In this article we take a look at event safety management and a number of health and safety topics an event organiser will need to consider in their risk assessments.
When it comes to event safety management it’s the organiser’s responsibility to, as far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the safety of visiting crowds to a venue and have that venue be a safe place for those working there.
The key to a well run, safe event is planning.
There are many factors to be considered. These include the proposed size of the audience and workforce, whether the audience will be standing, seated or a mixture of both, and the duration of the event.
The emergency exits available and the audience circulation capacity of the venue often determine the maximum size of an audience. Therefore an understanding of site access and the infrastructure required to run the event smoothly is essential, as is planning for emergencies.
Local roads and bridges will need to be able to withstand the additional load of heavy vehicles and the number of people attending the event.
If it is a street event, street lighting and other street furniture could affect planning. Bus stops, railings, or other structures may create hazards such as pinch points that present a risk to the audience, and it may be necessary to temporarily remove these fixtures or guide pedestrians around them.
The organiser will probably have to gather advice and information from relevant landowners, venue management, emergency services and the local authority.
Once the basic outline and requirements of the event site are determined, it is time to create a site plan that clearly shows the location of provisions and facilities, including temporary structures, fencing lines, entrances and exits. This plan should be shared with any contractors working on the site and with the workforce who will be present during the event, for example, stewards.
Most fatal and serious injuries arise when workers fall during construction work or as a result of the collapse of a structure. If a venue is to include stages, seating, or marquees their siting and construction will need careful consideration.
The load-bearing capacity of the ground and the ground conditions before and during the event may affect site design and even the time of year the event is held.
Prevailing winds at the site can also affect the safe building of structures. It may be necessary to adjust plans to use the local topography to reduce wind loads or to modify the structure itself.
When building a structure there should be a suitable onsite operational management system in place to supervise and monitor safety compliance. There should also be key safety checkpoints to highlight critical building and dismantling stages to the site manager and building crew, including having the structure checked upon completion to ensure it has been built according to the design.
Once completed the structure may need to be inspected for deterioration and any required remedial works carried out.
There should also be steps in place to implement any measures required to keep the structure safe during use. For example, if a temporary structure is susceptible to the weather, local weather conditions should be monitored. There should also be clear, predetermined actions to follow if adverse weather conditions do occur.
Although it is permissible to allocate some aspects of crowd safety to contractors (stewarding, for example) or first-aid and welfare organisations, it is the event organiser that has overall responsibility for ensuring the safety of the public.
The event organiser needs to ensure that roles and responsibilities concerning visitor safety are clearly defined for both routine and emergency situations, and ensure that everyone understands their responsibilities.
The organiser will also have to liaise with external bodies who may have to be involved in crowd management. These can include the local authority, emergency services and the police, and venue management if the event is to take place at a stadium, a theatre, or other fixed venue. It may be necessary to set up a planning group for health and safety matters to ensure this happens.
If there is a safety advisory group (SAG) or a similar body in the local area it may be necessary to submit the event proposal for discussion and advice.
There must be plans in place to respond effectively to any incidents related to health and safety and other emergencies that might occur at an event. These should include emergency procedures to be followed by staff and volunteers if there is a significant emergency, like a fire.
These plans should include how to communicate effectively with the public during an emergency situation, how to handle any casualties, the evacuation of people, including those with disabilities or learning difficulties, and how to manage traffic, including emergency vehicles.
Identified staff members should have clear roles and responsibilities to implement emergency procedures. Training should be put in place so staff can fulfil their roles. This training may include how to use emergency equipment, knowing the location of exits, and knowing whom they should expect to receive instructions from in the event of an incident.
Escape routes need to be planned and steps taken to ensure they remain available, unobstructed at all times and sufficiently lit for people to use them safely in an emergency. All exits must open outwards in the direction of escape, and if security is an issue, they should be staffed, not locked.
If the emergency services declare a major incident onsite, all the event personnel and resources will be expected to work under the command of the police. However, the police can declare one part of the event as under their authority so they can coordinate a response to an emergency, but leave other parts of the event under the control of the event organiser. Again planning and liaison is the best way to be prepared for such a scenario.
Every emergency plan needs to be tested and validated. This process is often a table-top exercise, where the event organiser and other interested parties work through a range of scenarios and determine the effectiveness of the planned responses.
Other Issues of Event Safety Management
Event organisers are required by law to take reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce risk. This risk assessment process is designed to identify and put in place proportionate measures to control the risks to the public and the workforce at the venue, both before, during and after an event.
Event safety management health and safety issues that must also be considered when planning an event include transport, electrical and fire safety, noise levels, and handling waste. Events that include amusements, attractions, or special effects like fireworks will need to include additional risk assessments to cover them.
Every event has to consider employee safety and has to provide adequate welfare facilities, such as washing, toilet, rest and changing facilities, and somewhere clean to eat and drink during breaks.
The above is only an overview of some of the health and safety issues to be addressed when planning a public event. Whether it is a celebration, a ceremony, a concert, a festival, a market, a show or any other experience designed to entertain or inform, it will be safer if the proper risk assessment and planning procedures are followed.
New Broom Training offer Consultancy services. We are qualified and experienced in a wide range of industry types as far as Health & Safety is concerned and can offer effective advice and solutions in all areas. Contact us to discuss your needs or to ask for advice.