Featured Blogger - Rebecca Shafer: 14 Things to Consider When Employees Are Injured Traveling Overseas

Featured Blogger - Rebecca Shafer: 14 Things to Consider When Employees Are Injured Traveling Overseas

Hello, as the "featured blogger" this week, I'll be writing on topics that relate to workers' compensation cost containment.  Some will be basic, some advanced.  Please let me know if there's anything in particular you would like me to focus on and I'll do my best to accommodate you.  Write to me at:  RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com


There is much to consider when a company has employees traveling to foreign countries or stationed outside the U.S. As we saw in Mumbai this week, foreign travel can be dangerous for your employees. These are only a few of the considerations:

Policy Territory – Check to make sure the country they are traveling to is covered under your policy. The employees need to be covered in all countries they are traveling to or doing business in.

Named Insured – Make sure all subsidiaries including those outside the U.S. are covered. And, include any operations outside the U.S. if employees from those operations are working inside the U.S. Or, perhaps consider assigning those employees to a U.S. operation if they will be in the U.S. longer than a few days.

Voluntary Workers' Comp – If employees are outside the U.S. for more than 30 days, you may need to add a voluntary worker's comp endorsement to your policy. If outside the U.S. for more than 30 days they may be considered on permanent assignment instead of temporary assignment, so check your policy carefully.

Payroll Reporting – You should separate employees on overseas assignment when reporting payroll to your carrier because it may be rated differently.

Pre-placement Screening – Consider whether a pre-placement medical exam is necessary for employees traveling abroad. This may be prudent because medical care is not readily available in some remote locations.

Prepare an Assignment Letter – Provide employees on temporary or permanent assignment a letter describing their assignment, location, wages, any additional allowances such as schooling for children or job placement for spouses. This information will be useful for the employee and also for the carrier in the event of loss as this helps determine the lost wages and other benefits to which they may be entitled.

Practice & Communication of Emergency Evacuation Plans – Emergency plans need to be practiced in advance and posted in conspicuous locations. Phone service (sometimes satellite service) should be tested regularly to ensure reliability. Wallet-size instruction cards should be provided for each supervisor and employee with detailed emergency instructions.  

Medical Coordination – Work with a travel medicine firm and a representative of the other country to set up a plan that provides excellent medical care if needed when employees are traveling to or stationed overseas. If you have a large project in a remote part of Brazil, for example, contingency plans for air evacuation and treatment in another country may be needed.

Site Physician – You may need to hire a doctor for on-site treatment to ensure proper triage and medical care.

Account Instructions – Make sure the adjusters know who to contact in the U.S. if there is a loss overseas. Claim handling strategy may be different, and perhaps the risk manager will want to be notified on all overseas claims. Every step should be spelled out in advance and listed in the account instructions.

Claim Investigation – Claims must be reported rapidly, within 24 hours. A claims handling packet from the employer may be different for overseas losses than for U.S.-based losses. Witness Statements, Supervisor Statements, Medical Reports, must all be obtained immediately and there may have variations for overseas injuries, so review these documents with that in mind. There will be company investigations and insurer investigations.

Return to Work – When developing your workers' comp program, consider how employees on overseas assignments will be handled. Where and when will they return to work? This can be included in the Employee Brochure or a separate brochure can be developed for overseas employees as many things may be different.

Coordination of Benefits – Make sure short and long term benefits are coordinated with statutory benefits or voluntary workers' comp benefits. You want to provide coverage with no gaps and no overlaps. Make sure the policies allow offsets for amounts paid under other policies.

Safety Investigation – A safety evaluation will likely need to be done after any injury. Note whether any remedial actions must be taken so no further injuries occur.

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