Leave, absence & working arrangements
Overseas business travel & off campus teaching advice
This information has been prepared as guidance for staff on matters of personal security, particularly when they travel overseas for business purposes. The University recognises that it has a duty of care to staff wherever they are working and wishes to offer advice to staff particularly when they are working away from their normal location or when they are travelling to unusual or potentially dangerous locations.
Unfortunately, crime against the person is an ever increasing trend and hence individuals must exercise care not only when on campus but also when travelling on business. This particular guidance will deal with two security related issues, personal security and the security risks associated with international travel.
This is only intended as a very basic guide and staff must take into account political and social conditions in the country which they are visiting and their own personal profile which might render them a target.
This particular section will give brief advice relating to the natural environments that most people find themselves in. It must be borne in mind that these situations are not exhaustive.
- Access to staff offices should be controlled and locked when left unattended. The walk-in/sneak thief will be ready to take advantage of any easy targets.
- Staff should wear their identity badges, if practicable, at all times and should not be afraid to challenge all ‘unknown’ visitors.
- Staff are advised to operate a clear desk policy, locking away confidential or valuable items.
- When working at unusual hours and alone, staff should make campus security aware of the situation. This is so that they may conduct periodic safety checks. It must be appreciated that the university campus is easily accessible by the general public.
- All staff should make sure that they are aware of fire evacuation procedures and it is important to ensure that safety and fire doors are used for their intended purposes and not used for short cuts or left propped open.
- Ensure that all staff are aware of the procedures for dealing with abusive, obscene, threatening, and bomb hoax telephone calls. Such calls if persistent may well increase the individual’s stress levels.
- Unfortunately petty car crime is one of modern life’s irritants, coupled with this there is the newer phenomenon of ‘road rage’.
- If not already installed consider the use of a car alarm system and or an immobiliser.
- Where a central locking system is in situ, it may be sensible to make use of it when driving. Drivers of vehicles are particularly vulnerable when stopped at road traffic lights. In addition to this precaution, it is imperative that attractive items such as laptop computers, handbags and mobile telephones are out of sight. It is not an unusual occurrence for a thief to break a car window and to spirit away such items whilst the vehicle is stopped in traffic. Consideration should be given to either storing such items in the car boot, or secreting them out of view when the vehicle is in motion. However, when parked up, such items must be secured.
- Be suspicious of any event, which causes you to slow down or stop your vehicle. Always leave room to manoeuvre and be prepared to take evasive action. Under no circumstances allow yourself to become involved in a confrontation with another driver. If involved in an accident and you have a mobile telephone, consider using it to summon the police. An important point to consider here is an assessment of the accident, is it genuine or a deliberate ploy to get you out of the vehicle?
- Remember, mobile telephones should not be used whilst the vehicle is in motion, (unless the call is made by means of a hands free kit) as this is a traffic offence and may render an individual liable to prosecution.
- When parking the vehicle, particularly at night, ensure that the area is well lit and avoid dark corners of car parks.
Foreign visitors are tempting targets for muggings, pickpockets, violence and kidnapping. Staff should be aware that the most dangerous countries for kidnapping are Colombia, Ecuador,Venezuala, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, the Phillipines and the former Soviet union including Chechnya.
Prior to departure
- It is important that staff do check to see if the country that they are travelling to is an at ‘risk’ country. Up to date risk assessment information may be obtained via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
- Staff should ensure that their passport is up to date and that it does not show previous travel to a destination that might be controversial to the country that they plan to visit. Here, if considered necessary a duplicate passport may be obtained via the local passport office.
- Staff should always check the expiry date of their passport as some countries do not allow entry to passport holders when the document has less than six months to expiry.
- Staff should also ensure that, if required, a valid visa, medical vaccination and insurance documents are available for inspection. Form E111 should be obtained from the Post Office to ensure free emergency care in the European Union. Any insurance queries should be addressed to the University Insurance Officer.
- Staff are advised to validate their travel arrangements and to ensure that a copy of their itinerary and contact details is left with a member of the secretarial staff in their Department.
- As a matter of routine, staff should keep a separate record of their passport details at home or in the office. It is a good idea to make a photocopy of the key passport pages and take them with you when you travel abroad. Should your passport be mislaid or stolen during the trip, the nearest Embassy/Consulate will then be able to provide a temporary passport. The Foreign Office recommends individuals leave their passport in the hotel safe whilst out on business and carry the photocopy with them.
- Individuals are advised to take a note of their credit card details, traveller cheques etc, so in the event of theft payments may be stopped.
- Staff on business abroad are advised to make a note of the key contact telephone numbers in the event of an emergency, e.g. local Consulate. Whilst most Consulates operate on a 9 to 5 basis, they do usually have an answering machine.
- Care must be exercised when packing luggage, particularly giving due cognisance to the sensitivities of the host country. It must be borne in mind that luggage might well be inspected, therefore it is prudent to ensure that items which might cause offence are not included e.g.
- Material which might link the individual to controversial industries
- Papers showing an affiliation with a political party
- Items which might cause offence to a host country, for example in some areas
- the possession of alcohol or pornographic material may be unwise
- Do not carry drugs unless accompanied by the necessary medical authorisation. It must be appreciated that in some countries the possession of drugs is a capital offence
- Make an enquiry of either the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Embassy/Consulate of the host country in relation to the bringing into the country certain items. Some countries will not allow a person to carry equipment such as laptop computers or floppy discs without proper clearance
- Have an up to date map of the city/town being visited and keep all-important documents with your hand luggage, in case the main luggage is either mislaid or lost.
- It is important to make sure that you have a reasonable amount of local currency available upon arrival. Exchange facilities may not be open 24 hours a day.
- Even in relatively stable countries employees can face a number of health risks including tropical diseases, contaminated water, toxic dust, extreme noise and exposed chemicals. There may also be problems with poor healthcare facilities.
When departing for your destination and travelling in your own car, make use of the airport car parks and whenever possible, park near a light or in full view of the security camera. Place all personal items into the car boot, take a note of the parking bay and do not leave the parking ticket in the car.
Leave plenty of time for check-in. Recent world events have meant that there can be a considerable delay before departure at both check-in and security.
Upon arrival at your destination care must be exercised. Unfortunately, some airports are an ideal environment for thieves, pickpockets and touts. Travellers arriving at the airport, often tired and perhaps unable to speak the local dialect are particularly vulnerable. It is therefore important that consideration is given to the following:-
- Handle your own luggage. Make use of available trolleys rather than local porters
- Never leave your luggage unattended. This might well result in a security alert or the luggage might simply be stolen
- Once you have checked in/out do not loiter about in the public concourse where you could become vulnerable to theft
- Pay attention to the Public Address system and to the information screens
- Avoid disturbances, move away from potential trouble to a safe area
- Do not under any circumstances carry packages for other people
You should exercise caution when discussing your work and the nature of your trip with other passengers.
If you are asked to complete a landing card, then you should only provide the required information. However, should immigration officers question you, be forthright in your answers.
Air travellers are at risk from Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a serious condition where blood clots develop in the deep veins of the legs. One in every hundred people who develop DVT dies. The cause of death is usually a blood clot, travelling from the legs to the lungs. DVT may be associated with any form of long distance travel whether by air, car, coach or train. In particular, long-haul air travel (flights lasting longer than five hours) where passengers remain immobile in the seated position for long periods of time, may be associated with an increased risk. This advice summarises what is known about:
- travel-related DVT in air passengers
- who may be at risk
- how to reduce the potential risk
The important point to remember is that the vast majority of air passengers do not need to take any medication on long haul flights to prevent DVT. All air passengers, even those at greatest risk can reduce the chances of getting DVT by doing the simple exercises set out in this advice.
Who is at risk of DVT?
Every year DVT occurs in about 1 in 2000 people in the general population. The risk of DVT is greater in people
- over 40 years of age
- who have had blood clots already
- with a family history of blood clots
- suffering from or who have had treatment for cancer
- with certain blood diseases
- being treated for heart failure and circulation problems
- who have had recent surgery especially on the hips or knees
- who have an inherited clotting tendency
- who have ever suffered from a stroke
DVT is also more common in women who
- are pregnant
- have recently had a baby
- are taking the contraceptive pill
- are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
If in doubt, staff should obtain medical advice before travel, particularly if they have any of the identified risk factors for DVT.
What are the signs of DVT?
You may get swelling, pain, tenderness and redness especially at the back of the leg below the knee. This is different from the mild ankle swelling that many people get during long haul flights and DVT usually, though not always affects only one leg. These complaints may develop during the journey but more commonly hours or even days later. The pain may be made worse by bending the foot upward towards the knee. In some cases there may be no signs or symptoms of DVT at all in the legs and problems only become obvious when a pulmonary embolus or PE develops from the clots in the legs. Fortunately PE is rare. PE can cause breathlessness, chest pain and in severe cases, collapse. Both DVT and PE, whatever the cause, are serious conditions and need urgent investigation and treatment.
How to reduce the possible risk of DVT on long haul flights
The following guidelines are thought to help in the prevention of DVT:-
- Wear loose, non-restrictive clothing
- Be vigilant for the symptoms of DVT, in particular pain in the calves, during and for up to a month after long flights. If symptoms occur, seek medical advice without delay
- be comfortable in your seat
- bending and straightening your legs, feet and toes while seated every half-hour or so during the flight is advised
- pressing the balls of your feet down hard against the floor or foot-rest will also help increase the blood flow in your legs and reduce clotting
- upper body and breathing exercises can further improve circulation
- take occasional short walks, when in-flight advice suggests this is safe - avoid excessive movement around the cabin, as the risk of injury from turbulence may outweigh the benefit of exercise
- take advantage of refuelling stopovers where it may be possible to get off the plane and walk about
- drink plenty of water
- be sensible about alcohol, which in excess leads to dehydration and immobility
- avoid taking sleeping pills, which also cause immobility
You may need advice on in-seat exercises, especially leg exercises to keep the circulation active and reduce the risk of developing a DVT. More information is available in literature provided by travel agents, and in the in-flight leaflets, magazines and videos now produced by many airlines.
You may also need to discuss treatment with blood-thinning drugs or the use of elastic stockings if you are in a high-risk group. Elastic stockings are widely available from pharmacies and pharmacists can provide advice on use and fitting. Because aspirin can have serious side effects like bruising, bleeding from the gut and allergies you should consult your doctor before deciding to take this drug. People taking aspirin already should not increase the dose.
Women taking the ‘pill’ or on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should do the exercises described in this document to help reduce the risk. They should also discuss the use of elastic stockings with their community pharmacist. Women who are pregnant, or have recently had a baby should seek advice from their local medical surgery.
Make sure you have good medical insurance for your trip. Q Is this automatically provided by the University? If you are travelling within the European Economic Area, you may be eligible for an E111 form. This is available from Post Offices or by using the application form in the Department of Health leaflet, Health Advice for Travellers. This entitles you to free or reduced-cost emergency treatment only, and therefore you must also be insured.
After the trip
For the vast majority of air passengers there will be no problem. If, however, you do develop swollen painful legs especially where one is more affected than the other, or breathing difficulties see a local doctor urgently or go to the nearest Accident and Emergency Department.
Use only licensed taxi operators. Do not allow yourself to be hustled by unlicensed ones. If you are in doubt, then seek advice from the airport information desk or airport security. They should be able to tell you the best and safest way to get to your final destination. It is not a good idea to share a taxi to your destination with someone you do not know. By far the safest mode is to get someone to meet with you upon arrival.
During the visit
Staff should ensure that they allow reasonable and sufficient time for recuperation after prolonged travel prior to starting work, particularly after a long-haul flight. Business visitors may be vulnerable abroad as they may stand out and may know little of the host country’s customs and culture. It must be remembered that most international destinations are perfectly safe, but just like at home there are certain areas that you would not wonder around alone after dark. This situation is no different abroad, all one has to do is take sensible precautions:-
- Carry a street map with you at all times and avoid unlit streets at night
- Details of your hotel, name, address, telephone number and some money in local currency for transport
- Make sure that your hotel room door may be securely locked and the same applied to interconnecting hotel room doors
- Familiarise yourself with the hotel emergency escape routes
- Keep your valuables and unwanted cash in the hotel safe and/or safety deposit box for safekeeping
- When out and about, spread your currency around your person and avoid carrying large sums of cash
- In some countries, women who carry shoulder bags and or handbags are particularly vulnerable to snatchers who use motor cycles. Such bags should be carried on the side away from the road and close to the body
- If you are subjected to a mugging it is usually safer not to offer resistance, hand over the valuables. The miscreant may well be armed!
- If anything is stolen or lost make a report to the local police and insist upon getting a copy of their crime report. This may be vital in the event of an insurance claim. Should your passport be stolen then you will have to contact the Embassy or Consulate
Laws and customs vary from place to place as does treatment of offenders. You must obey and respect the local laws/customs and bear in mind that some activities, for example bird-watching or train-spotting with binoculars or a camera near to a military base, may well result in an accusation of spying. Staff are advised to find out as much information as possible prior to their visit and to respect these laws and customs and if in any doubt, to err on the side of caution in their behaviour and dress.
- Do not become involved in drugs, because in some countries the penalties for using and/or smuggling drugs can be very severe in some places carrying an automatic death penalty
- Be sensitive to the fact that some countries do not allow alcohol to either be sold or drunk. Therefore, this aspect should be checked prior to travel or difficulties may be experienced at the destination. Such restrictions also apply to chocolate containing alcohol
Some criminals use drugs to subdue their intended victims and staff are advised not to accept offers of food and drink or cigarettes from strangers no matter how friendly or well dressed that individual appears.
- Should you intend driving, make sure that you understand the rules of the road and are in possession of the required documents. Remember that many countries impose on the spot fines and do not make an exception for foreigners
In the unfortunate event of an arrest, insist that the Embassy/Consulate be notified. Arrangements can then be made to put you in touch with a local lawyer. However, be aware that the Embassy/Consulate will not pay either for the lawyer or for bail.
If a natural disaster or trouble occurs during a business trip away from the University then staff are advise to contact their department to notify the University of their situation. The University can then take appropriate action in the UK such as contacting the nearest British or EU diplomatic mission who can give advice on practical help.
There is nothing complex about personal security, all one has to remember is:
- Be aware
- Be suspicious
- Be methodical
- Be vigilant
- Use common sense
- Don’t be apathetic and ignore the risks