If all goes to plan, in-person experiences are set to relaunch in the UK this summer. The first thing on event creators’ minds? The health and safety requirements for their events.
As an organiser, you’ll want to help ensure the safety of both your attendees and your staff. This means taking reasonable steps to prevent harm from coming to anyone involved in your event and planning for emergency situations. The larger your event, the more challenging this can be. That said, risk assessment for smaller community events can come with a lot of moving parts, too. In either case, safety first.
To help you along your health and safety journey, here are a few of the main aspects to consider when event planning. Your eventual safety checklist will likely be a lot longer, but consider these to kick things off. Remember: always stay on top of government guidance and reach out to local officials if you’re ever unsure.
Assess the suitability of your venue
It’s a good idea to start with a written profile of your event, including all the activities that will take place and the estimated audience size and demographics (i.e. children, the elderly, or disabled people will have different needs). With this in mind, you can then visit your event venue before booking to assess its suitability.
Factors to consider include:
- Capacity: Can your attendees be safely accommodated inside the venue, even with social distancing measures in place? Will guests be standing or seated? Is there room to circulate? Are there pinch points where overcrowding could occur?
- Access: Is there sufficient access to the event site/venue for pedestrians and vehicles? Are people with disabilities, wheelchairs, or prams able to access the venue? Are there enough emergency exits?
- Hazards: Does the site have any existing hazards, such as overhead electric power lines or buried services that your structures could interfere with? Is it prone to flooding or high winds? Consider ground conditions and topography when positioning any temporary structures.
- Facilities: How far away are the nearest hospital and fire station? What are the public transport links like? Consider the infrastructure you need for your event.
Once you have confirmed the suitability of your venue, consider drafting a site plan indicating where the structures, facilities, fencing lines, entrances, and exits will be. You can then make the plan available to all contractors, suppliers, and staff working on the event.
Carry out an event risk assessment
Next, think about any risks to safety that could be present at your event and rate their risk level. A scale from one to five can be useful, with one presenting a negligible risk and five presenting a very severe risk.
Hazards to consider include:
- Trip or equipment hazards: Are there any cables or guy ropes that people could trip over? Is there glass that people could bump into? Could people come into contact with generators or other electrical equipment?
- Crowd management hazards: Could crushing or overcrowding occur? How would aggressive or drunken behaviour be handled? Could people be at risk around roads or car parks?
- Crew hazards: How will you protect those working for you from lifting and carrying injuries? If you invest in lifting equipment, take a look at PUWER and LOLER regulations (guides provided by Penny Hydraulics).
- First aid hazards: Could people become injured through the activities of your event? If so, what injuries could occur? Could runners suffer heat exhaustion in high temperatures? What would happen if an attendee suffered a heart attack?
- Weather hazards: Could the ground become slippery when wet? Could the wind pose a risk to the stability of your structures? Could equipment get wet or become overheated?
- Environmental hazards: Could event activities damage the venue or site? Could rubbish pose a risk to wildlife? Could contamination occur from any spillages?
- Fire hazards: How will you control smoking in the venue or onsite? Could campers use barbecues or stoves? Could an electrical fire occur? Are there fire extinguishers?
- Catering hazards: Could ovens or hot water urns cause a risk? How will food allergies be handled? Are the containers for hot food and drink suitable?
- Terrorism and security: Can you implement bag checks to prevent any potential security threats? How can you make sure only ticket-holders can enter?
- Child protection hazards: Is there a risk of children becoming lost? Could there be allegations of abuse or neglect? Do staff need to be DBS checked?
- COVID-related hazards: How many people are attending? What are the risks of transmission and how can you mitigate these? Is the venue big enough to implement social distancing measures?
Write down all possible risks and who could be affected – be it attendees, crew, members of the public, or the venue itself – as well as how you will mitigate and manage each risk. Place extra focus on your most severe risks and prioritise them in order to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.
Collaborate with your team for the risk assessment, as they may notice things that aren’t obvious to you. It’s useful to work closely with your suppliers on safety management for events, too. Asking to see risk assessments and method statements from the likes of caterers, marquee, and AV companies can help you to mitigate risk together. Where appropriate, you can involve the local authority and emergency services. For more guidance on creating and completing risk assessments, check out our COVID-19 Safety Guide or visit the HSE website.
Create an emergency plan
It’s important to plan for any situations that will require urgent action. This could be anything from a fire to a stage collapsing or a terrorist incident. Even bad weather can create an emergency situation.
To help you feel prepared, you can develop emergency procedures to be followed by anyone working on the event and discuss your plans with the venue management. For larger events and/or those not in a fixed venue, you can include police, fire and rescue service, and the ambulance service in your consultation.
Aspects to consider when developing procedures include:
- Raising the alarm: How will you communicate the emergency with staff and volunteers?
- Informing the public: Do you have an adequate public address system? What is the procedure for stopping (and restarting) the show?
- Onsite emergency response: Are there fire extinguishers and clear emergency procedures in the event of a fire? Do you need security staff?
- Summoning and liaising with the emergency services: Who will be your point of contact and how will you assist the emergency services?
- Crowd management, including evacuation: How will you move people away from immediate danger to a place of safety? Don’t forget to take people with limited mobility and children into consideration.
- Traffic management: How will emergency vehicles gain access to the site? How will vehicles leave the site in the event of an emergency?
- Providing first aid: Are there sufficient medical provisions?
- Handling casualties: How will patients be taken to a hospital? Will there be ambulances onsite?
- Security: How will you raise the alarm if there is a threat?
According to the HSE, testing and validation of your emergency plan can take the form of a tabletop exercise. Think about setting up a meeting with your appointed team members to work through a range of scenarios and establish the effectiveness of your responses.
Implementing health and safety requirements for an event
Putting health and safety measures in place will help you to manage your staff, suppliers, and attendees and ensure they are not exposed to risk during the various phases of the event, from set-up to breakdown.
To keep everyone on the same page, you can provide staff with relevant information during the site induction and ensure suppliers do the same for their employees. This can include information such as site hazards, speed limits and parking, first aid, toilets and wash facilities, and emergency arrangements. You may also want to provide relevant health and safety information to the public in the form of signage and/or a pre-event announcement.
To monitor risks throughout your event, you can create a checklist and have a nominated individual/s responsible for checking at regular intervals. A clear and competently implemented paper trail is the best way for event organisers to mitigate risk.
Resources for creating safe events
While the event safety guide above is by no means exhaustive, it’s a good way to kickstart your health and safety planning. If you’re specifically thinking about COVID-19, then take a look at our COVID-19 Safety Playbook for Events for more information on determining pandemic-related risks and mitigating measures. And remember: it’s vital to stay up-to-date and comply with the latest government guidance before hosting any live event.
Are you looking to start implementing social distancing and other safety measures, but aren’t sure where to start? We can help you get your live events back up and running with our social distancing tools.