International OHS: when compiling information on the destination country is insufficient.

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When we do research about safety management processes for transferred workers beyond our borders, there are common references that highlight the importance of studying the country’s context.ebolaaaaaa

Quite right too. Before the transfer materializes, it is essential to analyse aspects such as national legislation, a possible existence of a social security agreement signed with Spain, access to healthcare, inherent risks of the country (crime rates, road safety, sanitation, weather conditions, access to potable water, required and recommended vaccinations, etc), taxation, cost of living, etc. In short, anything that could potentially affect the health of an employee, of which we have an ethical and legal duty (in this order) to offer protection comparable to what we would show working in our country, to later contrast it with a specialist in health and safety from the destination country.

However, there may be cases in which a deep analysis of risk factors in the country of destination are insufficient for safeguarding the safety and health of our people. When can you be in such a situation? When the threat comes from outside. The spread of an endemic virus, for example, unchecked from reaching the border…

Put yourself in the situation…

We are a construction company, and given the need to increase our volume of business, we have expanded our presence into emerging markets in Africa, where we have been entrusted with the execution of a construction project in the Ivory Coast. We agree with the client to send a Project Manager to oversee the work for a period of one year. Ah, I forgot! We are the health and safety technician that must carry out the safety management during the process.

As we write documentation and compile information about the country, we come to identify one of the key risk factors in an African state: the sanitary conditions in the country. As prevention technicians, we first proceed to eliminate the risk, the first step in safety. In these cases, eliminating the risk means that the worker being transferred must undergo vaccinations. To do this, we can take advantage of the  vaccination simulator available at the spanish Ministry of Health.

Next, we must identify the risk factors (we remain focused on the relative health conditions in the area) that cannot be eliminated by vaccination, provided that a sanitary protocol is developed that incorporates appropriate and adequate safety measures. Wash fruits and vegetables, drink bottled water, prior contact with reliable food supply chains, travel kit containing (among many other things) antidiarrhoeica… are some of the most common safety and protective measures in these cases.

That said…

If we only focus on the exclusive analysis of existing health conditions in the Ivory Coast, we overlook one small detail: the borders of Ivory Coast bordering Guinea and Sierra Leone, two countries suffering today the deadliest epidemic Ebola since it was discovered. This variant of the virus corresponds to the Zaire strain, spreading more than half a year, which has caused more than 5000 deaths and 13.500 infected (WHO data as of 09/12/2014). Although it originated in Guinea, the virus has taken little time to spreading to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria and it is possible that it can expand into other African countries. At the moment it remains uncontrolled.

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As safety and health at work experts, we proceed to do research about the nature and forms of transmission of the virus: The WHO website can be a good starting point. Once documented, the sanitary protocols are added to a set of preventive measures to protect our worker against a possible outbreak in the Ivory Coast. Another safety measure that cannot be ignored is a travel insurance that includes coverage including the evacuation of workers from the affected area.

As you can see, safety management in international matters cannot be limited to a mere analysis of existing conditions in the country of destination, but we must go further to ensure the effective protection of the health of the transferred worker. At Prevencontrol we know this well and we incorporate this global approach to each of the 30 guides that we have available.

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