June 15, 2024

Ask the expert…ISO 31030 Standard

James Wood, Regional Security Director International SOS, answers key questions about the travel risk management ISO 31030

In a nutshell, what is ISO 31030?

The ISO 31030 standard, introduced in September 2021, exists to help ease some of the complexities that businesses face when managing employees travelling abroad. It acts as a benchmark for organisations to strive towards and empowers non-SME practitioners to make risk-based decisions. It covers seven key areas: understanding your organisation’s risk context, managing travel risk effectively, incident response, specialist support, communication and consultation, and programme monitoring and review. 

What are the benefits of adopting it?

Like all ISO standards, when the highest standards are set and adhered to, organisations will benefit from long-term stability, improved business continuity, reputation and productivity. Adopting the ISO 31030 standard will give your organisation and travelling employees peace of mind and will show that traveller health and safety is being taken seriously.

It will help to identify both opportunities and threats and where to allocate adequate resource to manage risk. In addition, organisations could also benefit from reductions in insurance premiums.

Is it being widely implemented? 

It’s been more than a year since the standard was introduced, but it’s still far from universally understood. Some major misunderstandings are still out there regarding the standard’s application and certifiability. This means that some businesses are not utilising its full benefit, leaving their travelling employees potentially exposed. 

What are the most common misunderstandings?

One major misunderstanding associated with the standard is that it is not certifiable, which has the potential to lead to misinterpretation from a legal coverage perspective by businesses. It is vital that companies understand that the standard resembles more of a benchmark, providing an expert led set of guidelines of risk management best practice.

It is also important that businesses don’t treat the standard as a surface level box-ticking exercise. To really protect and put employees at the centre of a business, the ISO standard should be embedded into a wider travel risk management strategy that accounts for these issues. 

The standard is not intended to represent a company’s entire risk management strategy. Rather, it should act as part of a solid foundation for a wider platform that prioritises employee safety. Regular training is also vital, for instance, as a recent International SOS survey found that only 48% of organisations are giving their employees regular training on health and security risks when travelling. 

How can the ISO standard assist with Duty of Care?

Duty of Care emphasises the importance of employees feeling adequately prepared and protected and the ISO standard can play a large part in this. Applying it appropriately demonstrates that an employer takes employee travel risk seriously, and this is essential if organisations want to stand out amongst their competitors for the right reasons. 

Is the standard more relevant for larger corporations than for SMEs?

The standard is designed to be flexible and apply to any organisation that bears responsibility for keeping employees safe when travelling. Every business is unique so can utilise the ISO standard in a variety of ways. A large NGO with a substantial number of employees operating in a country experiencing civil unrest will have a significantly different risk appetite to a small technology company sending an occasional business traveller on a trip to Switzerland, for example.

Different organisations will take different aspects of the standard and apply it to their operations. It’s not one size fits all and this flexibility is hugely beneficial for businesses. 

Is traveller health and safety higher on the agenda since the pandemic?

According to the International SOS Risk Outlook Report 2023, 86% of surveyed experts reported that they expect budgets to support the health and safety of travellers to increase or stay the same in 2023, highlighting how important business traveller support will be even in a predominantly post-pandemic world.

It is vital that these funds are directed towards the most appropriate risk management strategies – a task the ISO 31030 standard can provide guidance for – ensuring the safety of employees is properly maintained.

How are the new ways of working impacting risk management?

Looking to the future, which may well feature new working patterns like the increasing ability to work remotely from anywhere, it is likely that businesses will rely ever more heavily on their risk management programmes. Acting proactively rather than reactively, with the help of a thorough travel risk management strategy underpinned by the ISO 31030 standard, will help organisations put their employees’ safety first and continue to thrive.