May 15, 2023

A Brief Guide to “travel risk management.”

A Brief Guide to “travel risk management.”

Travel is an essential part of many businesses and comes with inherent risks. Whether it's a medical emergency, a natural disaster, or a security incident, these risks can significantly impact employees' safety and ability to work effectively. That's why Travel Risk Management (TRM) is so important. TRM is a process of identifying and mitigating risks associated with business travel so that companies can protect their employees and their business interests. This guide provides an overview of TRM and offers guidance on implementing a comprehensive TRM program.

Risks Associated with Business Travel

Companies must be aware of their employees' well-being and potential risks regarding business travel. From health emergencies to security threats and natural disasters, companies must think about potential issues that may occur while their staff travel abroad or to destinations in their home country.

For example, a traveller may have a severe allergic reaction to unfamiliar food or find themselves in a hotel targeted by a terrorist attack. On top of that, travellers may find cultural or language barriers that make it difficult to navigate unfamiliar environments. Companies need to be proactive about being on top of these potential issues and take steps to ensure the safety and well-being of their people.

TRM goes beyond the safety of staff. An unexpected medical issue can also cause problems for the business. If a key employee cannot work for any reason, that can cause project delays, missed sales or operational disruptions, all of which will impact the employer.

Legal and Moral Obligations of Companies/Employers

Companies have a legal and moral obligation to provide a safe work environment for their employees, including when they are travelling for work purposes and potentially for pleasure (if linked to a work trip). Failure to meet these obligations can result in legal and reputational consequences and employee harm.

Only the most egregious examples tend to result in significant news stories, so you’d be forgiven for being unaware of the issue. But the reality is that people get injured or have medical situations arise all the time while travelling for work.

If anything happens, it’s up to the employer to show they took reasonable preventative steps. If they can’t do so, then the employer is likely to be found to have failed to meet its duty of care responsibility and is likely to be required to cover potentially large medical bills and legal fees and fines. The details of duty of care laws vary from country to country. As a result, they can be pretty confusing, especially for multinational companies operating across multiple legal systems (or jurisdictions).

Beyond the legal obligations, companies are increasingly discovering they must also answer to moral obligations. Whether that is through pressure from their workforce, making hiring and retention harder, or from investors who are starting to pay a lot more attention to the behaviour of the companies they invest in, gaining a reputation as a company that doesn’t properly look after its employee's safety can have a considerable impact on the company’s bottom line.

Implementing a Travel Risk Management Program

A comprehensive TRM program is complex. While we provide tools to help TRM specialists and in-house teams manage travel risk, we are not experts in risk management. Therefore, what follows is only an introduction to how to set up a TRM program. If you want to know more, you can sign up for one of our free seminars with travel risk experts who can explain more.

A TRM program generally includes several vital elements, pre-travel preparation, risk assessment, risk mitigation, emergency response planning, active support and response during a trip, and post-travel debriefing and review. These elements work together to ensure that companies can identify potential risks, mitigate them to the greatest extent possible, and respond effectively in the event of an incident.

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) has recently published ISO 3130 , which for the first time, sets an international baseline for what is considered good TRM preparation.

General Preparation & Risk Mitigation

Companies need to take some general steps independent of any specific trip:

  • Developing policies and procedures for business travel
    Ensure that all employees know what is and is not expected of them during a trip. These policies help employees know when they are and are not covered by the employer's duty of care. They also inform employees what actions (such as using local taxis) are or are not allowed by the employer for safety and expense reimbursement reasons.
  • Providing training on travel safety and security
    Teach employees what they need to know to be safe when travelling. This can be general safety advice, company-specific information, such as what to do if anything happens, or regional information.
  • Creating a travel risk assessment template to identify potential hazards and risks and approve trips
    An easy-to-follow process ensures all potential trips are assessed before they are booked, and only trips where the risk level is acceptable are allowed to go ahead.
Emergency response planning

Emergency response planning is also a critical component of a TRM program. Companies need to develop an emergency response plan to ensure they can respond appropriately if an incident occurs; it should include the following:

  • Procedures for security incidents, natural disasters, and other crises.
    A pre-arranged plan for quickly identifying who is impacted by an incident and what actions need to be taken, such as moving staff to a safe location.
  • Emergency contact information and communication protocols
    Setting up an easy way for remote staff to contact the company in an emergency and methods for the company to contact staff. Any emergency communication method should be separate from any communication channel used for mundane matters.
  • Periodic emergency response training exercises
    To ensure that the communication channels work and that the people responsible for acting in the event of an emergency both know what they are doing and are practised at it.
Pre-Trip Activity

Before each trip, the employer should ensure the trip has acceptable risk levels and proactively take steps to reduce the risk. These steps can and should be as automated and straightforward as possible to reduce the chances of staff trying to find ways to avoid them. These steps should include the following.

  • Planning a safe trip
    If the trip is to an inherently risky destination, all parts should be planned with that in mind. That might mean choosing specific hotels or travel options. In some cases, this can include security escorts.
  • Providing a briefing on specific risks before each trip
    Before each trip, a traveller should get a briefing on important information about their destination and any locations they are due to travel through.
  • Provide any safety equipment.
    If the trip requires specific equipment to ensure the traveller's safety, it must be delivered to the travellers before they go. This could be anything from a satellite-enabled tracking device to mosquito nets.
During Trip Activities

Being proactive during the travel period is the sharp end of TRM. It allows companies to respond quickly to safety and security issues, solving issues while small and before they grow into more significant ones. Companies should implement a system to

  • Track employee travel
    Knowing where your staff are when they travel is integral to detecting and responding to a problem. To find out more, read our complete travel tracking guide.
  • Monitor their safety and security during trips.
    Have an easy-to-use regular process for checking that someone on a trip is safe. For example, a daily check-in (via a mobile app or email) or a regular phone call.
  • Ensure ease of communication.
    If anything goes wrong, large or small, there must be a quick and easy way for the traveller to get help. A single phone number they can call that connects them to anything from medical advice to emergency accommodation.
Post-Travel Debriefing and Review

After employees return from travel, companies should conduct a post-travel debriefing to review travel experiences and identify areas for improvement in TRM practices. Analysing and documenting incidents and near-misses during trips is essential to help companies identify patterns and improve their TRM policies and procedures.


So there you have it, travel risk management is essential for companies to protect their employees and business interests. Companies have a legal and moral obligation to provide a safe work environment, and a failure to do so can result in legal and reputational consequences.

A comprehensive TRM program includes general preparation and risk mitigation, emergency response planning, pre-trip planning, during-trip monitoring and post-travel review.

Companies should develop policies and procedures for business travel, provide training on travel safety and security, and create a travel risk assessment template to identify potential hazards and risks and approve trips. A TRM program is complex, and companies should seek expert advice and consider the international baseline set by ISO 3130.

Implementing a comprehensive TRM program means companies can ensure the safety and well-being of their employees while protecting their business interests.

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