Protect Duty: Be ready

Security legislative changes are coming to the UK that will affect many organisations and business that own or operate premises that grant access to members of the public.

In response to terrorist attacks in recent years, most notably the Manchester Arena bombing, legislative changes relating to public safety are coming to the UK. They will affect many organisations and business that own or operate premises granting access to members of the public. While the exact nature of the new law is in development, businesses can take practical action now.

Uncertainty around the Protect Duty

The Protect Duty,[1] sometimes referred to as Martyn’s Law, is proposed legislation for improving the security at publicly accessible locations. Many businesses in sectors ranging from entertainment, hospitality, retail, and even education, are attempting to understand what the Protect Duty will mean for them. 

Official sources have been quiet about the draft contents of the legislation and the timeframe for its implementation. Organisations might find this disconcerting; it is prudent to suggest the impending legislative changes will start appearing on corporate risk registers across the UK. 

Practical steps for now

Businesses may choose to defer action until the legislation takes shape and the exact requirements become law. Protecting lives is imperative — preparing for serious incidents should go beyond pure compliance to specific laws. Nevertheless, protecting customers and staff from terror attacks can be a daunting prospect for businesses, and they might wait for explicit guidance to clarify their obligations. Businesses already have a duty of care to their staff and visitors under existing legislation. The Protect Duty will unify these responsibilities into a single framework and seek to prevent repetition of past failures.

For businesses seeking to be proactive in preparing for security incidents, the Protect Duty consultation document provides some indications of the potential structure of the future legislation.  Practical steps can be considered now to ensure that risk to members of the public is minimised and organisations are ready to incorporate the legislative changes.

According to the consultation document, the final requirements will depend upon the size of the organisation. The general outline of the likely measures are fairly consistent and include:

  • Understanding the range of terror threats, and likely attack methodologies.
  • Assessing the risk to individual site(s).
  • Plan, train, and exercise organisational responses to an incident.

Understanding the threat

Owners and operators of publicly accessible locations can use available UK Government information and guidance to consider terrorist threats. The consultation document contains a number of links to official guidance on understanding the threat and risk of a terror incident. The sources include guidance on the types of attack methodologies organisations should consider, sector specific publications, and details of available e-learning resources.

Assess the risk

For organisations without dedicated security staff, this may be an acutely intimidating aspect of preparing for security-related incidents. Assessing the impact of a terror attack without specialist input is difficult and can easily provide misleading conclusions.  Businesses can start to consider who might be best placed to coordinate their Protect Duty activities.

Prepare the organisational response

Many organisations already use incident and crisis management exercises to prepare their management teams to respond to difficult situations, identify areas for improvement, and build confidence in their staff. In preparation for the legislation, businesses may wish to explore a terror-related scenario to understand their current level of readiness to respond to an incident.

The opportunity to contribute to the consultation has now closed, but businesses need not wait for the Protect Duty to reach the statute books. By understanding the information available from UK Government sources, recognising where additional help may be required, and repurposing existing measures as learning opportunities, organisations can prepare for the changes, and most importantly be ready to protect lives.



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