Event health and safety is not something that can or should be scrimped on. Kevin McLoughlin, an event health and safety consultant specialising in live events shares 4 things all event organisers need to get right.
Having been invited to contribute a blog post, the first problem as a health and safety practitioner is to wonder if anything I write might be conceived as preaching to the converted or just preaching. By the nature of the role, advice from a source such as myself is, I concede a little parental. I hope that I do not portray myself in this manner though.
The Romans and Venue Evacuation (Yes, Really)
I have decided that rather than to write about basic items as manual handling, working at height, etc. I will talk about venues. People often talk as if getting it right at a venue is something new. It isn’t. It is known to have started, at least with the Romans. They may not have been big on things like human rights but one thing they could get right was venue design. (This is a blog so I won’t be quoting references unless I feel it relevant). It has been recently demonstrated by computer modelling that The Coliseum in Rome is able to evacuate within modern acceptable speeds, if not a little faster. And back in those days they also had their equivalent systems for crowd management. Thereafter, it seems that like their baths and drainage systems, sophisticated venue designs were lost in the large part for millennia. A good read is From Ancient Rome to Rock and Roll by Mick Upton (R.I.P.)
The Reality of Event Safety Today
It is accepted nowadays that parental licensing systems ensure that in the UK/EU at least, we have got it right. And to some degree that is true. However, most safety developments are reactive rather than proactive. It is probably due, in modern times to tragedies followed by outrage, condemnation and enquiries that we have progressed to where we are today. in short, it normally takes a tragedy to get progression.
But where are we today? I can personally state from personal experiences that human factors, driven by lack of knowledge, insufficient funds or apathy still lead the way for incidents or potential incidents. A lack of awareness that neglect, followed by a minor incident can and does lead to something more serious, which if not checked can become out of control. I can tell you of prestigious venues with have not been maintained and so have had faults which would allow smoke and fire into emergency exit routes. Other venues which have stored tables, chairs and even a motorcycle on emergency stairwells. Another which would not allow emergency evacuation advice before a show commenced and so-on.
Unfortunately, preventable fatal crowd incidents still happen in the UK.
4 Things Every Event Planner Must Do for a Safe Event
My advice to you as event organisers includes this;
1. Talk to your venue owner or manager at the time of booking a venue. Find out what their emergency systems are for adverse incidents and for terrorism incidents. If they have not thought about it you can either go somewhere else, devise your own or have systems devised for you by someone who knows what they are doing. But don’t do it yourself if you are not competent (knowledge, expertise and experience).
2. You are responsible for your own safety, for your employee’s safety and the safety of those who may be affected by your work. Please ensure that adequate analysis has been undertaken for the work, the venue, the visitors and everything else which might be affected or have an effect (such as traffic and weather for instance).
3. If this is beyond your skills levels, appoint someone is competent to help you. If all goes well, you will no doubt question why you appointed them. This means that they did their work well.
4. Budget for safety. When all is taken into account, including planning, management and hardware it is normally (so I have been told) between 25 to 33% of your costs depending on the nature of the event. (I accept that some circumstances are of a much lower risk).
As an event organiser you have big responsibilities. Looking after everyone attending and involved in your event is your most important role above everything else. For complex, large and risky events investing in a specialist event health and safety adviser is essential and must be budgeted for from the start.
About the Author – Kevin McLoughlin
Although my work has always been serious in nature my outlook on life most definitely is not. Due to a severe health set back I have had to retire from work in recent years and I have taken up photography as a hobby but I maintain a keen interest and awareness of what is going on in the world of occupational safety and health.
Being an old f***, I have lived and learnt quite a lot. I retired from GMP after a full service and 3 years being responsible for the policing of events in Manchester, to become a safety and health consultant, specialising in live events. I have several prestigious events under my belt including the opening ceremonies for the founding of the Welsh National Assembly and associated televised live open air concert. The types of events I have advised on have been just about everything from sponsored walks to music festivals and motor sports. Along the way I picked up a few qualifications, up to Post Grad’ Certificate level. I was a trainer in OSH and I am still a Chartered Member (ret’d) of IOSH.