20th April 2009

Health and safety remains important issue for events industry

When it comes to healthy and safety, there are a multitude of considerations for event organisers, from manual handling . . .

When it comes to healthy and safety, there are a multitude of considerations for event organisers, from manual handling and working at height to noise management and contingency plans, all dependent on the size and scale of the undertaking.

In the first in a series of editorials on health and safety, this article will outline the issues that event organisers must be aware of when planning a function, whether it is a huge outdoor gig or a political party conference.

The extensive legislation and regulatory guidelines governing this area can be overwhelming, although there are companies which can assist in the planning and implementation of these laws.

At the beginning of April, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) introduced changes to the regulations with the aim of making them easier to understand and comply with, including bringing in a new easier-to-read version of the law poster to be displayed by businesses and reducing the number of forms that employers must complete.

In its most basic form, the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974 determines that companies must have a written policy including rules and arrangements for safe practice.

The statistics surrounding this area are a reminder of how important it is to account for dangers in the workplace. Last year, 229 people were killed and 136,771 other injuries to employees were documented under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.

It is not just a welfare issue, but a budgetary concern also, as 34 million working days were lost in 2008, 28 million due to employment-related ill health and six million due to workplace injury.

Furthermore, in the hospitality industry, there was an increase in the rate of reported major injuries between 2000 and 2008, with the figure rising from 65.8 per 100,000 employees to 230.1 per 100,000 last year.

As an indication of the importance of the problem for the sector, the Association of Event Organisers continues to run Institution of Occupational Safety and Health-accredited courses which include training on the legislation surrounding the area, accident prevention objectives, common hazards, risk assessment, audits and inspections.

With summer on its way, the big outdoor events begin, such as T in the Park, the Reading and Leeds Festivals and Glastonbury, and with that comes consideration of noise levels, with event organisers needing to take into account the venue layout, expected volumes, who could be affected and the duration they will be exposed.

The installation of rigging and staging also brings with it various hazards and the large number of vehicles involved pose a major consideration, as workplace transport is the second biggest cause of fatal accidents, killing around 100 and injuring thousands of people each year.

Meanwhile, on a more basic level, slips trips and falls are a major consideration in almost every sector from the kitchen when food is being prepared for a conference to the contractor setting up lighting.

However, there are straightforward preventative measures that can be taken to avoid these accidents, such as keeping floors and surfaces clean, dry and free from obstacles, ensuring that employees are wearing appropriate footwear and training workers to recognise risks and do something about them.

As Annette Hall, Inspector for the HSE stresses: "Simple measures introduced by businesses can make a positive difference to safety in the workplace."