Travel Safety and Overseas Work

Staff or students who are planning international travel or are returning from overseas should refer to the University guidance on Covid-19 / Coronavirus for advice on current restrictions and required actions. Covid-19 Guidance

The University has indicated that only essential international travel will be authorised during the current Covid-19 control measures. This is in accordance with FCO advice. The  separate risk assessment supplement previously provided is now incorporated within the Travel Risk Assessment template (v4) below.  This includes provision for formal approval of some types of travel.

Many University of Glasgow staff and students will periodically carry out work overseas.  This may involve short and longer term field work, attendance at conference and meetings and a range of other activities.  Often, such work will involve minimal risk to the health and safety of individual or exposure only to risks that are comparable to work within the UK.  However, in some cases individuals may potentially be exposed to significant risks that can be very different from those with which they are familiar. Unless steps are taken to manage these risks this may place staff and students working overseas at increased risk of harm.

The University recognises that it owes all staff and students a duty of care and must ensure, as a matter or moral and legal principle, that staff or students who travel or work overseas are protected, so far as is reasonably practicable, from risks to their health and safety.

The University has prepared an institutional policy and guidance on the procedures to be followed when overseas travel is planned or being undertaken.

Policy for Overseas Business & Study Travel

Legal position

In strict legal terms the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 does not apply to work that is carried out overseas.  However, as the organisation and planning of overseas trips does take place within the UK, the UK enforcing authorities would expect these elements of the work be carried out with the same degree of due diligence and regard to risk management as would be required if the work was to be conducted within the UK.   The University therefore expects those arranging such work to apply similar standards of safety management to the organisation of overseas work. 

Authorisation must be obtained at Head of College or higher level before undertaking any travel that is against UK Government Travel Advice. Such trips can be entirely justifiable. However, the academic or business merit needs to be balanced against the potentially higher risks before undertaking this type of travel.  Travel against Government advice should always be supported by a full risk assessment and a robust academic or business case.

Where work is carried out abroad, the law of the area in which the work is being done will normally apply to the conduct of the work itself. Therefore, in planning some types of more complex overseas work specialist local safety advice may be required to ensure that work is conducted legally. Wherever practicable, organisers should aim to achieve standards of safety practice that are comparable to UK standards unless more stringent local rules apply.

Risk assessment

In practice, methodical planning of overseas trips by following a structured risk assessment based approach should enable most hazards to be identified and managed, although organisers must realise that risk will not always be fully eliminated. 

Where travel and limited practical activity only is involved and the risks are judged to be low and comparable to those encountered during typical travel within the UK, a detailed written risk assessment is unlikely to be necessary for every individual journey. Provided that no additional risk factors are present, travel within most of the EU, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and similar countries is likely to fall within this category. In such cases (apart from complixities arising from current Covid related matters that may demand a full risk assessment) the risk could often be managed through a generic travel risk assessment and by following normal basic travel precautions. However, an initial appraisal of every trip will be needed to ensure that it falls within this category and that no additional dangers are likely to be present. Circumstances such as civil unrest, terrorist activity or travel disruption can (temporarily) alter the risk within a normally safe country. This may affect travel plans, particularly for large-group travel. The form below provides a basis for such a generic risk assessment that may be suitable for much of the lower risk travel carried out across the University.

Where travel is to more hazardous areas, or where special factors increase the risk in normal safe areas, a more detailed written risk assessment of the activity as a whole will normally be needed.  The decision on what level of formal assessment is required for any particular circumstances is a matter of judgement and individual management units should consider the level of risk inherent in the type of overseas work their staff and students undertake and to what extent formal risk assessment procedures are required. The form below also allows for an  assessment of additional risks beyond the generic risks.  Travel circumstances vary a great deal and additional documents can also be used to record the risk assessment process as  supplements to the form.

The concept of the form is that basic travel details in Part A should first be completed and then the generic risk assessment at Appendix 1 reviewed to ensure that it adequately covers the risks involved.  If it does, no further risk assessment is needed, although School/ Service/ College/ Unversity travel permissions may be required.  However, if additional risks are identified beyond the general low level risks set out within the Appendix, these should be specifically risk assessed within Part B of the form.Supplemetary documents can be appended if the risks are complex and require these to provide a properly comprehensive risk assessent. It may assist to remember throughout that risk assessment is, in essence, a planning process where foreseeable risks are identified and the measures planned to combat these are recorded.

Overseas Travel Risk Assessment template (v4)

Practical work overseas

The form above can be used for simple and lower risk fieldwork. However, where significant risks are associated with practical work that is carried out while overseas exist, this work should normally be assessed using your unit's usual fieldwork risk assessment procedures and forms, just as would be done for work within the UK.  Detailed guidance on this is available from the Universities Health and Safety Association (USHA) publication HE Sector Guidance on Health and Safety in Fieldwork (2018)) (PDF document)

The  National Environmental Research Council (NERC) have produced some useful practical guidance that is well worth a look and provides a practical framework for assessment and management of both travel and overseas work. (see Useful Links).  See also our "Fieldwork Safety" webpage.