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Part 1: Risk and Vulnerability

Hi Theresa! A recent issue of the online newsletter Missions Interlink from New Zealand has an article about the 2016 “Health and Safety at Work Act” and its application for missions. First of all, it is consoling that the United States is not the only one that likes policies and procedures! But it is sobering that the Act lays out a bunch of requirements and responsibilities that raise the issue as to whether churches and missions are liable, or how liable they may be, for the health and safety of field workers. In good legalese, the author responds to that question by saying “it depends.”

This brings up many interesting issues that I wonder if you are aware of, and where the United States is on some of these. A key issue in the article is "that leaders need to ensure that they are proactively providing a healthy and safe working environment and their staff need to participate in developing a healthy and safe workplace environment and culture at all levels."

We have typically seen that, there are so many open ended variables in cross-cultural settings that it is difficult to train and account for all of them. In some ways, missions organizations have taken an attitude of “Que sera, sera.” It sounds like this new legislation is not going to allow such a laissez-faire attitude about the stresses and strains of missionary life. Perhaps unrealistically, it assumes that all risks are relatively manageable. This worries me, in that somebody may think an unmanageable risk is actually manageable, and therefore the mission organization could be liable for negligence when something goes wrong.

In this thread, I would like us to discuss the issue of risk management and the vulnerability of missions for where their people are, and what they do. Who is responsible for what? For the purposes of your next comment, Theresa, I wonder if you are aware of any requirements, or case examples addressing this new legislation in New Zealand and Australia?

Featured Image: "Shipwreck" by Freerange Stock.

More articles in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion

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