Global Duty of Care standard developed

The International SOS Foundation (ISOSF) is a global effort to support the study and adoption of a Duty of Care standard, launched in 2011.

The foundation’s goal is to improve the safety, security, health and welfare of people working abroad, through research to help companies, governments, NGOs and universities to understand and manage risks to their global workforce.

The ISOSF will study and provide information to governments, employers, workers and contractors on health, safety and security risks linked to international and remote assignments.

The new body encourages development of international guidance on prevention and mitigation of risks associated with working and travelling abroad, and works with employers to develop and strengthen their responsibilities of Duty of Care.

Arnaud Vaissié, Chairman and CE of International SOS, and founder of the International SOS Foundation, explained that increased globalisation more and more individuals are working further afield, increase risks to worker’s health, security and safety.

The International SOS Foundation and the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) hosted discussions and debates at international OHS conferences, including legal, fiduciary and moral responsibilities and obligations of employers.

Dr Kazutaka Kogi, president of ICOH, believe that occupational health, safety and sheq practitioners could play a leading role in expat Duty of Care.

The health community should “draw a definitive line from Corporate Social Responsibility to Duty of Care, and how international guidance on the issue could be established”. Bodies supporting the move include:
• Canadian Centre of Occupational Safety and Health
• Americas Region Medical Services
• National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
• International Social Security Association (ISSA)
• Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (UK)
• Proctor & Gamble, Latin America
• Gold-Knecht Associates.

Legislation variation requires duty of care guidance

Trends are beginning to emerge globally between regulatory requirements and industry standards on duty of care. In some countries, lack of harmony between regulatory requirements and industry standards lends itself to development of international guidance on duty of care, so employers do not have to work in a vacuum.

Business risks due to medical incidents could result in failed assignments. How an organisation responds and protects itself globally, determines organisational risk exposure.

Duty of Care wider than occupational health

Occupational health professionals are usually charged with overall health and safety of globally mobile employees, but a broad sheq initiative is required, to include information, communication, emergency planning, security management, incident response and global diplomatic and response links.

Five of the perceived top ten threats to foreign employees are medical;
• illness while on assignment
• lack of access to proper medical care
• workplace accidents
• road accidents
• pandemic.

For a full copy of the study, visit http://internationalsosfoundation.org/duty-of-care/

Escalation of globalisation has enabled more workers to cross borders into unfamiliar environments, and thus higher risk exposure to personal health, security and safety.

The foundation is a registered charity and was started with a grant from International SOS. It is a fully independent, non-profit organisation. The foundation has an experienced, independent governing Board of Trustees to steer its vision, objectives and future results.

Duty of care management includes awareness, information, coordination, decision-making responsibilities, employer motivation for assuming responsibility, legal and moral obligations.

Ownership of duty of care in terms of primary responsibility, coordination and decision-making, currently typically lies in five organisational functional groups:
• Human Resources (HR)
• Security
• Risk Management
• Senior Management
• Travel management.

Yet, respondents indicated that it should be everyone’s responsibility, and it is perceived that HR should own the deployment of Duty of Care within organisations.

Companies demonstrated a wide range of engagement when comparing their current Duty of Care practices against various stages of the Integrated Duty of Care Risk Management Model.

Employers score high on ‘Assessment’ but only average on other indicators. Company size, headquarter region and respondent function mattered the most.

Overall, company baseline ranked high for the initial assessment, but dropped considerably thereafter. The Duty of Care baseline differs by company and respondent characteristics, allowing for benchmarking by industry, sector, company size and geography.

Loyalty culture and sheq culture

Companies around the world fail to engage in the full spectrum of managing employee travel risk, and still have a long way to go when it comes to implementing a Duty of Care and Duty of Loyalty culture.

Based on these findings, summarized graphically throughout this White Paper, it is recommended that companies operating globally implement a number of Duty of Care best practices.

Failure to overcome these organizational challenges and to adopt best practices is likely to lead to unnecessary risks and potential harm to globally mobile employees, and increased liability to employers.

Factors that differentiate companies on employer Duty of Care are both the size of the company and its geography (HQ and respondent location), but the factors that matter most are not always the same for different areas of Duty of Care responsibility.

The survey finds that companies are learning to embrace Duty of Care as both a legal and moral responsibility, linking this relatively new concept closely to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Greatest cost for Duty of Care currently lies within planning and implementing best practices, rather than the costs associated with taking care of employees. The knowledge of how to put a Duty of Care plan together in an organization is readily available from experts, but making it happen within a large organization requires discipline from management and employees.

Companies may also be held liable for their ‘negligent failure to plan’ or the omission of a Duty of Care plan, either intentionally or unintentionally, as a result of an employee injury or death.

Duty of Care is not specifically legislated in most emerging and developing markets. However, in more advanced and developed markets the legal framework for Duty of Care is well defined. This makes the deployment and acceptability of a global Duty of Care strategy more difficult for a company operating across borders.

The study’s main recommendation is for companies to develop an integrated risk management strategy to assume their Duty of Care obligations.

Measurement instruments were designed to compare employer practices, indicators and a baseline as it relates to Duty of Care, providing empirical support for the ideas presented in the Duty of Care White Paper.

Corporate Social Responsibility is the main motivator for Duty of Care. Its practice includes;
Best Practice Recommendations
• Increase awareness
• Plan with key stakeholders
• Expand policies and procedures
• Conduct due diligence
• Communicate, educate and train
• Assess risk prior to every employee trip
• Track travelling employees at all times
• Implement an employee emergency response system
• Implement additional management controls
•  Ensure vendors are aligned.

For a full copy of the study, visit http://internationalsosfoundation.org/duty-of-care/

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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.