When you're organising an event, you have a duty of care - to both your attendees and staff. You should be taking steps to prevent harm coming to anyone involved and plan for any emergency situations that may arise. This includes during and after the event, as well as before. Here's a guide to creating an event safety plan to ensure your event goes smoothly and successfully.
The steps you should be thinking about are:
- Assess Your Venue's Suitability
- Conduct Risk Assessments
- Have an Emergency Plan in Place
- Ensure Staff are Implementing Health and Safety
Event organisers need to ensure that the venue or site is designed so it's safe for attendees to enjoy the entertainment and for the event staff to work productively. That's why after you've finalised the event concept, you need to see how suitable the venue is.
Start by writing down a profile of your event and include:
- What activities will take place (consider whether they will be indoors or outdoors and whether the audience will be standing, seated or both).
- The estimated audience size and age demographic.
- The estimated workforce size.
- Duration of the event.
- Time of the year the event will take place.
Then, you need to start considering the following factors:
- Capacity - can your attendees be safely accommodated on this venue/site? Can overcrowding occur?
- Access - is there sufficient access to the venue/site for vehicles and pedestrians? Can people with disabilities, wheelchairs or pushchairs access the venue/site? Are there enough emergency exits for everybody and can emergency vehicles gain access easily, if needed?
- Hazards - are there any existing hazards on the site that your event structures could interfere with? Is the area prone to adverse weather conditions such as flooding and high winds? Are any roads, bridges etc structurally sound and able to withstand the additional load of your event's attendees?
- Facilities - how far are the nearest hospital and emergency services from your venue/site? What are the public transport links like?
Draft a site plan with all of this information and make the document available to all staff working on the site, from contractors and suppliers to members of your event team.
During your assessment of the venue/site's sustainability, you will have thought about hazards. Now it's time to consider them in more detail. Write down all of the possible hazards, who might be at risk and how you can mitigate each risk/hazard. The HSE has published a guide on conducting risk assessments here.
Be sure to rank and prioritise hazards and risks in order of severity. These hazards may include:
- Equipment - is there a chance electrical equipment can become wet? Will anybody other than event maintenance come into contact with the equipment? Are there any cables or ropes that people could trip over?
- Crowd management - could overcrowding and crushing happen? How can aggressive or drunken behaviour be handled?
- Crew - how can you protect your event staff from the occupational hazards of their job, such as lifting, carrying and falls?
- First aid - consider which injuries may occur at your event. Ensure you have a sufficient number of first aid qualified members of staff. What if someone were to have a heart attack? Ensure your venue/site can be easily accessed by emergency services.
- Children - will there be a risk of children getting lost? Consider having child-friendly play areas. Reduce the potential allegations of abuse or neglect by ensuring staff are DBS checked and vigilant when watching children.
- Weather - rain can cause the ground to become slippery, wind can affect the stability of your structures and high temperatures can cause people and equipment to overheat. Weather is unavoidable, but ensure you can manage its effects.
- Fire - as well as having enough fire extinguishers, control smoking and the amount of smoke produced from cooking by having designated areas.
- Food and drink - how will you handle food allergies and prevent cross-contamination (which can cause food poisoning and salmonella)?
- Environment - events can cause pollution. Encouraging the proper disposal of rubbish and even recycling can help. This will even help to reduce the amount of clean-up your team will have to do after the event.
It's important that you plan for any emergency situation that may occur, no matter how unlikely it might seem. From fires and stages collapsing to a terrorist incident, an emergency plan will help your team take immediate action. Even bad weather can create emergency situations.
Ensure that your entire workforce, from management to team member, is aware of this plan, so there is no chance of miscommunication. For larger events, include fire, police and ambulance services in your plan.
- How will you raise the alarm?
- How will you inform the public?
- What will your onsite emergency response be?
- How will you summon the emergency services?
- How will you manage the crowds, including evacuation if necessary?Remember to factor in people with limited mobility and children too.
- How will you manage traffic? The emergency vehicles need to gain access and people need to leave.
- How will you handle casualties? Ensure you have sufficient medical supplies and people who can perform first aid.
It's no use conducting risk assessments and having an emergency plan in place if your staff don't know how to implement health and safety. Ensure that your event team are seeking to prevent rather than to cure by keeping them in the loop with all of the changes and training them to handle hazardous conditions, from minor situations to emergencies.
And it's not just your team who needs to know. Inform your attendees of the relevant health and safety information in the form of signs, notices and pre-event announcements.
Ensure that you monitor risks throughout your event and not just before. Create a checklist and have authorised members of staff check at regular intervals. Having a clear and competent checking process (particularly if it's a paper trail) proves that your event properly mitigated and managed potential risks.
But Safety is Just One Part of What Makes a Successful Event
Careful planning and good organisation are essential if you want to put on an event that's both safe and enjoyable. Ensuring health and safety standards are in tip top form helps to minimise the chances of negative scenarios that may affect your event's image.
But truthfully, safety is just one part of your overall event. If you want to ensure that your event is a sold-out success that critics rave about for years to come, you need to think about other factors.
For example, promoting the event in a creative way is important to boost awareness. Then you also need to design eye-catching brochures to attract your audience's attention.
For even more tips and advice on how to make your event a success, we've produced a completely free Event Planning Guide.