How to Keep Employees Safe While Traveling

December 4, 2018

Americans took more than 462 million business trips in 2017, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Most trips are 250 miles or less away from home. But even those trips create risk exposures.

State laws govern workers’ compensation coverage. Although most policies limit coverage to injuries or illnesses that occur in the U.S., its territories or Canada, most states will extend benefits to workers injured outside their borders, as long as they were hired in that state or had their principal workplace in that state and are working outside that territory only temporarily.

To ensure coverage for employees who make short-term business trips, you can purchase a voluntary workers’ compensation policy and employers liability endorsement. This policy addition will allow you to offer state benefits to workers who are injured or become ill while traveling out of state or out of the country. If the employee rejects these benefits and files suit, the employers' liability portion of your policy would apply.

Risks of Foreign Travel

Workers who venture abroad can become exposed to malaria, parasites, viruses (such as Zika) and other diseases that rarely occur in the U.S. Even if a more routine accident or illness occurs, language barriers, lack of access and other problems can make even a minor problem escalate into a serious health condition. Before traveling, please check the Center for Disease Control’s website,, for updated information on health risks abroad.

Before sending an employee abroad on a business trip, you will want to check whether your state provides extraterritorial coverage. Most policies will provide basic coverage for workers traveling abroad for a short term for business purposes. If your policy provides only basic coverage, you can provide better protection to your traveling workers by buying a foreign voluntary workers’ compensation policy and a travel accident policy.

Foreign voluntary workers’ compensation covers expatriate U.S. employees, local hires and employees from outside the U.S. hired to work in a country not their own. Policies differ among insurers, but many provide broader coverage than the typical workers’ compensation policy. For example:

  • War and terrorism-related injuries. U.S. workers’ compensation policies exclude coverage for injuries due to war or terrorism, even if they occur at the workplace.

  • Repatriation. This covers the cost of returning an injured or ill worker to the U.S. for medical treatment.

  • 24/7 coverage. Some policies will cover your workers who are traveling for injuries and illnesses, including endemic illnesses, that occur outside work hours.

Travel accident insurance provides accidental death and dismemberment and life insurance coverage for traveling workers.

Special Considerations for Women

Traveling alone poses risks for women, particularly overseas. If your employees travel, wearing or bringing the following items can enhance a female traveler’s safety:
  • A wedding ring, regardless of marital status. In certain countries, a married woman is viewed as another man’s property and off limits. At the very least, it can deter unwanted suitors.

  • Pepper spray. Check the country’s regulations: some outlaw pepper spray. Many air carriers allow passengers to bring three ounces or less of pepper spray in checked baggage; none allow this and other potentially disabling substances in carry-ons.

  • A rubber doorstop or door brace. Many hotel door locks are easy to pick; a rubber doorstop or door brace can prevent an intruder from pushing the door open.

  • Boxer shorts. David Mair, a managing partner at Champlin, Minn.-based Soter Healthcare Inc., recommends that a woman traveling solo carries a pair of men’s boxers in her luggage and leave them lying on her bed. “That suggests she is not alone,” Mr. Mair told Business Insurance magazine.

We can review your policies to ensure they provide coverage for your employees who travel or work abroad.