ga('send', 'pageview');

Protecting your people and assets globally: We’re extending our high-risk solutions to ensure your duty of care covers your entire workforce

The boundaries of what determines a high-risk environment are now more blurred than ever. Those in professions such as humanitarian aid or journalism working in politically divisive countries and warzones might expect that in doing so they put their safety at risk, however repeated tragic and disruptive events in traditionally lower-risk countries have highlighted that threats to safety could happen anywhere at any time. This blog discusses how an organisation’s commitment to employee security and duty of care in high-risk scenarios should extend to the entire workforce, wherever they are located. 

People Management reiterates the importance of providing an end-to-end, global security solution to ensure a duty of care to all employees: “All employers have a duty of care towards their workforce. In a narrow, legal sense, this means employers are required to take all of the reasonable and necessary steps to protect their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing. This, of course, does not end at national borders, and multinational companies who assign expatriates all over the globe are not exempt from this duty when the employee is abroad. In the light of the worldwide pandemic we’re experiencing right now, the topic is more important than ever.” Source.

At Track24, we evaluate the ways in which an organisations’ duty of care is paramount in any environment.

High-risk mobile workforce management: Paying homage to warriors on the field

As high-risk is often expected and sometimes inevitable in areas of conflict, organisations will have extensive risk management plans, incorporating strategies and technologies to deal with the worst case scenarios. These scenarios might include personnel being ambushed, attacked, abducted or injured.

This became a reality recently for oil and gas giant Total, when the port town of Palma, near Total’s gas operations on the Afungi perninsular in Mozambique, became the target of an Islamist attack.

“The town of Palma was attacked […] in a three-pronged assault by rebel fighters which was launched just hours after Total, the France-based oil and gas company, announced that it would resume work on its multibillion-dollar liquified natural gas project nearby.” Source. “Residents fled in all directions, but mostly toward Palma’s beaches, according to sources who spoke to local news media including Zitamar News and Pinnacle News.” Source

Reports of ensuing chaos indicate that effective crisis communication and global security management would have provided greater clarity in response to the emergency, lessening the scene of panic and uncertainty. Organisations should always be expecting the unexpected and be ready to provide an informed response, which begins with understanding the location and safety situation of their people.

The incident emphasises how incidents of terror can happen at any time. Mobile workforces in vulnerable locations are at a constant high-risk, meaning crisis communications and actionable and adaptable emergency response plans must be accessible for all employees, at all times.

BBC correspondent Frank Gardner’s story of ambush and life-changing injury, 17 years ago illustrates the scenarios in which broadcasters, media and communications organisations must protect their staff, including in war zones, or areas or political or civil unrest. “BBC correspondent Frank Gardner and his cameraman Simon Cumbers were ambushed by al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Gardner was shot six times and paralysed, his cameraman, killed.” Source. Unlike the honourable Simon Cumbers, Gardner survived, against the odds, though his injuries have changed his life forever, leaving him paralysed from the knees down.

Such scenarios demonstrate not only the astonishing extent reporters will go to for their work, but the high-risk nature of their workplace and the immense duty of care obligations organisations must provide for their mobile workforces, on the ground.

NGOs are swamped by an influx of incidents: Every day is high-risk for our humanitarian heroes

The brave heroes working for NGOs have always been at high-risk, due to the nature of their work. However, the extent of critical incidents recorded reached a shocking extent in 2020, drawing into focus the dangerous working environments which courageous NGO workers face day-to-day.  “Humanitarian action by necessity takes place in situations which are unpredictable and unstable, and where people face profound risks from disasters, armed conflict, political violence and human rights abuse.” Source.

“Staff working at non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in some of the world’s most dangerous countries faced 1,500 incidents – including kidnappings and killings – last year [2020], according to new figures.” Source

“There were 361 incidents of all types for NGOs in the Central African Republic, the report found, the most in the world. These include things like theft, burglaries and threats as well as more severe incidents leading to injuries or deaths.” Source

Due to the nature of the work of NGOs, providing aid in areas of crises, conflict and disaster, working in high-risk environments has always been part of the job description. Therefore, NGO organisations have tremendous duty of care obligations to fulfil to protect their staff and must have meticulous emergency response and crisis management plans in place. For NGOs, lives really are at stake during everyday operations.

Terror and high-risk hits home: Organisations’ duty of care stretches to protect the white-collar worker

Although certain industries might accept a significant level of risk in undertaking their professional activities, it is fair to say that risks to safety, security and threats to operational efficiency are posed to any organisation in any part of the world, at all times. 

In the UK, organisations’ depiction of high-risk environments has undoubtedly been turned on its head in the wake of terror attacks over the past decade and a half. High-risk could now apply to any city. From the horrific 7th July 2005 transport attacks to the more recent London Bridge and Manchester Arena attacks, experience of terror is certainly a global concern. We take a look at terror attacks in the UK then and now, to analyse how our society perceives and encounters high-risk in the everyday and how organisations’ duty of care obligations have stretched to cover all eventualities to protect their global workforce.

The public transport attacks of 7th July, 2005 caused the biggest loss of life in a terrorist attack on mainland Britain, with 56 killed and more than 700 injured. The government, the authorities and therefore organisations’ expectation of attacks was seemingly low before July 7th 2005, though security measures were still in place: “The deputy assistant Met commissioner, Brian Paddick said the security level in London had been high. Mr Paddick said the emergency services had rehearsed for such a scenario and that the plans had worked as they should have done.” Source

Shortly after the July 7th bombings, the terror threat level system was introduced in the UK. “The international terror threat scale was first made public in the UK in August 2006, just over a year after the London Tube and bus bombings that killed 52 people.” Source. The country considered a new way of perceiving risk.

Chris Phillips, International Security and Counter-Terrorism Expert argues “when a crisis happens, you’ve got an hour, two hours, maybe six hours where you have to act quickly and correctly if you’re to get a positive outcome.” This statement outlines an organisations’ need to fulfil their duty of care by immediately understanding the risk posed to its people in the mouth of a critical incident, in order to quickly react to protect all employees and their networks. Due to social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook, the golden window of opportunity to gather the facts and establish an accurate account of events has shrunk even further.

The London Bridge attack starting in Westminster in April 2017, the Manchester Arena bombing on May 22nd 2017 and the London Bridge November 2019 attack saw the UK’s terror threat level rise to ‘critical’, then ‘severe’, indicating how home became an increasingly high-risk environment. The UK was horrified when Salman Abedi killed 22 men, women and children, blowing himself up in a suicide bomb attack after an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in 2017. A further enquiry into emergency response took place in January 2021, as documented by Sky News. Source.

“We asked a Security and Risk Manager, working for a leading broadcasting giant what kept him up at night. It wasn’t protecting journalists and teams on the field in war zones, but protecting the everyday worker in London from unexpected events that may compromise their safety.”

As a consequence of the rise in terror attacks, the need for organisations and corporations to have duty of care and crisis management plans in place has become more urgent. For global organisations, this means protecting their entire workforce, not just those in perceived high-risk areas. The ‘white-collar’ workers who once seemed less at risk, are arguably at high-risk day to day, as they commute into their city-based office as travel and work from home restrictions begin to alleviate, post pandemic. We asked a Security and Risk Manager, working for a leading broadcasting giant what kept him up at night. It wasn’t protecting journalists and teams on the field in war zones, but protecting the everyday worker in London from unexpected events that may compromise their safety.

How has our perception of high-risk in traditionally lower-risk locations adapted to the terror risk? Crisis management and emergency response plans are woven into the duty of care obligations of organisations and corporations as a result of the regularity of terror attacks. Although in February 2021, the UK terror threat level lowered to ‘substantial’, the country is far from out of the woods yet when it comes to being at risk. Home Secretary, Priti Patel said: “Terrorism remains one of the most direct and immediate risks to our national security.” Source. In the UK, we are still living and working in a high-risk environment, particularly in our capital city, as “Substantial continues to indicate a high level of threat.” Source.

It’s not just terrorism that poses a threat to employees. Driven by the pandemic, the proliferation of delivery service companies such as Deliveroo and Amazon operating in cities across the world has seen the growth of a mobile working landscape in which duty of care is all the more urgent. Consider the risk of violence recently faced by Deliveroo drivers in Dublin:  “There have been several violent incidents in the northeast inner city over the last 12 months, some of which began as robberies of Deliveroo staff.” Source.

“On January 22nd, Dublin Deliveroo drivers staged an unofficial strike over pay and working conditions. The organisers highlighted the “lack of security” and the level of violence riders experience and said three couriers had been attacked in the previous week alone.” Source. High-risk is now, as much at home as it is away and this example proves a high-risk environment for a lone worker, really can be anywhere.

The high volume of mobile workers at risk to the public or indeed to any unexpected event such as traffic disruption, weather events or unrest, can legitimately expect a duty of care to be provided by employers not only for their protection, but to ensure they are kept informed of events that may impact their ability to fulfil their role. 

Takeaways 

To conclude, as a result of terror incidents and scenarios highlighting the increased threat of violence faced by lone workers all over the world, the boundaries are entirely blurred as to how we define a high-risk environment. 

An organisations’ duty of care obligations to a dispersed and mobile workforce must stretch, from workers operating in exceedingly turbulent political environments, such as aid workers and journalists, to the everyday ‘white-collar’ worker in traditionally lower-risk countries. Organisations must prepare for that which is considered ‘unpreparable’ for and constantly expect the unexpected. This phenomenal task is enforced upon organisations by the shifting high-risk nature of our society. The landscape of what we class as high-risk has changed forever, meaning the need for organisations to provide a duty of care solution for their entire workforce is more vital now than ever.

To find about AtlasNXT, our new duty of care and communications platform, visit: http://info.track24.com/atlasnxt-protect-your-people-transform-your-operations