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Global Health Thought Leader Uncategorized

Serving Safely

By: Jan Batchelder, CTC, Raptim Humanitarian Travel

Duty of Care and Risk Management – are they the same thing?

These phrases have become the “buzz” words in the HR departments of non-profits everywhere. Keeping staff and volunteers safe is of utmost importance, and having a reliable travel risk management program and duty of care policy in place is essential for any organization.

Alarmingly, many organizations are still using the terms duty of care and travel risk management interchangeably, as if they are one and the same thing. The definition of “duty of care” is a moral and/or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others. Risk management is the course of action we take to meet duty of care obligations.

What are the building blocks to meeting our legal, but most importantly, our moral responsibility to our travelers? The basics of designing a risk management program are relatively simple:

  • Define the level of obligation
  • Evaluate the types of risk your travelers may encounter
  • Immediate mitigation of risk, where possible
  • Insuring against those risks that cannot be brought down to a manageable level

Defining the level of obligation

Determining a level of obligation can sound uncaring, but in reality it is not. An organization that designs a risk management program based on low risk potential can leave those who are more likely to experience high risk situations unprotected. Doing the opposite, high risk planning when most travels are in the lower risk group, can be devastating financially.

Examine your traveler groups to determine risks types and to assure that the correct elements are considered to meet the unique obligations owed your staff and volunteers.

  • Domestic needs differ from international. Distance alone increases the potential for safety issues.
  • Employment status implies obligation by legality; the risk management needs of staff and volunteers differ.

It is important to develop a high resolution view of risk across multiple functions within your organization. Consider your entire ecosystem of risk management; specifically, developing a thorough understanding of where your people are going and what they will be engaged in.

Evaluate Risk Types/Risk Assessment

  • Catastrophic events
  • “Every day” events
  • Political
  • Natural

We most often think of catastrophes first when evaluating risk potential; tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, terrorist attacks…if most of your employees travel internationally, these types of occurrences are foremost to consider.

“Every day” issues, such as pedestrian, car or public transportation accidents, occur domestically, as well as outside the U.S.  

Are your projects in politically unstable areas? Consider the need for a fast exit in your assessment.

Should a natural disaster occur, perhaps not catastrophic, but wide reaching or long term, would your staff be going toward it or evacuating from it. Both have unique risk management needs.

Mitigating Risk

Only through knowledge can you determine what the mitigable risk factors are. The more potential problems you can anticipate, advise of, and outright eliminate, the safer your employees will be and the less need to over-spend on outside services.

Mitigate your risk by staying abreast of the latest rules and regulations. Disruptive events, such as bombings, hostage crises, virus outbreaks, natural disasters and on-demand economies, require a keen understanding of travel risk management to minimize the risk quotient for people and operations. This, also, helps better manage costs associated with response, recovery, lost productivity and liability.

  • Written Advisement/Information
  • Training/Briefing
  • Policy Review





Mandate acknowledgement of bulletins and information flyers, refer to websites and articles with specific insight and instruction. These types of information and direction are very effective and can fulfill legal obligations for a small cost.

Institute online and in-person training, as well as briefings; before, during and after the trip/project. Cover a variety of subjects, including culture, food, transportation, politics, religion, to name a few.

Develop a strong travel policy and consistently review it. That is not just “no business class and lowest fare” type policy. Emphasize emergency protocol (who to contact and how), a traveler tracking system, a defined crisis management team, travel consolidated through one authorized channel that offers 24/7 worldwide emergency service, pre-trip advisories and travel alerts.


This is not insurance in the true sense of the word, as we commonly use it. There are, however, several ways to “insure” that your risk management plan is addressing your defined levels of obligation. The most dynamic plans are a combination of  these elements.

  • Free
    • State Department services
      • STEP –Smart Traveler Enrollment Program provides bulletins regarding safety at the destination, pro-active U.S. Embassy contact, and resources allowing family to reach you in emergency situations.  You can enroll a single trip, or become a frequent traveler.
      • CDC –Center for Disease Control distributes health and disease information, as well as conducting travel vaccine clinics.
  • Purchased
    • Multiple software packages and service providers. Range of available services, from emergency contacts to medical care and evacuation
      • ISOS
      • Concur Risk Management
      • Amadeus Mobile Messenger
  • Partnership
    • Select a travel provider that offers a risk management tool at a subsidized price, in addition to 24/7 worldwide emergency services for your travelers.

Three Steps to Risk Management

  • Get prepared
  • Education and awareness for all stakeholders
  • Choose the right program for your organization

Not to over simplify, as this is a major project for any organization, but many of the foundation blocks can be laid by following the steps above. Engagement, commitment, and dedication will allow you to develop a Risk Management program that fully supports your Duty of Care obligations.

Raptim Humanitarian Travel is a member of the Georgia Global Health Alliance.


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