The importance of event safety management and the implications of not using "competent safety assistance"

Having competent safety assistance is a legal requirement in the UK, but what does “competent” actually mean?

“A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly” as defined by the Health and Safety executive.

The primary reasons for managing safety of any event, can be broken down into 3 distinct categories:

  • Moral
    We do not want anyone to be injured.
  • Legal
    The raft of legislative requirements placed upon the event organisers and potential loss of liberty.
  • Financial
    The financial impact of criminal prosecutions, lawyers fees, civil lawsuits and brand reputations can have catastrophic consequences.

Event Safety Management does not only apply to those people attending an event, but also the workers, traders, performers, volunteers, emergency services and any others that may be affected.

Can you afford not to have a competent event safety assistance?

Many first time event organisers and promoters will find themselves asking this question during the budgeting phase for their event.

As mentioned previously, there are legal requirements, in the UK and indeed other countries around the world, to identify and assess the specific hazards and either eliminate or reduce these to a tolerable level.

Legislation also states that we should use competent contractors which in turn, reduces the likelihood of an incident and as such, increases the overall event safety.

The event industry is a dynamic space which is always evolving, and as such, the event risk assessment, fire risk assessment and event safety management plan may require ongoing review and amending prior to the event. Prior to the event phase, it is advisable to conduct pre-event safety checks and ensure all completion certificates have been signed by a competent person. Once all checks have been conducted, the event should be in a position to be declared safe to open to the public.

The effect which social media can have on any event has positive and negative connotations which can provide resounding reviews, or brand damaging catastrophes on a worldwide platform.

Competent event safety assistance, engaged to commence at the embryonic phase of the event, can provide event organisers with safety management considered for the build and breakdown phases.  Pragmatic engineered solutions to manage attending crowds, fire safety management, good communication, pre-event safety checks and  ongoing event safety monitoring can prevent a seemingly minor incident turning into a major incident.Event safety professionals should satisfy event organisers that they have the relevant qualifications and first hand extensive experience of the type of event being organised. For example, if you are seeking a fire or crowd consultant, ensure you have a consultant with the appropriate qualifications. Then ensure that the consultant has the experience within the event industry.

Event organisers should be confident that the person they are contracting instills you with the confidence that they can manage safety in both normal and emergency situations. Theoretical experts must be able to apply the theory, obtained by years of study and convert this to the dynamic event environment. Ideally, the person managing your safety during the event, tasked with making critical decisions, should have a thorough understanding of your  event, in every aspect, and be a naturalised critical decision maker.

Critical decisions, which sit on a thin line between a positive outcome or a disaster, occur more often than not and as such, require a considered response to any incident.

Event Safety Management can be likened to taking a boat out to sea. You must satisfy yourself that the Captain you contract to provide a safe passage, can conduct a suitable pre sailing safety check, manage the still, calm seas when leaving harbour, but once in the middle of the ocean, when land is out of sight,  they can also safely manage the unexpected gale force winds and 40 foot waves, potential floods or a fire onboard.

Planning is the foundation for the success of any event. To save time and money, professional event safety consultancy should be contracted at the earliest stage where  professional safety advice can be considered before substantial costs are incurred and losses avoided. Crowd Management and Safety can be adversely affected through the improper siting of structures, signage and sponsorship activations. In the same context, the occupant capacity and number of fire exits required for the capacity in a marquee structure can be identified at an early stage providing the event organiser with accurate budgeting forecasts.

A good communicator is an imperative attribute for a safety professional, and ideally someone who can converse effectively at all levels and have an understanding of cultural considerations, in a world where multicultural events are the norm now. Someone who can provide advice in a manner which is clear, concise and not saturated with technical jargon.

Steve Allen from Crowd Safety commented that:

“From my experience there are more and more people who claim that they can provide event safety, event fire safety and crowd safety services to unsuspecting clients. A large proportion of people should be able to produce a framework for documentation but would the documentation stand the scrutiny test if something went wrong? I’ve known paramedics, who have been given the role of safety officers with no fire safety or crowd management experience or qualifications, claim to all of a sudden be experts in fire safety and crowd safety and as such, provide crowd and fire safety advice which verges on the ridiculous. My advice would be to satisfy yourself you have the right person to manage the safety at your event, and ensure that the people you use have the skills proportionate to the risks to avoid any issues which could adversely affect you.”

“ Unfortunately, even NASA have major incidents after well planned and well rehearsed procedures. Incidents will continue to happen at events, which is why event organisers should satisfy themselves that if the worst case scenarios occurred, you have the correct people onboard to manage the incident until emergency services arrive or assume control of the situation, if they are already onsite.”

“Event Safety has a full spectrum of issues to include, but not be limited to the performers, sponsors requirements, crowds, fire, temporary structures, other events, external roadworks, barriers required, food safety, sanitation, accident reporting, first aid and medical, emergency procedures, communications, command and control, specified roles and responsibilities, legislative requirements of any license, to falls from height, noise, working at height, plant, explosions, special effects, waste management, flow rates and capacities, signage, lighting and sound. The list goes on and on.”

“My advice is to choose someone you get on with, who has professional qualifications (ideally chartered), has the practical experience and discusses rates at the outset. They should understand your creative vision, be able to provide you with practical and well considered safety advice and above all, manage the safety aspects to allow you to concentrate on what you do best.”