Operating in high-risk environments: advice for business

Employers have duty of care for those they employ overseas. Advice includes protecting company employees and how the UK government can assist.

Advice for businesses operating in high-risk environments

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), leads in dealing with crises involving British nationals working overseas. The FCO’s first priority is to support those directly affected - and their families. Our partnership with employers is essential to achieve this.

You will find advice here for businesses operating in high-risk environments on:

  1. Key principles for protecting employees in high-risk environments
  2. What the FCO and other government departments can and cannot do for those operating in high-risk environments
  3. Where to get further advice and help.

Key principles for protecting employees in high-risk environments – how we want businesses to operate:


  • Recognise the scale of the risk when considering operating in high risk areas.
  • Follow FCO Travel advice and subscribe to FCO travel alerts.
  • Provide professional deployment and security briefing for all employees.
  • Consider providing employees with profession hostile environment awareness training.
  • Collect ‘personal risk profile’ data on all employees and subcontractors. An example is attached. Data could also include audio/video recording of staff to allow for voice recognition; and taking and storing a DNA swab.
  • Ensure you have up-to-date maps, plans and photographs of work locations and accommodation. Copies should be readily available at a secure location away from the high-risk location.
  • Consider investing in tracking and remote monitoring technologies.

On the ground:

  • Establish robust and effective security systems. If necessary, seek assistance from a bona fide private security company. Those companies that are members of the Security in Complex Environments Group (SCEG) have made a commitment to high standards, including on human rights. We also encourage oil, gas and mining companies to join the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. These guidelines can help extractive companies carry out effective risk assessments and engage with public and private security providers, in order to mitigate the risk that security around their operations might contribute to human rights abuses or conflict.
  • Ensure all staff have safe and secure working and living areas.
  • Where working alongside other companies and subcontractors, ensure your respective security and emergency procedures are compatible.
  • Regularly test your systems. Run drills and crisis exercises with all staff, including subcontractors.
  • Plan and manage movements and be able to deliver safe in-country movement as well as options for evacuations.
  • At a minimum you need three key contingency plans: (1) emergency evacuation, (2) relocation and (3) hibernation.
  • Regularly test the resilience of your communications equipment.

What the FCO and other government departments can and cannot do for those affected by a terrorist incident overseas

The FCO can:

  • Provide travel advice about developments in the terrorist threat.
  • Use our relationships with the authorities in the affected country.
  • Provide specialist expertise, such as hostage negotiation.
  • Support the families of those affected.
  • Assist with media handling.
  • Assist with documentation and logistics for departures/arrivals.
  • Coordinate the response of governments with nationals involved in the incident.
  • In some circumstances, deploy staff to work alongside you in your crisis centres and embed your staff in our crisis centres.
  • In exceptional circumstances, and where conditions allow, assist with evacuations.

However the FCO cannot provide security overseas. Companies must make appropriate arrangements for their employees and ensure the employees of any subcontractors are covered by similar arrangements. See also How to deal with a crisis overseas.

Where to get further information and help:

  • The FCO provides constantly updated travel advice, including information on terrorist threats. This advice applies to businesses as well as holiday makers. You can get our travel advice via the website, and you can subscribe to email alerts for updates. The FCO and UKTI also provide advice through Overseas Business Risk website – which includes links to other government agencies’ advice.
  • We have embassies and consulates in around 270 locations around the world, many of them in high-risk environments. UK businesses are encouraged to build links with our staff in country. Let them know if you have security concerns. They can often help raise issues with local authorities.
  • The FCO provides opportunities for representatives of companies to visit its London crisis centre. Where possible the FCO will arrange discussions with staff with experience of managing a crisis, and run table-top learning exercises. We run a number of these a year, normally around August and January. If you are interested please call our main switchboard on 0207 008 1500 during office hours and ask for Crisis Management Department.
  • Where available, the FCO will consider sending staff to observe and participate in companies’ crisis exercises. Priority will be given to companies with UK nationals in locations where there’s a significant threat from terrorism/kidnapping. To apply please call 0207 008 2977 or our main switchboard on 0207 008 1500 during office hours and ask for Terrorism Response Team in Counter Terrorism Department.
  • See also How to deal with a crisis overseas.
  • Protective security advice is available from the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office, (NaCTSO). This body advises on areas such as protection of crowded places and reducing opportunities for terrorism through vehicle and environmental design.
  • The Government has published its new Cyber Security Strategy For more information visit the Cyber Security pages on GOV.UK
Published 19 June 2014