Rules and procedures designed to maintain a safe work environment for employees exist at most companies and organizations.
Whether implemented voluntarily by management and ownership or put in place to satisfy government-imposed regulations, policies designed to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses benefits employees and businesses alike. But what if you are injured while travelling?
Keeping an employee safe becomes more difficult when the person’s job requires travel away from their place of business. Employers cannot control the risks their employees face when they travel. What they can do is have policies and procedures for employees to follow when injuries occur while traveling.
These would include notification procedures to follow and clearly defined rules distinguishing those activities deemed work-related and covered by workers’ compensation insurance from activities of a personal nature, such as a side trip to visit friends or relatives, which might be outside the scope of workers’ comp.
Risks associated with business travel
Employees traveling for business may, depending upon the nature of their job, face the same work-related risks they experience when not traveling. For example, the risk to a technician from malfunctioning equipment may be the same regardless of where the person works. However, the person may face other risks caused by traveling to an offsite location.
For example, the technician would not be at risk of injuries in a motor vehicle accident had they not been traveling to their worksite. Travel forces employees to eat out at unfamiliar establishments and risk food-borne illnesses.
People get to know those locations within the communities where they live and work that have higher than normal crime rates. Traveling to another city, state or country may put employees at risk of becoming the victim of criminal activity by going into unsafe areas.
What can employers do to make business travel safer?
Employers can make business travel safer for employees by creation of standardized rules and procedures that include the following:
- Risk assessment: Determine possible risks a traveling employee may face. Factors to consider include mode of transportation, travel destination, and lodging and other accommodations at the destination. Company vehicles equipped with onboard tracking systems can be used to ensure employees do not deviate from assigned routes or venture into unsafe areas while traveling to unfamiliar locations.
- Create a uniform travel policy: A business should create a travel policy for its employees to follow when they travel on business. The policy should clearly identify whether booking flights, accommodations and other travel arrangements are the responsibility of the employee or the company. It also should specify any limitations on activities that employees may engage in when traveling for business. For instance, a company may permit or limit personal activities while traveling on business, including establishing rules about personal travel and consumption of alcohol.
- Employee training: Employees whose duties require travel away from the workplace should be provided with proper training in policies regarding use of company-owned vehicles, the distinction between work-related and personal activities, and reporting requirements when accidents or injuries occur.
What should employees do when injured while traveling for business?
Travel on behalf of an employer extends workers’ compensation insurance coverage to all activities engaged in by an employee on behalf of the employer. For example, if a person travels to another city on an overnight business trip and suffers injuries in a car accident while driving to a restaurant for dinner, the employee would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Driving to the restaurant for dinner, which would normally be a personal activity not associated with work, becomes a work activity when engaged in business travel.
If you suffer an injury while traveling for business, protect your rights by following the following steps:
- File a report of the incident: Depending upon how it occurred, you may also have to report it to the police or other parties. For example, a slip-and-fall accident at a hotel should be reported to its management. If you are involved in a car accident or become the victim of a crime, report it to the local police.
- Write down as much information as possible: Get a copy of any report you file with police or management of an establishment. You also should record notes of the names and contact information for all parties and witnesses, date and time of the incident, and as many details about what happened as you can recall.
- Take photographs: Use the camera on your cellphone to take photos of the scene where the injury occurred. Also photograph the injury itself.
- Get medical treatment: Seek medical attention right away even if you do not believe that you suffered serious injuries. Let a doctor evaluate your medical condition to determine the extent of your injuries.
- Contact your employer: Speak with your supervisor or with human resources and follow company policy for reporting the incident.
When injured at work or while traveling for business, your best source for sound legal advice about your compensation rights is a personal injury lawyer. You may have rights in addition to those provided by your employer, such as workers’ compensation insurance. You also may have the right to sue and collect damages from the party responsible for causing the accident that injured you.