Health and safety can sometimes seem like a load of time-consuming red tape – when you’re busy planning an event, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of proper health and safety planning.
From a risk-management perspective, it’s important not to lose sight of health and safety – what’s the point in carefully planning fun and engaging events if someone is going to become injured or, in a worst-case scenario, killed? Financial ruin and potentially criminal responsibility is neither fun nor engaging!
This introduction to health and safety intends to discuss who you are responsible for under the law and provide some tips on how to make sure you run and safe and fun event!
WHO ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR?
You are responsible for the health and safety of:
1. People who work for you 2. Your attendees (whether the public, or invited guests) 3. Contractors
It is important to note that “people who work for you” also includes volunteers – payment isn’t a requirement to health and safety.
WITH THOSE PEOPLE IN MIND…
There’s a three step process you should take to tackle health and safety at your event: Plan-Monitor-Review.
During the planning phase, you should first decide who is going to help you with your health and safety duties: Are you going to manage it all yourself, or are you staff going to take on certain responsibilities? Would it be better if someone from outside your organisation handled all health and safety matters, leaving you more time to handle other aspects of your business?
In any instance, it’s important to ensure that the people who are handling particular aspects of your events health and safety are aware of their responsibilities and can be trusted to handle them competently.Next, you should consider creating a safety plan.
Health and safety has a risk-based approach and what that means is that if you’re running a coconut shy, it will require less detailed health and safety planning than if you’re running a bungee jump. There’s a big difference between a misdirected ball hitting someone on the head and a snapped bungee cord!
When considering your safety plan, should you consider the size of your event, its audience, its location, what kind of activities you’ll be putting on, how long it will last, and the time of year.
You should engage with all stakeholders during this phase, including your event staff, venue owners and managers, your contractors, local authorities and (if appropriate) emergency services. These people will provide valuable input and insight in to the health and safety risk of your event. Contractors should be selected on their ability to deliver a competent and safe service. Your staff should be fully trained to manage the risks associated with their job and how to handle them (are they lifting heavy things, for example? How do they minimize back injury?)
You should develop an emergency plan: Yet again, this will be risk-based and the level of emergency planning put in place should be proportionate to the event. You’re not going to need ambulances standing by for champagne and nibbles, but you would if you’re planning a rally race.
Some emergency risks to consider are fire, injury, bomb threats and natural hazards though there may be others due to locality or risks involved. You should consider what response there will be to each emergency risk – do you need a first aider on site? Will the event need to be evacuated? Where will you evacuate people to? Will the emergency services need to be standing by?
Emergencies are rare, but often have big consequences. Some emergencies tend towards certain activities more than others, but you should consider your risks in light of your activity and plan accordingly.
The important thing to remember here is that you’ve made a plan: Stick to the plan!
During the monitoring phase, you’ve identified all your risk and put in appropriate steps to minimize their impact and ensure that everyone’s going to have a great time.
You’re setting up your event – are your staff setting up in line with agreed health and safety protocols? Are contractors showing that level of care and competence expected?
Your event is now underway, and everything’s going great – or is it?
During the monitoring phase, you, or your appointed individuals, should be feeding back information periodically to ensure consistent health and safety delivery. You should be reporting on how the careful planning you’ve prepared is being delivered and if something does go wrong, handle it according to the plan!
Consider “near-misses” – this is where an accident could have happened, but luckily didn’t. Where, for example, something fell and nearly hit someone. Next time, it could be a miss and it’s important to log near misses as much as actual injury as it will be important in your review stage.
Your event is over: Nobody has died and with the exception of a paper-cut from a particularly sharp raffle ticket, nobody was hurt!
Although you may feel after such a successful event just sitting back and relaxing, it’s important to review and reflect on your event and determines precisely what happened in practice and whether or not there are improvements you can make next time.
This is why near-misses are important – although it may have seemed like a remote possibility in the planning stage, did the reality of your event pose an un-thought-of-risk? If it really was unforeseeable, then nobody can blame you for this, but they can and will if you fail to act on it next time.
POINTS TO TAKE AWAY
1. You’re responsible as event organizer for your staff, your guests, and your contractors.
2. With those people in mind, you should follow a plan-monitor-review approach to your health and safety planning
3. All health and safety is risk-based – the greater the risk, the greater the level of planning and monitoring.
4. You should contingency plan for all plausible issues by engaging with all parties. Local authorities will be helpful in determining local issues.
5. Who is responsible for ensuring delivery and reporting back to you or an appointed individual?
6. You should plan for emergencies and put in place procedures to deal with things when they really go wrong.
7. During your event, you should periodically monitor how your planning is put into practice.
8. Near-misses are just as important to note and deal with as actual injury!
9. After your event, you should review your practices and consider what happened on the day and any near-misses that may have occurred. Use this to plan your next event if appropriate.
10. There are hefty fines for breaches of health and safety – up to $20,000 per breach. From a financial perspective, can you really afford not to follow it?
11. Where an individual is personally responsible for a serious breach, you could even face criminal sanctions. Plan, plan, plan, plan some more, and make sure it’s happening!