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Travelling for business – not all fun and games!

How often do your employees travel? If your answer is: “Not that often,” you may not have considered implementing a policy regarding travel. Certain types of jobs do not require workers to travel on a regular basis—for example, a bookkeeper, a process line worker, or a secretary—but how exactly do you define travelling? What do you consider travelling? Out of the province? Out of the city? Maybe even down the street? More importantly, you may be wondering, “Will I be liable if something happens to that worker while they are travelling.” Do you know how the new changes to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act affect work travel and your employees?

As an employer, it is easy to focus on making sure your plant, office or facility are safe from violence or harassment, however it is important to take into account that a workplace is anywhere a worker is engaging in company business. As an employer, you are responsible for keeping workers safe from harm in their workplaces—wherever those workplaces might be. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

First scenario

An employer asks her secretary to go to the nearest copy shop and get some papers printed for a presentation. The secretary gladly accepts the request and heads out for the 10-minute drive. As he steps out of his car, he is shoved from behind and his wallet is taken from him. He did not carry a cellphone with him and could not immediately call for assistance from his co-workers or the authorities.

Second scenario

A controller is required to drive across the province to represent her company for a special industry convention. She gladly accepts and leaves for her trip after her work shift. The accountant drove through the night before deciding to stay at the nearest motel. In the middle of the night, she hears a knock on her door. Startled, the employee decides not to open the door for security reasons. Behind the door, a man threatens to break in. The controller picks up the motel’s phone to call security but there is no answer from the other end. The man behind the door eventually disappears.

The recent changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which address violence and harassment have put an added onus on the employer to ensure that their employees are safe from violence or harassment while in the workplace, wherever that workplace might be. Policies and procedures have to be documented and communicated to employees regularly to ensure they understand how to summon assistance or report an incident.

Looking at the first scenario, the secretary should have been able to contact the authorities immediately had an incident occurred; the employer could provide a business cellphone or a co-worker could lend their personal phone. With regard to the second scenario, the controller had nobody to contact as she was being verbally harassed by a stranger. The employer could have researched the accommodations to ensure that workers who are required to stay overnight are in a secure location.

It is easy to forget about those employees who don’t travel every day. It is essential to account for everyone in your workplace, to ensure they are safe from violence and harassment. It is impossible to prevent every incident, but you can reduce the risk by establishing the proper policies and procedures and ensuring those are communicated to your staff on a regular basis!

Anna Aceto-Guerin
Clear Path Employer Services

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Clear Path Employer Services

Certified HR consultants and medical professionals at Clear Path Employer Services
Clear Path Employer Services is a team of certified HR consultants and medical professionals dedicated to resolving the human resources and claims management challenges facing businesses across Ontario. The company was founded in 2003 by Anna Aceto-Guerin, a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) specializing in WSIB claims management and NEER cost containment, with a focus on return-to-work programs and acquiring SIEF cost relief for employers. Read more
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