Lone Workers Travelling Overseas - Part I: Preparation and Calling for Help

Lone Workers Travelling Abroad

Part one of this blog series discusses 2 key areas you should consider before your employees travel outside the UK: preparation and calling for help.

What are the issues for employees/lone workers travelling on business outside of the UK? 

Their safety and security are, of course, still the responsibility of their employer. There are things that can be done to give them, and you as their employer, a measure of protection over and above the procedures in place for operating in the UK. Maiden Voyage found that 31% of female business travellers felt that their employer did not adequately take care of them whilst on business travel making this a vital consideration for all managers.

Let us assume the employees/lone workers are going into unfamiliar territory.



The starting point is preparation. Is there a history of other visits? What is the place like? What are their customs? What is the security situation? If your employees are hiring a car, how safe are the roads? Are visas required?

Common sense is all very well but there's no replacement for sound knowledge. As an employer you will need, and want, to show you have done everything reasonable to prepare your employees for their travels.

Don’t assume the laws and customs are like the UK. Research is needed to establish what is different. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides travel advice for 225 countries and territories.  

Even in Europe, there are differences that may catch you out. For example, it’s illegal in Austria ‘to wear in a public place any clothing or object that conceals the face and makes facial features unrecognisable’. They also have some complex driving rules.

The FCO also provides business risk advice in various countries. The advice looks at factors such as intellectual property, organised crime, human rights, bribery and corruption and terrorism risks that UK businesses may face. Companies such as International SOS and Control Risks also provide a commercial service globally.

Part of your preparation should include what your employees/lone workers should do in the event of a medical emergency or road traffic incident.


Calling for help

How do they call for help if they need to? There are two aspects; calling the emergency services directly or using a lone worker device/app.

Do they know the number to call for the emergency services? It varies widely. In and around Europe it's generally 112, (which also works in the UK). In the USA and Canada it’s 911. Australia is 000 and in New Zealand, it's 111. Others are different, so check ahead of time. If they do call the emergency services direct, can they speak the language? There are some countries where the police can be the problem and/or will demand cash up front.

Having a lone worker device or app makes good sense but the chances are it will call back to the UK. In principle, the emergency services in any country will only respond to a call from within that country. So, there is no point in the UK Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), calling up a police force in another country. Even without the language problem, it is unlikely to get a useful response. There are a few UK ARCs with response arrangements with ARCs or monitoring centres in other countries.

The alternative, assuming they have contacts in the country being visited, is to make prior arrangements for that person or organisation to call the emergency services on their behalf. The details, including contact numbers, can be entered into an escalation procedure. This is followed by an ARC operator in the event of an emergency.


Help can also be obtained from the UK embassy, consulate or high commission. Find out their contact details before you go.

Check back next week for part II of this series which focuses on insurance, medical and safety procedures.


Written by Patrick Dealtry

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