What is Duty of Care?

Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which means they must take all steps that are reasonably possible to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing.

Redefining Duty of Care

One of the major concerns for any organization is the safety of its employees, whether they’re on-site, at a different office location, on-the-road, in the field or in the air. When a critical incident or emergency strikes, organizations need to assess the impact of the event, locate their people and communicate to them to ensure their safety and direct them to take specific actions.

Unfortunately, we get an almost daily reminder of how frequently these situations arise, and how complicated the world can be. Quite simply, the world is less safe than ever before. Even areas that were traditionally viewed as safe, places where you could take your family on vacation, are no longer free from threats or instability. Whether we're dealing with the US, Europe, Asia or Africa, we're seeing more and more events (Brussels, Paris, San Bernardino, Turkey, etc.) occurring that directly impact our safety. For businesses, executives and security professionals have a “Duty of Care” to uphold to keep their people safe. Given the increased prevalence of these evolving physical threats, this responsibility has only been magnified.

Duty of Care for an Increasingly Mobile Workforce

To compound the issue, the workforce is becoming increasingly more mobile, and even more remote in nature. People are working from home, traveling around the city or around the world. As a matter of fact, by 2020, IDC predicts that 72% of workers will be mobile in some way, shape, or form. On the one hand, this means that we have a more sophisticated and tech-savvy global work environment. But on the other hand, it means that we have workforces that are more vulnerable than ever to global travel, security and safety risks. That's a combination that has a potential for failure, or worse, disaster.

IDC predicts that 72% of workers will be mobile in some way, shape, or form

Improving Employee Safety in Today’s Mobile World

It’s a challenge that every organization, regardless of industry or size, needs to fix. There are many places to start, taller fences, more security guards, more advanced video surveillance, around the clock executive protection. However, the traditional approach to perimeter security does little to protect mobile employees. In fact, duty of care requires a new definition to account for these mobile, remote and traveling workers. A fence isn’t going to keep your CEO safe when he is traveling to meet with executives in a remote location.

Where do we start with this new definition and approach? Location. At the very least, organizations need to better understand where their employees are located. Can your company currently answer the following questions?

  • How many employees are actually in the building? How many are in the specific facility where the incident is taking place?
  • What happens if I have a workplace violence issue? How will I quickly account for everyone?
  • Where are my field workers? Are they home for the day, or are they still at the remote work site?
  • What if I have executives that are traveling around the country or the world? How do I know if they are safe? How do I Know if they need assistance?

To best help your organization answer these questions, there are three types of locations that must be utilized – static, last known and expected.

Static Location

Where does somebody typically work? Where do they live? It may not be where they are, but it is likely a good indication of where they might be. If something bad happens there, even if they’re not there, they may need to know about it.

Last Known Location

Where is somebody right now? Which building? It may not necessarily be the building they work in most of the time, but it could be that they are currently across the campus or working remotely from a home office.

Expected Location

Where is somebody planning on being in the future? Who is visiting the Paris office or who’s expected to be in Paris? Who’s known to be traveling to Paris between last Friday and next Friday? You need to be able to account for all of these people, even if that means making the best prediction possible to do so. Unfortunately, Ernst & Young’s latest Global Mobility Effectiveness Survey, only 30 percent of companies have a system in place for tracking business travelers.

We know. All of these elements allude to how difficult it can be ‘know’ where your employees are. More often than not, you may manage distributed teams or have large, dispersed campuses. However, you still need to be able to quickly locate and communicate to all your employees, whether they happen to be traveling or not, communicate to all of the employees that may be impacted, and then receive confirmation that they are safe.  Your communication goal should be straightforward, something like: "I want to be able to reach out to everybody who's in Paris, regardless of whether they live there, if they work there, if they're expats, or if they're traveling there."

Expanding Duty of Care with Location-Aware Technology

When dealing with impacted employees in a workplace violence situation that may be affecting only a particular building or a particular floor, you really need to get far more precise in your communications. Distance, feet, meters, minutes matter. For example, it makes a big difference to know which exact building, or even which floor, somebody is on, because what you may want to do, and do very quickly. is send one message to the people who are in the impacted building or floor and a completely different message to people who are on a different floor or adjacent building.

Employee location information can come from a variety of sources. Depending on your company, location data is likely already available but not accessible in an actionable format. Let’s look at some common sources of location data:

  • Mobile App check-ins can provide a geo-tagged indication of ‘last known’ location.
  • Building access control and badging systems like Lenel, Tyco and S2 can tell you who badged in to a building at a particular time.
  • Wired and wireless network access points like Cisco can indicate what floor and building people are in.
  • Office hoteling systems like Dean Evans can tell you who has reserved office space.
  • Corporate travel management systems and medical and security assistance providers like International SOS can provide travel itinerary data (flights, hotels, rail travel,) etc.

The more location data sources that you can bring together, the more likely you will be able to improve the accuracy of determining  ‘who is where?’ as you try to build employee lists for mustering, duty of care outreach and personal assistance.

Given the growing concern that the world is less safe, and that employees are going to be more mobile, and more remote, companies need to rethink their approach to employee safety, security and duty of care obligations.

To sum things up, in today’s modern business environment, you need to ask yourself, are you prepared to EFFECTIVELY answer these three questions when your CEO calls:

  1. Are my employees safe?
  2. Which employees need help?
  3. Who else from my company is headed to a potentially dangerous situation?

If you anticipate that your answer might be “no,” or unclear, then it’s likely you need to take a new approach to meeting your Duty of Care.

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