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Safeguarding workers abroad

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Despite huge advances in information and communications technology, UK residents made more than nine million journeys abroad for work last year- up 12% since 2004.

A generation ago, a whiff of glamour surrounded the planes and trains used by the business traveller. But today, corporate travel has less cachet and people recognise it can be an unhealthy, and sometimes downright dangerous, business. Working abroad can expose business travellers to a host of risks they rarely - if ever - face in their UK workplaces. And this poses problems for the health and safety professionals who will almost always have to manage those risks at a distance of hundreds, if not thousands, of miles.

Risks faced by business travellers abroad stem from many sources. As well as health risks and local security issues that may compromise a traveller's safety, the fact that they are likely to be working in an unfamiliar place and facing cultural and language barriers plus poor transport and communication links makes managing their health and safety a complex business.

As with other areas of health and safety management, protecting business travellers relies on appropriate planning, risk assessment and advice.

Personal service
Building a risk profile - an individual risk assessment for an employee travelling abroad - is the best starting point for managing risks to work travellers, according to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

'As well as general travel-related elements, [a risk profile] should include specific personal circumstances that could affect their health and safety while abroad, such as disabilities or medical conditions,' says IOSH's guidance. Many business travel risks can be mitigated by proper advance planning. This includes ensuring that employees' vaccinations are up to date, that they take anti-malaria drugs if necessary, and that they carry - and know how to use - insect repellents, mosquito nets and first-aid kits.

Travel medicine is a complex and fast-changing field, and although some GPs will provide a basic range of vaccines, seeking advice from a specialist travel health clinic is sensible. 'Some companies understand about the health and safety issues involved, but others don't,' says Mary Kedward, managing director of The Travel Clinic in Cambridge. 'So many people travel unvaccinated, unaware of malaria risks, and it's a health and safety issue. There is a duty of care to staff whether they are at home or abroad.'

To read the remainder of this article please go to Health and Safety Professional http://www.healthandsafetyprofessional.co.uk/file/a21dd53e947261ba9ecd6136abf3b555/leaving-on-a-jet-plane-december-2007.html = Safeguarding workers abroad

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