Health risks to mobile workforces not understood

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Six in 10 (60%) European execs have only a partial or no understanding of medical threats their mobile workers face

The 2017 Business Impact of Travel Risk survey from International SOS found that only 50% of organisations have conducted a comprehensive review of the health of their mobile workforce, and just 39% have a wellness program in place for those employees.

“Preventing an infectious outbreak, an accident or suffering is crucial for an organisation,” said Mark Parrish, regional medical director at International SOS. “We see a need for occupational safety and health practitioners to understand and implement global health risk plans within their organisation. Most organisations do something about health risks assessment and management but usually in a fairly ad hoc uncoordinated way.”

Many businesses recognise the need for change, with nearly a third (64%) claiming that mobile workforce risk management is currently high on their agenda. Seven in 10 (70%) hoped to improve their communication strategies to help employees abroad, and half (50%) said they wanted to provide more regular training for their mobile workforce.

Karel van de Pijpekamp, managing director Northern Europe at International SOS, said that employers could be doing more to help their international assignees. “While organisations have medical and travel security risks high on the agenda, the survey demonstrates that rigorous implementation and an ongoing communication process are key to ensuring programmes are utilised effectively,” he said. “This highlights potential cost and business continuity risks if travel security issues aren’t managed successfully because of a lack of communication. It also highlights a possible gap in duty of care when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of mobile workforces.”

Xavier Carn, regional security director for Europe at International SOS and Control Risks, warned that many employers are underprepared. “Should a major travel security incident occur tomorrow, 27% of organisations declared they were still moderately to not confident in their level of preparedness,” he said. “Testing both plans and procedures are a critical success factor of travel risk management to ensure the continuity of the business.”

“It is essential for decision-makers to have a reliable and up-to-date source of objective information to help them implement travel risk policies and individual travel plans. Recent crisis like Brussels, Tunisia, Turkey or even Berlin have also demonstrated that emergency communications must be robust. Our advice is to ensure these are multi-channel so that people affected by a crisis can receive and request the information they need to reduce their exposure to associated risks.”

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