Business Travel Risk

Injury, Illness and Uprisings

Business travel is increasingly becoming riskier for employers and employees.
By: | August 4, 2014 • 4 min read

Despite the proliferation of technology enabling communications today, face time — not Facebook — remains one of the most important tools for attracting and retaining both customers and employees.

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This post-recession realization — that sitting across a table and looking someone in the eye is what drives business — has resulted in a steady increase in business travel over the past few years. U.S. business travel is expected to grow 6 percent in 2014, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

In the past year, “75 percent of travelers encountered a mishap while traveling to their business destinations,” according to the GBTA.

As the number of executives traveling increases, there will be a parallel increase in a company’s risk exposure to on-the-road mishaps.

In the past year, “75 percent of travelers encountered a mishap while traveling to their business destinations,” according to the GBTA. About 40 percent require external assistance while traveling abroad. Yet, in a recent survey, 46 percent of business travelers said that their company does not provide travel insurance or assistance, such as medical or evacuation services.

Escalating Concerns

Recent developments around the world underscore how political unrest can suddenly and unexpectedly escalate.

In both Ukraine and Thailand, manageable risk quickly gave way to civil unrest and conflict. Similarly, in December 2013, more than 700 people were evacuated from South Sudan due to a significant conflict escalation, while in May 2014 at least 400 people were evacuated from Kenya due to concerns over the security situation in Mombasa.

These events demonstrate that whether traveling in traditional “hot spots,” or in historically stable regions, business travelers may suddenly be in need of evacuation, before chaos hits the ports or airports.

Travelers in high risk areas may become stranded until the country’s airports or border crossings are re-opened, or until transport to a safe location can be arranged.

This can be dangerous to employees as well as expensive for companies in terms of paying for additional accommodation, living expenses and rearranged transportation, stretching into thousands of dollars.

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Global crisis management companies — either by direct contract or via a travel accident insurance policy— can give employees 24/7 access to crisis support specialists who can quickly mobilize and assist clients in high-risk situations
This type of service is becoming a necessity for companies conducting business outside the United States.

International Medical Systems

Political unrest is not the sole concern for employees traveling abroad. Medical crises are also an important consideration.

Obtaining medical care outside of the country can be tricky because many overseas hospitals require a “guarantee of funds” before administering treatment.
An employee may be asked to bring a personal credit card to pay for care, but may not have an adequate available balance.

Other issues may arise when an employee is in a remote location that is far from a hospital, or if he or she does not know the language or is unfamiliar with how health care is delivered in that country.

Crisis management service providers can bring in a doctor to care for an employee or arrange an ambulance to a local medical facility. If necessary, a service provider can also arrange to have an employee evacuated to a different facility.

Such services are provided 24/7 to employees traveling on business. Call center personnel gather details about the incident and provide employees with the resources such as the names of vetted doctors and area hospitals.

If an employee is too injured to travel, call center personnel will work with local medical service providers to get help to the employee.

For employees who are incapacitated and taken directly to emergency care, call center on-staff doctors will contact the local physician treating the employee to determine whether the care being administered is of the appropriate level and quality.

As business travel continues to grow, and as the rise in political unrest around the globe continues, there are more and more chances that an employee will need emergency assistance during the course of a business trip.

If the call center doctor determines that the care is not adequate, he or she will work to move the employee to an approved facility or have an approved local physician treat the employee.

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Historically, businesses in Europe have been the largest purchasers of travel accident insurance in order to meet “duty of care” legislation, which levies significant penalties for companies that do not take adequate steps to protect employees who are traveling for business.

This type of legislation is gaining interest in the United States, potentially exposing companies to a new set of risks.

As business travel continues to grow, and as the rise in political unrest around the globe continues, there are more and more chances that an employee will need emergency assistance during the course of a business trip.

Shawn Austin is senior vice president, strategic marketing officer, Liberty Mutual Accident & Health. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]