Common causes of expat accidents while overseas

  April 16, 2020

It may come as no surprise to hear the leading cause of fatalities while abroad are road traffic accidents. Emerging economies, where expats are often based, have some of the highest rates of serious injuries or fatalities on their roads. The average rate of road traffic deaths globally is 18 per 100,000 population. In Africa and South-East Asia this increases significantly to 26.6 and 20.7 deaths per 100,000 population respectively. A WHO report highlights five key factors for road accidents:

  • speeding
  • drink driving
  • failing to wear a motorcycle helmet
  • failing to use a seatbelt
  • failing to restrain a child correctly

The WHO believes legislative change needs to take place within countries that have particularly high rates of road fatalities to reduce these figures. 

As an international HR manager, ensure expats on assignment are instructed to follow best practice when it comes to safety on the road. 

Although there is limited data relating to expats specifically, expats involved in industries like mining, manufacturing, energy production and construction are more likely to be working in dangerous environments. A study of global occupational accidents and work related illness estimates Asia has the highest number of fatalities of the five regions included in the study. Europe had the lowest rate of fatal workplace accidents. 

Similarly to driving while abroad, employees need to understand company expectations around health and safety before they leave for an assignment. They must not only ensure their own safety but monitor other employees, and suppliers in so far as possible, are following best practice health and safety guidelines. 

Alcohol is responsible for deaths and injuries from poisoning, through over consumption and accidents as a result of people’s actions while under the influence.

Common accidents include falls or drowning.  A UK study found alcohol played a part in almost 50% of fire related deaths.

Alcohol can play a significant role in expat life, particularly for those involved in financial services and business in general, where socialising with clients and colleagues is common. Have a clear policy on alcohol use when employees are representing your company and provide expats with information on how alcohol may impact them differently while on assignment e.g. warmer weather or higher altitude may increase the speed at which alcohol takes effect. 

Studies have also found that alcohol dependence or abuse are sometimes cited as a cause of expat failure. While the causes of alcoholism are complex, the pressure of a new role away from the stabilizing influence of family and friends can put expats at higher risk for developing a problem. 

Provide employees working in expat roles with support while they are away. An expat assistance programme will enable your company’s expats access support when they need it, hopefully in advance of a problem with alcohol developing. 

When you read this headline, you may well be thinking about deaths caused by large predators like lions and snakes but, by far the biggest killer in tropical destinations are mosquitos. These malaria carrying insects are responsible for 750,000 deaths a year. After that, rabies from dog bites kill approximately 25,000 people per year. 

This is one of the reasons it is essential to include information on wildlife risk by destination and medical treatment in expat pre-departure training. It is also essential employees are provided with medication and vaccinations required for their specific destination. 

No matter the cause, if an accident does happen to an expat from your company while they are working on assignment ensure they have international health insurance cover that will enable them to access the treatment they need.