The opening ceremony of the XIX Commonwealth Games lies around
the corner on October 3 2010. However, the usual excitement of the
build up to an international sporting event has been marred by
doubts over the safety and security of competitors and their
supporters. In the face of such concerns, it must be asked whether
it is prudent for the governments to place its games delegation,
and for business to place their employees, at risk. The games raise
wider questions as to how business should manage risks to their
employees on trips overseas.
The spectre of a terror attack in India is not new. Since 2000
there have been at least 14 major terror attacks in New Delhi
targeted towards busy markets, train stations and other public
areas. On 19 September 2010, two foreign nationals were shot at the
Jama Masjid Mosque in New Delhi. Since 1997 there have been 120
reported fatalities from terror attacks.
An event which the world is watching only serves to heighten the
terror threat in New Delhi. A report prepared by the private
security consultants, Homeland Security Asia-Pacific, estimates the
probability of a terror attack on Delhi at 80 per cent.
The Commonwealth Games travel bulletin issued by the Australian
Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises
"Australians should be aware
that the Commonwealth Games will be held in a security environment
where there is a high risk of terrorism".
The British Government, Foreign and Commonwealth Office note
"There is a high threat from
terrorism throughout India, including a particular risk that
terrorists will attempt attacks in the run up to and during the
Delhi Commonwealth Games".
In recent days the fears over the quality of the construction of
the Commonwealth Games venues has been widely reported. On Tuesday,
21 September 2010 a pedestrian bridge near the main Jawahar Lal
Nehru Stadium collapsed, injuring at least 27 workers. On Wednesday
22 September 2010, part of the false ceiling inside the
weightlifting stadium collapsed, prompting fresh concerns over the
standard of construction of the venues.
The Australian Government has noted in its advice for travellers
"Australians should be aware
that building standards in India may not be comparable to those in
In addition to the widely reported security and safety concerns
there is also the often overlooked issue of the health of those
attending the games. New Delhi is currently experiencing a seasonal
outbreak of dengue fever.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (Cth) which
covers Australian Commonwealth government employees has
extra-territorial scope. The obligation of the Government to ensure
the health and safety of their employees therefore extends to
events that occur in India. The usual principles of risk assessment
demand that if a risk can be eliminated, this course of action
should be followed. If it is not possible to eliminate a risk, the
risk should be controlled so far as is reasonably practicable.
The decision is not simply up to individuals. Sending a large
government employed delegation in the face of adverse security,
safety and heath risk assessments from credible sources is
potentially a breach of the duty of care.
To make matters worse, media organisations may well be in a
similar position. Journalists and commentators are covered by the
State based OHS regimes. The acts of the Australian States do not
have extra-territorial scope. However, if a decision is taken
within a State by a manger to send one of their employees to Delhi
in the face of adverse risk assessments without additional
precautions to mitigate that risk, the decision may well be in
breach of the duty of care of the company to ensure the employees
health and safety. In the event of serious injury or fatality the
prudence of the decision to send an employee overseas is likely to
be closely scrutinised.
Play it safe?
The Commonwealth Games raise an interesting wider question about
the actions of global business to send their employees around the
world and the plans they have in place should something go
An occupational health and safety policy should have triggers
inbuilt at which point a decision is taken that no travel to a high
risk country is permitted. Such a decision may be linked to the
travel advice of the home jurisdiction government. For areas which
are less frequently travelled to (or where travel is deemed
essential), the advice of security consultants may need to be
Insurances should be checked to ensure they are adequate (many
policies will not cover terror attacks or kidnap and ransom
payments) and evacuation plans need to be in place and communicated
to staff. Should the worst occur, employees should know who to
report to so that employees can be quickly located and their
security assured. In addition, consideration should be given as to
whether any additional training of staff is required so that they
are aware of risks and are able to respond to threats.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Treasurer Scott Morrison recently announced changes to a number of 2016 Budget superannuation contribution measures.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).