The international business lesson of Sec'y of State Kerry's bike crash

Ed Marsh | May 31, 2015

Fractured right femur

I sympathize with Secretary Kerry - I fractured my right femur many years ago.  It's a painful and awkward injury - not least because the requirement to stabilize joints on either side of the break (in other words above hips and below knee) makes for a serious cast!  

According to the WSJ article and other news sources Sec'y Kerry will recover fully.

Being prepared

Although the Secy's global role won't mitigate the discomfort and inconvenience he'll face during treatment and recovery, he was more fortunate than most.  Paramedics were traveling with him; he was helicoptered from the site of the accident in France to a hospital in Switzerland (I vividly remember a pothole filled ride to the hospital in my case!) and is being flown within hours via specially equipment medical aircraft to Boston for further treatment at the hospital of his choice.

With the resources of the US government on call, the Secretary was prepared for the unlikely eventuality of a serious accident.

But what if it was you, or one of your employees?

Duty of Care

Many companies fret inordinately about transactional details of international business (e.g. foreign exchange and logistics) and completely fail to account for their Duty of Care obligations.

Yet statistically it's likely that sooner or later an employee will be injured while traveling for business.  That injury will likely result from a car accident (although I've known folks who have been injured in hotel fires, fallen down stairs, been mugged and hurt themselves skiing while combining some recreation with business travel) - and it will likely happen in a locale where the standard of medical care may not match that to which you are accustomed.  After all, Sec'y Kerry opted to leave Switzerland promptly to head for his preferred hospital in Boston - many of the places your team will travel probably don't have a readily accessible Swiss level of care.

So what should you do?  Plan for the statistically likely scenario - one which costs typically >$100K for an intercontinental medical evacuation like the Sec'y received.  There are various low cost insurance programs available to cover medical and/or security issues.  They're simple and inexpensive.  (Find more detail here.)

Secondary considerations

But that's not all.  Other considerations related to international business travel and activities bear consideration as well.  What about workers' compensation insurance?  Do you know that your coverage typically ends at the border?  So what happens when an employee is injured in a taxi on the way to a meeting?

And what procedures do you have in place to know where your employees are, to account for their well being, and to notify and assist their families when they encounter a problem?

International business requires companies to think about topics they might otherwise overlook (although a company in Silicone Valley sending folks back and forth to Cambridge has much the same exposure!)

The smooth and expedient handling of Sec'y Kerry's accident should provide a lesson for companies - that's the Duty of Care you have to your employees.

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image - wsj