October 20, 2017

Business and Terrorism: Looking After your Staff in Dangerous Times

Any employer could be forgiven for being confused about how to protect workers in these times when we are increasingly on alert for terror attacks in the UK.

But it is not just a matter of safeguarding workers as they go about their business – it’s also about knowing where they are, particularly for those who travel in the course of their work, and what to do if an incident occurs and you cannot make contact.

Site security

First and foremost, site security is paramount for any fixed places of work. Some environments such as office buildings have the protection of security measures as standard procedure but other workplaces are exposed by virtue of their environment – an example being the atrocious attack on Manchester Arena in May 2017.

Where the public are free to come and go it is inevitable that these will provide places of interest for attackers seeking to target unsuspecting people.

Managing risk has never been about eliminating all risk – this is almost always impossible to achieve. However risks can be managed through planning and actioning procedures to cope with incidents or vulnerabilities.

Public spaces

The over-arching responsibility for public areas lies with the government, security services and police. In general, if an incident occurs these agencies quickly set up help and information lines for enquiries but you have a part to play in helping them do their job.

I grew up in Northern Ireland during two decades of conflict so, for me, the security measures in place were ‘the norm’.

It was not until I moved to the mainland aged nineteen that I realised the majority of my age group had grown up without turnstiles to go through when going into the city, armed soldiers on the high street and searches at shop doors.

I actually stood outside a Boots store in Yorkshire when I first arrived at university, not knowing which door to go through as there was no-one bleeping shoppers for incendiary devices!

Recently I’ve said that I’m prepared to live like we did in Northern Ireland again if it means we are all safer, but I know that for the majority this would be a huge disruption to our way of life.

Basic security measures

For employers there are some basic measures you can take to be better equipped to operate in the current increased threat levels:

  • Employers should also ensure all staff have safe and secure working areas where possible and regularly review security; particularly breaches
  • If employees are working alongside other companies and subcontractors employers should ensure that their respective security and emergency
    procedures are compatible and shared with all personnel
  • Plan and train for incidents by running drills and crisis exercises with all staff, including subcontractors.

If you have public access to your sites consider whether you have sufficient security measures in place:

  • Plan and be able to manage site evacuations and lock-downs
  • For major incidents specialists recommend three key contingency plans:
    1. emergency evacuation
    2. relocation
    3. hibernation (lock-down)
  • Regularly test the resilience of communications equipment but remember that a ringing mobile telephone can alert an intruder to the location of targets

If your staff travel on trains, tubes, flights etc ensure you know as much about their travel arrangements as possible – during the 2005 London bombings my company had employees traveling on
the Underground and for hours we had no idea where some of them were.

Knowing who may be involved in incidents helps the emergency services enormously in providing information to relatives and other agencies in the aftermath.

No two businesses are the same, however adopting the best practice and networking to gather advice and ideas form others can help to continuously improve your resilience to unexpected events.

More guidance on the latest HR & employment law legislation

Security overseas

If you send staff overseas you should consider the following advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO):

  • Employers should recognise the scale of the risk when considering operating in high risk areas
  • Follow FCO Travel advice and subscribe to FCO travel alerts
  • Ensure they provide professional deployment and security briefing for all employees
  • Consider providing employees with professional hostile environment awareness training
  • Collect ‘personal risk profile’ data on all employees and subcontractors. Safeguards could include audio/video recording of staff to allow for voice recognition and taking and storing a DNA swab
  • Provide up-to-date maps, plans and photographs of work locations and accommodation
  • Consider investing in tracking and remote monitoring technologies

In addition, whilst overseas the FCO recommends employers:

  • Establish robust and effective security systems. If necessary, seek assistance from a bona fide private security company e.g. members of the Security in Complex Environments Group (SCEG)
  • Certain industries such as oil, gas and mining companies can join the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. These guidelines can help employers to carry out effective risk assessments in order to mitigate the risk that security around their operations might contribute to human rights abuses or conflict
  • Employers should also ensure all staff have safe and secure working and living areas
  • If employees are working alongside other companies and subcontractors employers should ensure that their respective security and emergency procedures are compatible
  • Plan and train for events by running drills and crisis exercises with all staff, including subcontractors
  • lan and be able to deliver safe in-country movement as well as options for evacuations
  • They recommend three key contingency plans:
    1. Emergency evacuation
    2. Relocation
    3. Hibernation
  • Regularly test the resilience of your communications equipment

This area of HR is becoming increasingly complex, but any employers worried about managing risks will find there is excellent and detailed guidance available through a number of specialist and public sources such as the FCO for oveseas risk management, MI5, and the National Counter Terrorism Security Office.


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About the author

Lisa Gillespie

Over 20 years Lisa has acted as a consultant and adviser on many HR issues and employment tribunals across public, private and third sector organisations. She has worked in most UK local authority areas on projects ranging from social care and health to training and conciliation arrangements. Lisa studied psychology before moving into employment law and HR after further study at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Salford, and she is also qualified in project management and counselling.