The dangers of operating in challenging environments

Chris Shirley examines the human factors that can significantly affect high-risk scenarios. Why should organisations invest in travel security expertise? Statistically, the chances are that nothing will happen – people travel to challenging and hostile parts of the world all the time without incident.

But the consequences of a security incident occurring can be significant, resulting in high-profile lawsuits, as we saw in the NGO community in 2016 when an aid worker won a case against his former employer, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) for gross negligence (costing the NGO £350,000) ; corporate manslaughter charges, as brought in the wake of the 2013 StatOil In Amenas attack in Algeria; and the type of attention-grabbing headlines that surrounded the robbery of Kim Kardashian in Paris last year.

And what about the personal effects on staff? Reduced trust in the organisation; reduced confidence in the management; increased staff turnover, to name a few key consequences.

Crucially, this means that management time is wasted by running the recruitment process, instead of leading innovation, managing change, and developing competitiveness in the market place.

An organisation can’t analyse and understand all security threats across the entire world; they would spend every conceivable hour in their day just keeping track of what is going on, let alone what it means for their team.

This article uses hypothetical vignettes (based on real life scenarios from across different industries) to show how an organisation could find itself facing negative press and legal challenges, if it doesn’t take security planning seriously. Managers at all levels will no doubt identify situations when they have seen aspects of these scenarios play out and even had to deal with them first-hand.


Chris Shirley is the challenging environments advisor at the BBC, has worked for the Ministry of Defence, and is a former Royal Marines Commando Officer  


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