Safety Corner - The technical bit about event safety

February 6, 2016



Much has been written about event safety in the recent past, much of it around the vital aspects of crowd safety, but we should not forget that there are many elements and aspects of an event that need to be considered starting at the conceptual birth of the project through to the actualisation and physical delivery of the event.


Much has also been discussed in the UK about the new enforcement of CDM regulations on the event industry as a whole, however it has come to life with a whimper rather than a big bang. In actual fact, those with a robust event safety plan in place, will already be compliant with most aspects of CDM anyway, so why all the fuss…


Safety Corner - We at ESP have decided therefore to use Safety Corner as a platform to discuss many of the technical issues that affect events, from logistics to vehicle movement to event construction and managing your contractors. By subscribing to our safety-corner, you will be able to ask us questions, leave comments (be nice) and suggest future topics.


To start us off, let's consider the safety plan; what is it, what do we put in it, who should have access to it?


A robust Event Safety Plan consists of several elements and should be aligned and work in synergy with the Event Management Plan. To begin with it is important to have someone who knows the event, common sense dictates that this is the organiser, or at least the legal entity that will deliver the event on behalf of a client, the promotor if you like. From here the event safety policy is born. A commitment from the organiser that they believe in promoting and delivering a safe event. There are discussions ongoing as to how far you go with this. Is it about compliance or about realistic safe practices?


Any plan should be 'realistic' in its content pertinent to the event and practical and pragmatic in its operational delivery. A production of fiction to present an image of compliance is of no use f you can't deliver against it or the content does not relate to the event nor recognises the financial restrictions of the budget (not that safety should be constrained by budget, but if an organiser doesn't have the money to do something safely, then they shouldn't be doing it!) A classic example is having 5 point PPE for someone guarding a gate, if the only risk is dehydration!! are we being realistic in our safety management and correctly identifying the safety risks and controls? The policy however must set out the vision for safety within the event organisation and structure, delegate responsibilities to the officials and state what the event safety expectations should be.


It is always useful to help yourself here and develop an organisation chart so there is no confusion about who (or what role) is responsible for which deliverables.


It should be pointed out, this is not the extensity of the safety plan but the beginning. The person(s) responsible for the delivery of the event should then compile the general arrangements for safety to achieve the policy objectives. The arrangements should follow the key topics.



Generic Information - There is a lot of debate amongst our fellow professionals about the use of generic information versus event specific information. The answer is simple, there are a number of sections that must be site specific, however the policies around successful safety management are generic frying chips is frying chips, setting up a scaffold is setting up a scaffold, tasks are common to many events and the manner in which they are undertaken is generic, if the process is not changed then the only variable is the environment in which the task is undertaken. But some things do change, the physical configuration of the site, the environment, the nature of your work force, competency and availability of contractors and suppliers, profile of the event and those attending. Therefore there needs to be a number of sections that cover the event specific information in relation to delivering safety. These include (and are not limited to)


  • What contractors are being used to deliver the event ​​

  • Medical arrangements

  • Site layout

  • Drinking water arrangements

  • Car parking and on site traffic management

  • External traffic management arrangement

  • Sanitary provisions

  • Fencing and barrier plans / provisions

  • Security and stewarding provision

  • Crowd management

  • Deployment and dispersal timings

  • Special risks such as lasers, drones, pyro and animals

  • Production or sporting element safety policy

  • Lost and found children / vulnerable adults

  • Weather monitoring

  • Working with Safety Advisory Groups (SAG’s)


The generic information is the information that won’t change much from event to event and make up the safety requirements of the event which can also be in many cases the site rules of the venue where the event is taking place. Whatever the case, these must be proportionate to the risk. Don’t go writing about diving, if there is no water in your post code.

Guidance - It is for this section of health and safety that there is a plethora of guidance, depending on the nature of your event, some of these include :-


  • The Purple Guide

  • Guide to safety at sports grounds (The Green Guide)

  • The e-Guide (AEO) for Exhibitions

  • Alternative uses of sports grounds (SGSA)

  • Counter terrorisms security advice (NaCTSO)

  • BS 9999 and many more

  • HSE Approved codes of Practice and HSG publications


There are many to choose from and usually at least one for each major topic you need information about. Not all of them are free and some you will find more useful than others. The questions you end up asking yourself is, do I need all of these, or would it be cheaper to hire an expert who has these already. That is a good question. The key thing to remember is your event is a bespoke undertaking, it's your baby and you want to nurture it, see it grow and be successful but there is no single piece of guidance that will cover every aspect of your event. As a consequence you may find yourself cherry picking at pieces of guidance to ensure you are getting the information you need. The danger here is that things can become fragmented and sometimes we find the safety plan is conflicted as a result. This is where you do need some professional advice.  



The law requires that you appoint​​ competent safety advice, so no matter how many documents you read, one has to ask, am I competent to deliver this aspect of event safety. We do not profess to know everything about safety, the fantastic thing about events is that as an industry we find ourselves always pushing the envelope to improve or be different than our last time, or dare we say, to ensure that we are not the same as our competitors.

One of the biggest risks to any event is the build and Load-in/out. Take a green field spend time, effort and money to build something spectacular,  a temporary town out of scaffold, truss and fabric, just to take it down in a fraction of the time taken to produce the event. Time and financial constraints are always working against us!.

Event builds are a construction site, lets get over that straight away. We have most of the same risks as a conventional construction site, less the bricks and mortar, in most cases. So we still need to consider arrangements including


  • Risk Assessments

  • Setting up a safe site

  • Workplace transport

  • Welfare

  • Work at height

    • Branding

    • Access equipment

    • Rope access

  • Temporary and demountable structures

    • Load calculations, design and method of build

    • Inspection and handover procedures

  • Weather, in particular wind

  • Manual Handling

  • Noise and Vibration control

  • Lifting equipment

  • Plant and machinery

  • Electricity

  • Facility Management

The risk assessment should have its own section, if it is to be suitable, that it considers all the hazards, and sufficient, that it demonstrates control of those hazards, then the risk assessment will be a significant document in its own right and one that deserves a page all to itself.


Your plan, once developed is not a document to sit on the shelf gathering dust… you need to finish off by detailing how the plan will be used, how it will be communicated, who will monitor it ensuring it becomes a living embodiment of your safety arrangements brought into by all those involved in ensuring a safe and successful event and finally when it should be reviewed.



Fire Safety - You will notice that we have not mentioned anything to do with fire or emergency management. Once the event is built, arguably, fire is going to be the single biggest risk to any event. To that end, the fire safety management plan should also have its own section. This would detail what hazards are present at the event and set out a plan to reduce and mitigate any risk of fire. The event fire risk assessment is either a standalone assessment, or an appendix to be added to the venue fire risk assessment. Here you will also identify your spatial capacities to ensure that whatever enclosed space you use, can be evacuated in good time to reduce the risk of harm.



The emergency plan framework, is not the procedures you need to take in the event of an emergency. Instead a framework document should be well known prior to an event identifying those procedures you will need to implement in the event of a major incident at the event. Anticipation of an incident at the planning phase will always pay off if you find yourself in the thick of it. A good framework will identify some of the following:-


  • What is an emergency for the event?

  • How to identify that something is going wrong

  • What would trigger the use of emergency procedures

  • Levels of response

  • Roles and responsibilities

  • Command Control and Communication (C3)

  • Communicating with the public strategy

  • Alert Levels

  • Escalation Procedure

  • Evacuation strategy

  • Show stop and transfer of command strategy

  • Working with other agencies

  • Training and Exercising (Event Preparedness)

 Next Steps - From here you can prepare a number of useful tools to prepare staff for the worst. Creating emergency procedures will save time and ultimately lives in the event things go awry.So, for our first safety corner, welcome. Please feel free to suggest future topics.


Next month, we will be looking at the technical aspects of event construction, from setting up a site to discussing when work is ‘at height’, steps, stairs, ramps load calculations and much more.


Until then, stay safe, have fun and live wisely remember you only live once….


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