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Is It Dangerous To Travel Abroad for Work?




The world is flat, and as frequent travelers who like to investigate the world in which we live, we say “thank God.” Globalization has taken down many of the barriers that once existed and traveling abroad is easier than ever before.  A new study by Zurich Insurance shows that American companies have embraced the globalization trend; 66 percent of them have U.S.-based employees who travel internationally for work.

However, travel for work can be very different from travel for pleasure – employees on the clock face different pressures, different schedules and higher expectations. And, according to the Zurich study, they also face a certain amount of danger – a significant percentage of employees travelling internationally get injured or sick.

To be fair, the overwhelming majority of employees traveling abroad return home healthy and safe. But one-fifth of companies say that in the past 24 months at least one of their employees has required hospitalization. And thirteen percent say that an employee has required medical evacuation because of an injury or illness. Zoinks – that’s serious! And seven percent say an employee has died in the last 2 years while traveling outside the U.S. and on-duty; that’s more than one in 20. That’s really serious!

Despite these numbers, 20 percent of companies don’t offer travel health insurance; 23 percent of those that don’t offer it say they don’t offer it because it’s too expensive.

That’s kind of shocking isn’t it? I find it hard to imagine that a company’s risk management department would simply waive the concept of health insurance for employees it sends beyond the borders of its home country. Maybe they just need to do some shopping in order to realize the cost effectiveness of travel health insurance.

According to the study, most of the U.S.’s outbound international business travel is to Europe, so for employees there is likely some consolation that most Euro Zone countries have robust healthcare systems fueled by tax dollars.

Employees can also take matters into their own hands when they’re traveling and try to be as healthy as possible. That means getting adequate sleep, eating reasonably healthily and not drinking too much, and getting at least a modicum of exercise. These measures won’t safeguard against accidents (they do happen), but it should at least increase the odds of returning home from a business trip with a clean bill of health.


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Linda Barbara

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