International SOS Commissions New Duty Of Care Code As GBTA Preps TRM Tool Update

By | January 28, 2016

[UPDATE: Sept. 27, 2016: Standards company BSI announced it published the code of practice commissioned by International SOS. Publicly Available Specification 3001:2016 can be purchased here.]

[UPDATE, April 8, 2016: We published new information related to this article here.]

International SOS commissioned the British Standards Institution to develop a duty of care “code of practice.” Though the approach and scope differ, the basic intention is similar to that of the Travel Risk Management Maturity Model (TRM3) originated by iJet International — to guide organizations in preparing and protecting travelers.

A BSI steering committee will convene in a few weeks. That group will include representatives from risk organizations, medical and security services, government and academia. The code of practice document is scheduled for public consultation in March.

duty-of-careAccording to International SOS officials, organizations want “a formalized way” to enhance their duty of care. The document will impart best practices for travel risk assessment, policies and procedures. It will spell out recommended methods of training, tracking and communicating with travelers. It also will suggest “accountability procedures.” The code is designed for any organization that sends people to other countries. That includes employees, their families, volunteers and contractors.

Shelby LeMaire is corporate travel manager for iRobot. She presented on travel risk management last summer at the Global Business Travel Association conference and sees TRM3 as a good starting point. “But from a corporate perspective, while we have this outline, now we have to author a policy,” LeMaire said. “It takes more than just looking at a white paper.”

That means accounting for corporate culture and risk tolerance; addressing myriad details including local laws around the globe, insurance programs and medical payments; and paying attention to domestic travelers and even non-traveling employees.

“The difference,” LeMaire said, “is BSI’s backing and track record. The organization is recognized around the world for the ISO 9001 quality management standard. If BSI can in fact develop a team of travel risk experts from throughout the industry coupled with stakeholders from the corporate sector the possibility is real that a meaningful ‘standard’ could be developed. The associated prestige of a BSI standard will not only serve as a benchmark but as an incentive for program excellence.”

Dueling DOC Docs?

There is a commercial incentive for iJet and International SOS to stand behind recognized industry touchstones. Both firms and others familiar with travel risk management say the more resources the better. IJet founder Bruce McIndoe described the current version of TRM3 and the proposed BSI code of practice as “100 percent complementary.” He said a new version of TRM3 expected within a few months, though, will “overlap a little bit.”

The existing TRM3 is a well-known benchmarking tool. GBTA’s risk management committee adopted it in 2007. It provides self-assessment across 10 “key process areas,” benchmarking against peers and a framework for continuous improvement.

Now GBTA controls it. IJet still sponsors but is one voice of many working on it. An association official said the update would be ready later this quarter or early next. It’s spearheaded by the GBTA Foundation Risk Task Force, which is separate from GBTA’s Risk Committee (though with some of the same members).

GBTA declined to comment on the new BSI code.

McIndoe pointed out a distinction based on the International SOS announcement. The TRM3 framework “says you need a policy and a process for updating it,” he explained. “What that policy contains is not within the framework. International SOS will actually develop artifacts — sample policies, guidelines and best practices.”

McIndoe said the new TRM3 version will be more sophisticated than the original. Many more questions will determine KPA scores. It will cover some of the same ground — on a macro level — that the BSI code will address. “Instead of just saying the score is X, here are 10 best practice guidelines,” McIndoe said. “If you answer no to this question, this is what you should be doing.”

International SOS EVP Tim Daniel offered a different take. He said the BSI code would be global in scope and cross-functional, whereas work from GBTA tends to focus more on the United States and specifically addresses travel managers.

McIndoe balked at that, at least as it relates to TRM3. He ran through the 10 KPAs, and said none are U.S.-centric and none specify travel. The same KPAs also are used for meetings, events and facilities. Regarding the ‘T’ in TRM3, McIndoe said the maturity model is applied to travel risk across various functions — legal, HR, travel, safety, security, business continuity, etc.

Neither TRM3 nor the BSI initiative really is a “standard.” McIndoe contrasted them with ISO 27000 and ISO 9001. “Those hold significant weight,” he said. “They are cross-industry, committee-driven standards that have a certification process.”

The formal name for what International SOS is calling a first-of-its kind document is Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 3001:2016. BSI explains that PASs always result from an external sponsor funding “a resource-intensive process.” That allows for quick development “to satisfy an immediate business need.”

International SOS execs said they hope the BSI code of practice they’re underwriting will become “widely recognized and a candidate to become an ISO standard.”

International SOS also participates on GBTA’s risk committee. It is “involved in a number of local or industry-specific initiatives related to the health and safety of a mobile workforce,” according to Europe regional managing director Laurent Fourier.

HospitalityLawyer.com’s Stephen Barth, a professor and host of the Global Congress on Travel Risk Management, applauds International SOS and BSI’s plans — especially bringing together thought leaders. He also supports the TRM3 model. “I’m a big fan of options,” he said. “Competition drives this type of innovation.”

For any new or renewed resource, Barth advocates a scope that goes well beyond travel management. “Ultimately we all need to focus on converging all the functional areas that play a role in worker safety and data security, and looking at this holistically,” he said. “This concept is evolving right before our eyes.”

‘Hard To Regulate’

The legalities of employer liability for a business traveler’s death or injury are complex. The when, where and why of travel can matter.

Travel risk expert Charles Brossman is a proponent of TRM3. He’s hopeful that as the model gains wider adoption, it will help leverage reduced premiums with insurers. He also sees its potential “as part of any defense proceedings when necessary to show [an organization’s] efforts to prevent and prepare for critical incidents or situations.” Within a proactive rather reactive approach, he said the goal should be demonstrable improvements over time for “reasonable best efforts.”

Donald Dowling is an attorney focused on international employment law as a partner at K&L Gates. He said a “standard” might sound like a good way to take precautions, but adopting one likely wouldn’t absolve employers of liability.

“As a practical matter in the real world, in many situations with a standard, if a person gets maimed or killed, his lawyer will scour the standard and say the employer failed to meet the standard,” Dowling explained. “The employer, on the other hand, will scour the same document and say it did meet the standard. It’s quite likely you’ll get a dispute over whether the employer met the standard.”

Within the U.S. jurisdiction, according to Dowling, the Worker’s Compensation system often applies. U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations usually don’t. OSHA “tends to be quiet or almost silent on duty of care in a business travel context,” he said. “My opinion is business travel safety is hard to regulate to any degree of specificity. Business travel is inherently unpredictable because every trip is different.”

And every company is different.

Toby Houchens is the founder of emerging travel risk services provider Travel Recon. He views a new duty of care document as a positive development and said adhering to common practices can help limit liability.

But Houchens said it is hard to define DOC standards given the variation in company resources, structure and risk exposure. As such, “it’s probably not advantageous for companies to answer to a governing body or feel compelled to adhere to universal standards.”

Knowing where you stand, though, is a good idea. McIndoe said managers don’t like hearing about how their companies lag peers. “The maturity model gives that unbiased evaluation,” he said. “TRM3 is more focused on standard of care. Duty of care is a by-product.”

Additional info: The Association of Corporate Travel Executives and American Express Global Business Travel in August polled 350 ACTE buyer members. Twenty-three percent identified duty of care as the biggest driver of travel policy change during the past few years. Fifty-five percent said they educate travelers about employer duty-of-care obligations, and 21 percent said they ensure travelers understand their rights and responsibilities.

The U.S. federal government’s program operates under the Federal Travel Regulations. Until last summer it didn’t address duty of care. In July the U.S. General Services Administration agreed with industry recommendations that it do so. GSA said it will “identify where [federal] agencies must have minimum standards of duty of care.”

Disclosure: The Company Dime strives for impartiality in all its work. The reader should know that as it relates to industry associations, The Company Dime has a significant partnership with Institute for Supply Management.

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