Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What does our Health and Safety Team Do?

That is an interesting question and one that I receive more often then not. I think the fact that People to People Ambassador Programs is the only educational student travel organization to employ a full-time senior director of safety and health is at the root of the issue.

Does safety matter to other student travel organizations? Obviously the answer is yes. What I have found is that many of these organizations place the health and safety responsibilities with the operations director who clearly has many additional duties.

Here at People to People Ambassador Program, Our CEO and President both had the foresight to envision a department that focuses solely on developing and implementing policies and procedures designed to ensure every student and leader is safe while traveling with our organization. We do also have the Senior Director of Ground Operations but have split out the responsibilities related to the safety of the students into a separate department. I am blessed with the privilege of leading this fantastic group of overachieving individuals.

Let me give you a little closer glimpse of a couple people who are on my team (above, in action at an on-call meeting) and their responsibilities to help to better understand what we do and how we do it.

First off I would like to start with Wendy Armes (above). Wendy is currently the Supervisor of the Medical team and has three travel seasons under her belt. Wendy’s team is responsible for collecting a health form for every student prior to travel. We have learned over the years that the best way to prevent an unforeseen problem is to make sure everyone who needs to know of a medical condition knows it in advance of travel.

Once the health form is received, Wendy’s team then determines for which students we need additional information on to assure their safety. We currently screen for over 300 medical conditions like visual or hearing impairment, mobility limitation, diabetes, and life threatening allergies (just to name a few). This process is called a medical hold in which case we work with the family and parents to make sure we have a solid understanding of any limitations a student may have. Once we have this additional information, we can then start working on a reasonable accommodation to make sure that student has the same great experience any other student would expect to have.

Next I would like to introduce you to Bethany Cress (pictured above). Bethany spends her entire year developing procedures and processes to reduce the chance of any incident happening on a program. She develops and delivers the training to every single associate who answers a phone during the on-call season. By providing this extensive level of training the associates dealing directly with the leaders and parents are better positioned to respond quickly and consistently to all incidents. These incidents can range from the milder request to have a student call home to the more severe situation that calls for medical attention. (As mentioned in my last post, our current travel season is yielding more mild incidents, which is a good thing.)

During the summer travel season Bethany personally leads the on-call briefing every morning and every evening. Her obsession is to make sure that every single incident is followed up with timely and professionally to everyone’s satisfaction.

After the season comes to a close, Bethany then re-reviews every incident and looks for gaps in what transpired. Basically asking the question, "What did we want to happen?" "What did happen?" And was there a gap between those two results? If the answer is yes, she then goes to work to craft a better process and procedure to be implemented the following season to reduce the chance of that situation happening again. This new procedure then goes into the Leader Travel Handbook revisions and into the training curriculum for the next season and the whole process starts all over again.

This is just a small glimpse into some of what my team does here at People to People Ambassador Programs and only two of the many associates that have a singular focus. That focus is simply making sure every delegate and leader is safe on our programs. Maybe in future blogs I can expand on some of my other team members but for now, I am very proud to have these two outstanding women on my team and working to support every student.

So, what does the Senior Director of Health & Safety do? This brief article recently appeared in our 2010-2011 Ambassador Magazine and dives deeper into my role at People to People Ambassador Programs. I hope you find the information informative.

Until next time - I’m wishing you safe and happy travels.

Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health and Safety

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