Travel Policy Suite for Managing Risks at Home and Abroad

Last year I blogged about the importance of preparing for team travel risks when travelling outside of Canada for competitions and training camps. I also co-hosted a webinar on this topic with my colleague Dina Bell-Laroche. When we polled participating sport leaders on the webinar to indicate their level of effectiveness in planning for team travel risks, 83% of participants felt that they were somewhat effective and still had room to improve, while 17% shared that they were not effective at all. None of the participants considered themselves to be very effective at managing these risks. These results reflect what we perceive to be a current lack of formal procedures and tools to mitigate team travel risks within the Canadian sport system. Interest in this topic continues to grow and more sport organizations have asked us to help them understand how they can become more effective in planning for team travel risks.

As a recent example, an NSO approached SLSG for assistance when one of its travelling team athletes suffered a significant and potentially life-threatening injury while overseas. The athlete had begun to experience poor health symptoms the evening before the departure. Over the next six days the athlete’s condition worsened and, due to varying circumstances, remained improperly diagnosed. Although it was a unique incident and no one person was to blame, the incident revealed that a number of medical emergency protocols and guidelines were lacking within the organization’s current team travel guidelines. The incident left both the athlete and the organization scarred which is obviously not the ideal scenario; athletes want to feel safe and organizations want to provide a safe environment for their athletes.

As with many other scenarios like the one described above, we are often asked, “is there a document template to help organizations deal with situations like that?”. The answer is usually yes, however with respect to international team travel we had not previously developed a template that sport organizations could mold to the needs of their sport and its related travel activities. SLSG has a travel policy template that speaks to the general responsibilities of travelling stakeholders, as well as a travel consent form, but not (until now) a policy that could address the risks associated with travelling abroad and the protocols that an organization could follow in order to foster a safer environment and higher standard of care for all types of team travel. My takeaway from the responses to my blog and webinar was that sport organizations need a documented travel risk management framework. This framework would provide an organization with a better way to handle scenarios like the one shared above as well as the myriad of risks that can occur during team travel.

As a result of this growing need, I have developed a new Travel Policy Suite for sport organizations. This Policy Suite, which consists of four document templates, has been vetted by several of my fellow SLSG Associates, including legal experts, to verify its utility and applicability to Canadian sport organizations. The four core documents within the Policy Suite consist of the following:

  • A Travel Risk Management Policy that provides the overarching framework to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for any travelling individual or team representing the organization
  • A Team Member Handbook to inform team members (athletes, coaches, supporting personnel, parents, etc.) of their responsibilities while travelling (national and international)
  • A Team Manager Manual for effectively managing team travel and achieving high organizational standards
  • A Process Guide on how to use the Policy Suite, adapt it to an organization’s needs, and the key travel risks that must be addressed by the organization

This Policy Suite was largely created to address international travel risks, but it also encompasses travel within Canada. In addition to general guidelines and responsibilities, it includes more specific protocols in the areas of emergency planning, incident management, vehicle transportation, insurance, and travel risk assessment. These protocols include medical preparedness and response, bad/extreme weather, local violent activities, travel first aid, crisis communications, and equipment guidelines. The Policy Suite is a robust package that provides trip leaders with a clear framework for mitigating team travel risks, both nationally as well as internationally. It is intended to meet the needs of each sport and its uniquely inherent risks.

To add further clarity, this Policy Suite is intended to align with and compliment any existing SLSG Safe Sport policies, not conflict with them. The Policy Suite refers to the organization's existing policies in various areas (conduct, abuse, harassment, inclusion, discipline, screening, social media, etc.) and is meant to be customized to each organization's existing policies and practices.

We are excited to add this Policy Suite to our intellectual toolkit and continue to support our sport colleagues in effective and important ways. If you would like to discuss a customized Travel Policy Suite for your organization, please contact me at JER@sportlaw.ca

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