Organizations spend over $1 trillion annually on business travel, and with global corporate expansion, more executives are finding themselves overseas in unfamiliar environments. Today, it is more important than ever for companies to understand their travel risks – both security and health care related – in order to safeguard their most valuable resource – their employees. 

“Putting people at risk involves liability,” said Hart Brown, VP, Organizational Resilience, HUB International Limited. “That extends not just to one-time travelers, but to expatriates who will be stationed somewhere with or without their family. The risk could extend to dependent travel and living as well – including spouses, children and schools.”

The General Duty clause under OSHA deems organizations responsible for employees 24/7 during the travel period, which includes informing them of potential risks and what to do in the case of an emergency abroad. The most efficient and uniform way to disseminate this information to employees is through a travel packet. From necessary vaccinations to pre-approved hotels, restaurants and healthcare institutions and a documented corporate plan for medical and security emergencies abroad, a travel packet will help any organization communicate its travel risk management program to employees.

“Due to the serious instability around the world today, we’ve seen a spike in security events that turn into a need to evacuate employees who might be in harm’s way,” said Brown. “It is the responsibility of the employer to provide an action plan in case of an emergency detailing how they can support the employee when and if they need to get out of a city, country or region.”

HUB’s travel risk management program helps companies establish guidelines and policies for personnel and dependents in order to avoid, minimize or react to travel threats, security and medical issues abroad, including travel risk assessments, travel tracking, journey management and emergency preparedness. 

As part of an integrated risk management program, Brown suggests the following travel tips for employees:

  1. Minimize how your wealth is viewed. Employees will want to avoid expensive jewelry, watches and any other displays of wealth that could make them a target for criminal activity and kidnapping. Is corporate logoed clothing okay to wear? In some areas, Brown says it is important to be identified with a reputable company, while in other areas it can put the employee in harm’s way. Knowing the nature of the environment is key to preparation. 
  2. Carry a photocopy of your passport and credit cards. A loose passport or credit card can make you a victim of petty crime. Make sure to have a photocopy of your passport and credit card handy. In some areas, it’s safer to lock your real passport up in the hotel safe, while in others it’s not. 
  3. Comply, don’t escalate. If you are approached with a weapon, kidnapped or involved in an expressed kidnapping, comply to promote a quick resolution. When you fight back, the situation can escalate quickly, minimizing the chances of immediate resolution. 
  4. Know the local weather and political climate. Understand the climate and risk for natural disasters. If there’s a hurricane or earthquake threat, know how to prepare but realize that building infrastructures may not be the same as in the U.S. Additionally, civil unrest exists around the world today. Avoid collection locations as much as possible even if they are tourist spots. 
  5. Know the medical risks. As many as 52% of travelers experience a medical need while traveling. Make sure you have the necessary vaccinations and know what’s endemic in the area. If it’s a mosquito-born illness, make sure you have the right spray and dress appropriately to avoid contraction. Know which hospital to go to in the area. This also includes having enough cash at your disposal should a medical emergency arise. In many countries, proper health care may only be accessed with cash payment up front. 
  6. Travel during daylight hours. Avoid nighttime transportation and stay on major roads as much as possible. Make sure a family member or co-worker knows your day-to-day itinerary so if an issue presents itself, others will know as early on as possible. 
  7. Remain vigilant of your surroundings. Carry your laptop as inconspicuously as possible in carry-on luggage or a backpack. Carry money in your front pocket or a zipper pocket rather than one that’s more accessible. Limit the number of credit cards you travel with and carry only the cash you need for that day. Use only recommended taxi services or the hotel system to get a taxi. 

What about Insurance? 

Knowing your organization’s risk will also dictate the optimal travel insurance policies for each business. Here are a few common products and what they cover.

  • Business travel accident insurance covers an accident, security or medical event and the employee’s journey back to a safe location or country of origin, depending on the situation and location. 
  • Foreign voluntary workers' compensation will cover an accident overseas that results in long-term disability-related issues. An example might be contracting malaria, which wouldn’t necessarily be covered under an organization’s general workers’ compensation insurance. 
  • Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion coverage will cover kidnappings and ransom threats against an individual or company if an employee has been detained illegally or kidnapped and there’s a need to work toward getting that person back as quickly as possible. 

Contact your HUB travel risk management team to identify your organization’s travel risks. Having the right travel risk management program and insurance policies in place will be key to keeping your employees out of harm’s way.