Running an event safely
Ensuring the safety of your event-goers takes planning, organisation and preparation. The best way to begin is with risk assessment. While this may seem intimidating, it does not have to be – risk assessment is really just a simple process of using common sense and being diligent.
The guide below will lead you through the risk assessment process, help you to identify potential hazards and take steps to ensure your event is as safe as possible.
The best place to start is at the beginning – the venue. You need to first assess how suitable your venue is for the event you intend to hold.
Start with a written outlook of the event – this needs to include all of the planned activities along with the audience size and demographics. It is important to map out your audience’s demographics, as children, the elderly and the disabled may have different needs.
After drafting your outline, it is important to keep the following points in mind:
- Facilities – Be aware of the nearest facilities for your event. What are the public transportation options for access to the event? Where are the nearest fire stations and hospitals located? Take into consideration all of the infrastructure needed for the event.
- Access – Does your venue have enough emergency exits? Are there access options for individuals with disabilities? What will access be like for event-goers traveling to the event?
- Capacity – How many event-goers can safely and comfortably attend the event? Will attendees be sitting or standing? Is there room for them to move around freely? Are there any hot spots where congestion can build?
- Hazards – does your venue have any safety hazards that could affect the event? Are there any known issues with ground conditions, weather patterns or flooding in the area?
The full risk assessment for event safety
After reviewing the venue and its location, it is now time to carry out a full risk assessment. Using a scale of 1-5, with 1 representing a minor risk and 5 representing a serious risk hazard, rate all possible health and safety risks and issues. Some of these risks can include:
- Weather – Is the venue in an area that is prone to flooding or high winds? Is there equipment that needs to be protected from adverse weather? Will slippery surfaces pose a threat?
- Food and safety – How will guests with food allergies and intolerances be taken care of during the event? Are there any cooking fire risks? Are all food safety guidelines being followed appropriately?
- Environmental – Could your event damage the space in which it will be held? Will there be a plan for rubbish left behind and potential spills?
- Crew – How will you protect your crew throughout the event? If you are using lifting equipment, are you complying with PUWER and LOLER regulations?
- Child protection – Do you have a plan for children who could become lost? Do your staff need additional training or to be DBS checked?
- Fire – How will you monitor or control smoking or the use of fires or barbecues at your event? What will you do in the event of a fire? What kind of fire extinguishers will you have on hand?
- First aid – What kind of injuries or health issues could attendees have at your event? What will you do in the event of a health emergency? Will you have first aid tents, and if you do, where will they be located?
- Trips and falls – Are there cables or ropes for the equipment that could cause attendees to trip and fall? Are there any dangerous surfaces such as glass or unprotected equipment that attendees could fall into?
After listing all of the potential risks and hazards, rate them accordingly and list who and what is at risk. Then go through each risk and write a few notes about how you and your team will mitigate each risk. Naturally, more focus should be placed on the hazards that you have labelled a 5.
Teamwork is essential at this stage. Liaise with your organising team to reassess your hazard and risk list – they might notice something that you failed to. Also, communicate with your third-party providers (ie the event caterers, AV and marquee companies) regarding health and safety for the event. Ask them to conduct their own risk assessments and ask to review these assessments with them.
Also, when needed, involve your local authority and emergency services in your event planning and execution. For more information about event safety, visit the HSE website.
Draft an emergency plan
The next step you need to take is to draft an emergency plan. If a situation occurs during your event that requires immediate attention and emergency services, you need to be prepared ahead of time to assess the situation and take appropriate action.
This is another step that requires teamwork. For smaller events, work with your team to create an emergency response plan. For large scale events, liaise with your local emergency service providers for best practices. When drafting an emergency response plan, you should consider some of the following:
- Sounding the alarm – How will you communicate the emergency to your crew and attendees?
- Informing the public – How will you inform the attendees of emergencies? Will you be able to stop and restart the event for the emergency?
- Onsite emergency services – What first aid will be immediately available on site?
- Emergency services – How will you summon emergency services to the venue? Who will be your point of contact there?
- Crowd control – How will you move the attendees away from danger, also taking into consideration those with limited mobility?
- First aid – What first aid services and provisions will you have on site? How well trained are your first aid responders on site?
- Casualties – In the event of casualties, where is the nearest hospital and how will patients be transported there?
- Traffic control – How will you monitor and control traffic in the event of an emergency?
Putting your health and safety plan into practice
Once you have identified the potential risks and created an emergency response plan, it is time to implement your plan. As the organiser, you are responsible for all of the attendees’ safety, along with the safety of your employees and third-party contractors.
Inform your staff of the relevant safety and emergency information and plans, and provide health and safety information to attendees through signage and pre-event safety announcements. Most importantly, remain vigilant during the event and create a safety checklist for a staff member to continually review and check off throughout the day. It is important to have a paper trail to mitigate risk during the event.
Regardless of whether you are planning a music festival or a company barbecue, health and safety is of utmost importance. Using these simple tips and checklists will help you to plan an event that optimises the health, safety and wellbeing of all attendees and staff.