistake are: 1. Identify the hazards; 2. Assess the risk; 3. Apply control measures; and 4. Manage the residual risk.

You should now be able to identify the significant void between workplace health and safety and that of travel health and safety, in particular hazard identification, regulatory compliance and the potential business losses.

Review your real status now. Identify the areas for improvement immediately, implement positive changes and enjoy the benefits that contribute to your business travel productivity, efficiency and safety. The information contained in this article will save you thousands in potential losses should you not consider travel a foreseeable risk to your business travellers or not consider travel an extension of your overall workplace.

Green Travel Plan Advice

A Green Travel Plan should deliver economic, practical and easy to manage measures both now and in the future. The majority of individuals that usually require a green travel plan are commercial developers and businesses. A plan should typically be:

  • economic to implement ‘day one’
  • cost effective for future management
  • include practical, well thought out measures that work

What’s the difference between Green and Workplace travel plans?

A Green Travel Plan (also typically known as a Workplace Travel Plan) is an obligation imposed by local authorities through the planning process typically by way of panning condition attached to a planning consent or by a S.106 agreement. It may also be introduced as a requirement during the application process.

In addition a Travel Plan is often a requirement of a BREEAM assessment process.

The Green Travel Plan sets out a suite of actions and measures intended to promote travel to the site by sustainable transport methods such as bicycle, bus or train rather than private car.

So I have a Green Travel Plan, what happens if I don’t follow it?

Most local authorities will require occupiers to monitor the effectiveness of the plan to ensure measures are being implemented and targets set in the plan are being met. The aim should be to demonstrate ongoing improvement.

Some local authorities now have sustainable travel officers whose sole duty is to promote sustainable travel and to monitor plans to ensure compliance.

Ultimately the local authority does have the power to take Enforcement action against you if you are not implementing and monitoring your plan. The council has the power to issue of a breach of condition notice to require you to comply with the requirements which could ultimately lead to prosecution and fine if you still fail to comply.

What Actions and Measures do the plans typically include?

They are sometimes produced to include high cost and complicated measures such as staff showers, public transport information and ticketing systems, subsidised public transport, cycle parking and staff loan schemes. Whilst it’s important to be mindful of the commercial necessity to obtain a consent, more simpler and cost effective measures should be considered as well, such as; free internet access to travel guides; website links to local travel information; car sharing schemes and on site maps of bus and train stations.

A plan should be produced to minimise the cost to the clients of delivering their plan whilst balancing this against the local planning policy requirements and need for a consent in a timely manner.

What will my Green Travel Plan cost?

Every plan is different based on the local policy requirements, the site constraints and the commercial pressures. Each should ideally be produced on a site specific basis. It is important to appreciate that a well considered and written plan allied to skilled consultants negotiating terms with the local authority will save you more money than you will ever spend on preparing it. Conversely, one poorly written will cost you money ‘day one’ and for many years to come as you continue to spend money and management time on costly and unwieldy measures.

Four Travel Buddies You Want to Avoid

You might think you already know this guy or girl.  You know the stereotypes.  We have the stinker, snorer, snoozie-nooner, party guy, captain go-go-go, no-doe, and the travel guru to name a few.   Great, but I’m not talking about any of them.

I’m talking about a different kind of travel buddy that you will want to avoid at all cost.  I’m talking about something so opportunistic that it gives a whole new meaning to the word “mooch”.  These guys aren’t your buddy at all.  These guys are true parasites.

1.) Giardia Lamblia – Topping our list as one of the most common is this guy.  He might have you go-go-go but it’s always to the same place, the toilet.

Somewhere along the trail you came into contact with infected feces, ut-oh.  Most likely it was in the form of contaminated food or water.  The Route of infection, fecal-oral – eww!

If your traveling in developing countries where poor sanitary conditions, water quality control and overcrowding are prevalent then you are at increased risk.

Also at risk are campers and backpackers.  This is particularly true in mountainous regions where streams can be infected with human or animal waste and carry Giardia cysts (resting stage).  Always treat your water.

Once you ingest the cysts the acid in your stomach activates the cysts and releases trophozoites (active form of parasite in your body).  From this point it’s all fun and games for the parasite as it attaches to your small intestine and starts to reproduce.  As you pass feces it now contains more cysts waiting to reinfect another.

In the meantime you are blessed with sudden explosive foul smelling diarrhea, excessive gas, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, tiredness and loss of appetite.  When you think about the parasites method of infection your symptoms are great for its survival and desired goal to find more human hosts.

Preventive Measures for Travelers –  Practice good hygiene, follow food and water precautions (appropriate water filtering), avoid accidental water intake during swimming.

Fun History –  Giardia is often referred to as “Beaver Fever” due to the high occurrence of campers getting the disease from drinking contaminated water inhabited by beavers.

2.)  Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous – This next one is going to have you feeling like the stinker.  Why?  Because once people catch site of your ugly lesions they are gonna avoid you like the plague.

This travel buddy can be picked up in southern Europe as well parts of the tropics and subtropics.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 90% of the world’s cases of CL occur in eight countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria (Old World); and Brazil and Peru (New World).  Over 75% U.S. civilian cases are acquired in Latin America, including popular tourist destinations such as Costa Rica.

Travelers at increased risk for CL include adventure travelers, bird watchers, ecotourists, missionaries, Peace Corps volunteers, soldiers and anyone doing research outdoors particularly at night.

The vector-borne culprit is an infected female phlebotomine sand fly.  Risk for infection is highest from dusk to dawn as they are night feeders.  Although less active in the day, they may bite unsuspecting hikers that brush against tree trunks or other resting places.

The event of infection can go completely unnoticed.  Sand flies make no buzzing noise, are about 1/3 the size of mosquitoes and don’t have a wicked mean bite.  It’s what comes after that will remind you of your friendly new travel buddy.

Preventive Measures for Travelers –  Reduce contact with sand flies.  Avoid outdoor activities especially during the hours from dusk till dawn.  Wear protective clothing and barriers.  Use a repellent with DEET.

Fun History– That was the good kind.  Visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar or black fever is the most severe form of leishmaniasis.  If left untreated it will certainly cause death.  Here’s the bad news,  the World Health Oganization reports that in southern Sudan, “the number of cases from September 2009 until now is more than six times higher than in 2007-08.” and “more than 6,000 people have been infected and over 300 have died in the last year.”

3.)  Malaria – genus: Plasmodium The good old standby.  If you travel abroad, come home and fall ill everyone will be quick to say “you probably have Malaria”.  So do you?

According to the CDC there are about 1,500 cases of Malaria in the U.S each year, mostly from returned travelers.  Sub-Saharan Africa travelers are at the greatest risk for both getting malaria and dying from the infection.  However, any country where malaria is present results in a risk for travelers.

A great tool for you to use is the CDC Malaria Map Application.  Users can search a interactive map and get information about malaria endemicity in any particular region.  What’s great is it recommended medications for malaria prevention for that particular area.

Mosquitoes are the culprit carrying the parasite that causes Malaria.  Mosquitoes are also the thing you want to avoid to avoid picking up this new travel buddy.  Can you imagine that, heading out camping realizing there was a real legitimate risk of contracting Malaria.  People in the States often joke, “Probably got Malaria” after being bit a bunch but we don’t really think we have it.

But what if the circumstances are right?  You were in a high risk area, you got bit by mosquitoes.  Did you know you could come down with symptoms up to a year later.  Anyone that has traveled abroad should seek immediate medical attention up to a year after any possible exposure if symptoms present.  Malaria is always a serious illness and sometimes deadly.  Symptoms of Malaria include fever and a flu like illness.

Preventative Measures for Travelers –   Avoid contact with mosquito bites through the usual means including protective clothing, repellents, insecticide treated bed nets, etc.  If you know you are traveling into a high risk area you should consider bringing malaria prevention medicines.  Consult the Malaria information by country table list to see the CDC-recommended options.

Bringing your own medicine will give you some peace of mind and in the event you are diagnosed with Malaria abroad.  This will ensure you have immediate access to an appropriate high quality anti-malarial treatment plan.  Not doing so could leave you in a bad situation.  In some countries where Malaria is present it is not unheard of to receive counterfeit or sub-standard drug treatment.

Fun History – The word “malaria” comes from the Italian mala aria, and means “bad air.” It was believed that malaria was actually caused by breathing in bad air-namely, foul vapors emanating from swamps, latrines, and so on. The stagnant water provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes which was actually the responsible culprit capable of spreading the parasite.

4.)  Ascaris lumbricoides– This is the largest nematode (roundworm) that can parasitize the human intestine and it’s also the most common.  This thing can actually grow 5 to 35 inches long and produce more than 200,000 eggs per day inside the body.

Infection occurs worldwide but is most common in tropical and subtropical areas.  Developing countries where sanitation and hygiene are poor result in higher risk.

Ascaris Infection occurs when a person accidentaly ingest ascaris eggs found in soil.  Common routes of infection include contaminated food or touching your mouth with your hands after coming into contact with the eggs.

Once in the small intestine the eggs hatch into immature worms.  The larvae migrate to the lungs and then to the throat where they are swallowed. When they reach the intestines they develop into adult worms.  The adult female is responsible for laying eggs which will eventually pass into ones feces.

Symptoms can be mild (adominal discomfort) to none.  Slow weight gain or growth is often associated with Ascaris infection.  If your thinking this sounds like a great way to lose way think again.  Heavy worm infections have been known to cause a intestinal blockage.

Preventative Measures for Travelers– Telling you to avoid contact with soil that may contain human feces sounds redicoulous but make sure you do this.  If possible don’t deficate outdoors.  Always dispose of diapers properly.  Wash hands with soap and water before handling food and avoid any food that may be contaminated with soil.  Wash, peel or cook your food throughly before consumption.

Fun History–  Has anyone heard of the  new weight loss craze in Hong Kong?  Apparently, certain Chinese-language websites have been promoting the use of products that contain Ascaris worm eggs with the promise of fast weight loss.  Did you see what I said at the start of this article, these things can grow up to 35 inches long.  Don’t do It!

Aside from the obvious gross factor these worms can cause serious complications including death.  No more needs to be said.

BONUS BUG) Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius) – These guys are the real travel gurus.  If they talked you would likely get a earful of how they traveled harder, further and just plain better then you ever did.

You would likely hear stories of how they hopped one backpack in a crowded metro car to another and then got a free stay in a 4 star hotel after two nights bumming in some filthy flat.  The next day they decided to travel again with some complete stranger they picked up in bed and ended up on a 7 day cruise.  Not ready to go home yet they hopped bags at luggage in the airport and were on their way to Tahiti.  Wow, What a life.

For more on Bed Bugs please visit our full post on Bed Bugs and Traveling.

Bonus Fun About Parasites– Did you know most parasites need a host, often more than one different kind to complete thier life cycle.  Check out this cool video on how the clever parasite gets it done.