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Providing Duty of Care for staff with a disability

27 April 2017

Duty of Care is a moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others. For international organisations, it means guaranteeing your staff is safe and healthy (both mentally and physically), wherever they are in the world. We asked Tom van Herwijnen, Manager Health, Safety & Security for CBM International, the world’s leading disability and development organisation, to explain the aspects of Duty of Care for staff with a disability.

Can you tell me about a bit about yourself?

I’m the Head of Health, Safety and Security at CBM. I’m responsible for the safety and wellbeing of global staff. Most of that is preventative safety and security; I give a lot of trainings around safety and security. And should an incident occur, I lead our crisis management team.

CBM works in around 70 developing countries around the world and we provide expertise and funding for projects, mostly through local partners to assist people with disability.

Does CBM have a Duty of Care strategy in place?

We have DOC embedded in our safety and security policy. There are multiple angles of DOC so my department takes care of health, safety, and security. We offer a broad range of services to our staff so when we send them to the field, they feel cared for, well-protected and well-informed. We make sure that they have numbers they can call should something happen, that they travel with the right equipment and so on.

Five years ago my job did not exist in our organisation. There used to be much more neutrality for NGOs. When NGOs would travel in a conflict area, both warring parties would respect their neutrality and give aid workers safe passage. But over the past five to 10 years we’ve seen the very concerning trend that aid workers are being targeted, both directly and indirectly.

That’s why CBM decided to set up a dedicated department for Safety and Security. We wanted to avoid people becoming victims and make sure they were prepared for occasionally insecure assignments. To reach our approximate 10% of staff with a disability, our approach required a disability inclusive component. We noticed in rolling out our work that travellers with a disability have particular needs to stay safe.

How can International Organisations provide DOC for their staff with a disability?

The most important part is inclusion. If you'd like to do something in your organisation for people with a disability, talk to those people first. Get them involved and ask them how you can make their travel and work more easy and safe. Ask what their hindrances are

What should be taken into account when a person with a disability goes on a mission?

Each situation is very individual and approaches should be practical. The person going on a mission should think about their personal challenges and vulnerabilities and every aspect should be considered with a back-up plan in mind. CBM created a guideline that can be very helpful for NGO workers with a disability leaving on a mission.

> Download CBM’s guideline for Travelling with a Disability