Ensuring Safety for Global Fieldwork: Not all Heroes Make Tires and Build Factories

At times, our team at Black Donuts ventures into various geographical areas for fieldwork, bringing along unique challenges that demand thorough preparation. We have to learn about the place we’re going to, make sure it’s safe, and plan everything carefully for things to run smoothly. But why is safety so important for our team’s well-being and the success of our work? And who is the unseen support behind all this?

Meet Johanna Nieminen, the Operational Support Coordinator at Black Donuts. She coordinates the team’s travel arrangements for international projects.

Can you tell us about your role as the Operational Support Coordinator at Black Donuts? 

Johanna: Eight years ago, when I joined Black Donuts, the company started expanding its global operations, venturing into some exotic places for projects. This expansion brought about a need for consistent planning and organizing of our team’s travels. That’s when I stepped into the picture. Given my background in travel management, I was brought in to create a consistent travel program focusing on safety. The travel program I developed and am continuously managing has organically evolved over the years. It aims to control costs through consistency and ensure a smooth traveller experience.

Please give us an idea of your day-to-day responsibilities.

Johanna: I handle various aspects of travelling tasks to ensure our team can focus on their tasks. My daily tasks include managing general travel arrangements, conducting safety risk assessments, and overseeing travel documents like visas. 

The traveller experience is a vast concept and consists of travel arrangements to suit the purpose of the trip and the travellers’ unique needs, as well as several ways to mitigate any risks and to prepare to handle exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances might be anything from disruptions in flights and losing your passport to evacuation in case of a natural disaster. This is all based on set policies, consistent procedures, research, conveying the information to the travellers, and creating a culture where everyone feels safe and appreciated and, through that, can thrive.

I handle everything from travel planning to emergency response coordination. My job is to ensure everyone gets to these places and back smoothly, focusing on safety first.

Our team’s job requires creativity and sharp problem-solving; removing distractions or stress will enhance their expert’s performance. They need to be able to focus on their areas of expertise to realize the project as planned. I focus on my area of knowledge, which is providing operational support.


Can you explain how you handle safety regulations when getting ready to work in new geographical areas?

Johanna: Let me give you a practical, in-action example. When a project is proposed, I research the new destination. My part of the work is to provide a brief analysis to our management and, if deemed necessary, recommend further research and external risk analysis.


Your role seems like a continuous puzzle-solving process. What do you enjoy most about it?

Johanna: What I cherish most is the collaboration with everyone within the company. And yes, it’s like putting together a complex puzzle to create a seamless customer experience. I work closely with project management and site manager, top management, HR, and sales – everyone in the company plays a part in what I do. It’s making sure everything fits together perfectly. My job is to look out for everyone, ensuring they can do their work safely, no matter where the next project takes us.

Please tell us more about the importance of risk assessments in your work.

Johanna: Risk assessments are crucial. We analyze the area’s political stability, natural disasters, health concerns, and security issues. These assessments form the basis for our planning and decision-making. Risks are mitigated, for example, through travel insurance. We provide our employees with exceptionally vast insurance coverage, as employee well-being is essential to supporting our business functions. We keep in touch once the team is out there, ready to jump in in an emergency. When the team returns from Fieldwork, we encourage open conversations so they can provide insights that help us plan better. 

I recall a challenging situation during the COVID pandemic when our team was on a project site abroad. We received news that borders were closing, and we had to get everyone back within a tight timeframe. We successfully reached out to our team and ensured their safe return.


How does prioritizing safety benefit the team’s performance and well-being?

Johanna: Safety measures reduce the chances of setbacks due to injuries, illnesses, or security issues, making our team more productive and reliable. Prioritizing safety builds trust within the community and ensures the success of our missions. All the safety steps we take mean that the company can do our jobs better and safer, keeping everyone healthy and ensuring we do the job without unnecessary risks. 

We also want to be conscious of people’s needs in times of crisis; people feel unsettling events differently and have different support needs. Our emergency response group also has set protocols to handle various events. We think preparedness is the key to mitigating risks. A prepared and knowledgeable person is more equipped to perform in an exceptional event.

It’s all about teamwork

At Black Donuts, we value individuality and consider everyone’s unique needs. We adhere to Finnish safety regulations and local requirements regarding safety equipment and work ethics. It’s all about teamwork. Whether planning a trip or dealing with a crisis, we do it together. We have these casual “coffee table conversations” after Fieldwork where everyone shares what they learned, helping us plan better for next time. In the end, our commitment to safety protects our team members, ensures the success of our missions, and strengthens our trust within the community. Our team travels to destinations worldwide; it’s a responsibility we take to heart. 😊