An in-depth guide to venue health & safety
By Josephine Bradley, Director of Events – Venues and Events International
Here at Venues and Events International, we want every event to be a huge success for all our clients. We take our duty of care very seriously, so we thought we would share with you some of the key aspects of what we do ‘behind the scenes’ to ensure that we are covered for every eventuality. This can leave you to focus on enjoying the event itself, safe in the knowledge that we have all aspects of Health and Safety covered.
It doesn’t matter if the event is large or small, we conduct thorough risk assessments pre-event which involve being conscientious and applying a common-sense approach to identifying any potential hazards, then taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and others at the event. Here are some of the ways in which we do this:
- Detailed Enquiry Stage. We ensure that all the relevant details about your event are captured from the outset, including; the nature of your event - is it an award ceremony, company conference or exhibition? What activities will take place? Will you require team building or live music that requires a full PA system? Is the event for 50 or 2,000 people, and what are the demographics of the attendees? Are children involved? Do you have any disabled guests attending? What is the age profile?
- Assessing the Suitability of Venues. Based upon the detailed information obtained at the initial enquiry stage, we then go about sourcing the perfect venue, taking into consideration the following:
- Capacity –can attendees be safely accommodated at the venue with room to circulate throughout the venue without overcrowding?
- Access –is there sufficient access for vehicles and pedestrians, and are there enough emergency exits?
- Onsite Hazards – is it prone to flooding, ground conditions etc? These all need to be considered if there are going to be structures set up at the event.
- Location – how far away is the venue from public transport links? Where are the nearest emergency services from the event? We’ll ensure we know where the nearest hospital is located and have the pharmacy opening hours in case of emergency.
- Carry Out Site Inspections. Site inspections are a must before any large-scale event, to ensure we can evaluate the suitability of the venue and what needs to be put in place to guarantee the safety of guests when the event is running. We have a comprehensive check list of possible risks that we evaluate at venues pre-event through our site inspections:
- Crowd Management Hazards –We check potential overcrowding issues within the different spaces for the event. For large events, where high volumes of traffic are expected at a particular time, we determine any potential issues at car parks and roads into and out of the site.
- Crew Hazards – We assess how equipment/stands etc will be moved into place and the crew protected against any lifting or carrying injuries.
- Trip/Equipment Hazards – Walking the venue we can determine any potential trip hazards from running cables that could be tripped over, or if there is anywhere that equipment is at risk from overheating or water hazard.
- Fire Hazards – we assess risks of smoking at the venue, as well as the number and location of fire extinguishers and fire alarms at the site.
- Weather Hazards – we assess the surrounding area to identify if the ground could become slippery when wet, or if event structures could be badly affected by windy conditions.
- Catering Hazards – All venues that we work with will have the relevant food hygiene certificates, but we work with the chefs to ensure they have the right dietary information on expected delegates where there is a risk of any food allergies.
We also work closely with any event suppliers, such as caterers, marquee and AV companies and ask to see their own risk assessments so we can mitigate risk together. Where appropriate, we would also involve the local council and emergency services, especially if the event is outdoors.
- Develop the Health and Safety Plan and Risk Assessment– Once the venue has been confirmed, the site inspection carried out and potential risks identified, it’s time to create a site plan for the event which indicates where structures, facilities, entrances and exits will be situated. Supporting this plan will be a full risk assessment that identifies the hazards, how we intend to minimise them and what will be implemented to achieve this.
Both the site plan and the risk assessment will be made available as part of the full briefing pack for crew who are working on the event, to allow them to familiarise themselves with the site layout and where extra precaution needs to be taken around the venue.
- Implementing the Plan. Now it’s event set-up day, we need to put the safety plan into practise. Working with our suppliers and the venue we’ll ensure we oversee the set-up of the event, ensure all safety precautions are in place. Once the event is set-up and before delegates arrive, we will carry out a full walk through of the venue, identifying any new potential hazards and either resolve them immediately or minimise the risk to ensure the safety of delegates.
- Continuous Checks. Our health and safety responsibility doesn’t stop there. Throughout the event we will continue to make regular checks across the event, ensuring delegate safety is always at the forefront of our minds. We appreciate things move around during events, and it’s by keeping on top of all activity that happens, that we can be one step ahead of the game and minimise the risks before they occur. We’ll also support the hotel with guidance on health and safety during the running of the event. For example, there have been times when we’ve noticed hotel staff trying to carry too much, or move furniture without adequate support. We’d highlight this to hotel management to ensure their own safety as well as our own delegates.
- Always Expect the Unexpected and be Prepared. Have a contingency plan for those unexpected scenarios such as loss of power, extreme weather conditions or terrorist attacks. In the event of a natural disaster or an unforeseen incident at the event, we have a full process that would be mobilised back in the office 24/7 to support with the solution until every attendee is safe and secure back home.
Contingency planning isn’t just about the situations that affect the actual management of an event - you need to prepare for situations such as loss of data, delegates or even your keynote speaker or entertainment acts. Find out more on contingency planning in one of our other features.
Health and safety should never be taken lightly, no matter the size of your event. Rest assured our team has the expertise and each play a conscientious role to ensure events are delivered in a manner that delegates are able to have a safe and enjoyable experience. If you want to know more, get in touch with our specialist events teamwho will be happy to chat through some of the key considerations.