Your New Duty Of Care For Offsite Employees
Yes things have changed, yes new ways of conducting business have to be found but NO your responsibility to your employees has not changed just because they work from home.
Away from the office working, has quickly ushered in a new set of
Duty of Care obligations, for companies to give required attention to. For one, employees who are working on company property have become very accustomed to your health and safety policies. They know what’s expected for protecting company intellectual property, they understand fire drills, they’ve accepted the importance of password protection etc. But at home, well that’s a place where home rules (policies) come first, and that generally means relaxed discipline and a more flexible way of doing things.
That means heightened levels of vulnerability and risk. Which means Employers must now take reasonable mitigating steps to manage these risks. In a corporate environment largely ‘bossed’ by Trade Unions, Labour Acts and legislation we have very rigid legal and ethical obligations to educate Employees about new procedures to manage potential safety and security liabilities.
Our off site Employees have got to be educated on how to correctly respond or react to crises events and situations as they occur. They must be guided on how to call for the correct assistance.
Duty of Care
Is the legal responsibility
Of an organisation to asses
Risks and risk associated
Behavior that could reasonably
be anticipated or foreseen to
Cause harm to others.
Post Covid-19 Employers Responsibilities
The principle at play now is that Employees working from home or remotely can not be placed into higher risk portfolios than those working from the office as a result of their new working environment. Meaning that security and risk managers need to relook and extend your current risk, health and safety and personal protection net to include off site employees.
This is definitely not the time for ‘out of site out of mind’ thinking to creep in.
Off site Employees are to be extended the same risk protection levels as those on site. I must also reiterate that Duty of Care now extends to reputational, physical and mental injuries, and these apply to executives, consultants, contractors and the spouses and children of Employees.
Adopting the OSHA’s general Duty of Care “best practice” guideline policies, plans and obligations will help Employers stay in line with your Duty of Care requirements.
A recent case study involving a transporter who failed to provide additional protection in the form of professional security escorts for a driver delivering bread, and who was attacked and severely injured has turned the spotlight directly onto the transport sector. This particular case is to be heard still but all indications are that knowing the risk the Employer failed in their Duty of Care obligations. This case will be looking at both criminal and civil liabilities.
A second case study involves a female employee required to work from home during office renovations was attacked during a home invasion, and assaulted severely. The focus of the current legal suite is that the home was situated in a high risk area and that her concerns about being home alone in a house during the day were seemingly ignored. Whether liable or not, the company involved is forking out a great deal for legal fees, and this does not even bring into account the reputation damage they are incurring. Sadly the head of Security had not even bothered to make a house visit and risk assessment. Surely a basic requirement of Duty of Care 101.
The Duty of Care requirements must involve risk assessments, or job requirement risk analysis. This if performed by a security professional with expertise and experience in risk assessments will provide both Employer and Employee with information to consider mitigating actions on foreseeable risks.
My experience in dealing with company security and HR managers is that many do not have the necessary experience and expertise to conduct a detailed risk assessment. Therefore, relying on gut feel or misguided input from colleagues.
If your company does not have a suitably qualified professional within the company to perform risk assessments and security vulnerability studies then you are strongly advised to contract one in. Below are a guideline to some of the more pressing points a security and risk assessment report should cover:
- How likely a series of threats are and how severe the outcome would be.
- The location of the offsite work place and its risk profile.
- The route of travel if Employee is required to travel.
- accessibility to immediate help.
- Crime stats for the area of work.
- mobile phone coverage.
- safety of overnight stops for Employees required to overnight.
- Potential for safety management tools like GPS and tracker for vehicles must be explored.
- Employees with severe or potentially dangerous medical conditions working alone from home, must be assisted with emergency help procedures in the event of a sudden downturn. Panic buttons or similar should be considered.
- Regular call ins and report backs are a professional requirement for Employees working off site and for those traveling.
Documented policies and clear procedures must identify risks and should be aligned with adequate training or workshops to ensure full understanding and expectations are conveyed between all parties.
I particularly like scenario based training, as it allows the Employee to physically experience the scenario being experienced. This also assists with mental preparedness and visualization. I also enjoy the aspect of creating the risk scenario around those scenarios that the particular person or group may possibly encounter.
Here are some of the specialised training topics we present for Duty of Care requirements:
Emergency Communications techniques
Dealing with a Hijacking
How to react to a violent strike or labour unrest
Handling medical Emergencies
Active Shooter and best life preservation techniques
Traveling risks in hostile environments
Risk aversion while staying in hotels and BnB’s
The final element of a comprehensive Duty of Care portfolio is Employer to Employee support. Support to asll off site Employees must be constantly and clearly communicated. And constantly provided before, during and after an incident or emergency.
In a constantly evolving world we know there will always be risk. But the best way to counter these risk to own responsibility, plan, train and communicate. After all this is our Duty and our people.
Kyle Condon, Grad I.S (SA)
082 820 5363
Kyle is a 27 year veteran in the field of professional security consulting and personal protection training. He is a sought after keynote speaker, both locally and internationally. Kyle is the owner of several risk management and investigation companies. His consulting services are available throughout Africa.