Beware the Crowd Safety ‘Expert’

Chris Hannam of Stagesafe warns of inexperienced crowd management practitioners and how to spot one

The definition of crowd management is the systematic planning for, and supervision of, orderly movement, assembly and dispersal of people. It involves the assessment of the people handling capabilities of a space prior to its use and includes:

  • evaluation of projected levels of occupancy
  • of means of ingress and egress
  • processing procedures, such as assisting and directing members of the public
  • expected types of activities and group behaviour
  • the assessment of the artist or attraction profile
  • the assessment of audience demographic
  • evaluation of crowd dynamics and crowd safety.

A crowd safety manager must have the ability to conduct a crowd risk analysis and design a crowd management plan based on knowledge of crowd dynamics and crowd psychology.

The police usually use the term ‘crowd control’ – what you do after a crowd has gone out of control (shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted) and often use heavy-handed ‘contain and control’ techniques – not what is required at most events, and definitely not ‘crowd management’!

Large crowd at event
Pic: Getty Images

The problem
Within the live events industry many people (including Safety Advisory Group members, event industry press and the ill-informed) think the terms health and safety (H&S), crowd management, crowd control and security are interchangeable terms. They are not – they are all very different and are all very important.

Many people are now entering the event safety industry (usually as self-employed advisors) in both the health and safety management and crowd safety management sectors, with no professional indemnity insurance, insufficient qualifications and inadequate event experience. These people often work at incredibly low rates; sometimes less than the minimum living wage. Some can only survive on such low rates because they live at home with mum and dad. They work at these rates simply in order to get work experience. In the crowd management sector, there are many retired police officers who think they know all there is about crowd management (the usual way of identifying they know nothing is by their use of the term crowd control and not crowd management).

The simple truth is there is not enough work to go around in many areas. Some of us have a continual struggle to get enough work to survive, this includes pioneers in the event safety sector who have paid their dues and gained years of industry experience, all the relevant safety qualifications, and have, for a long time, been involved with event safety education and setting industry standards that previously did not exist.

The other problem is that production managers, promoters and event organisers do not know what to look for and what the required qualifications and standards are for H&S consultants and crowd safety managers. They may go for the lowest quote without understanding the dangers and consequences of that option, or simply be willing to take the risk.  

Local authority officers, Safety Advisory Group representatives and many others often think that H&S advisors and crowd safety managers are one of the same; the truth is they are totally different roles and most events need both.

Festival crowd
Pic: Getty Images

What the industry needs
The event industry has many specialist areas such as structures, plant, work at height, rigging, power etc. that need to be fully understood by the safety consultants.  The best event health and safety consultants spent years working in production, tour and site management to gain the experience before turning to event safety and gaining health and safety qualifications – it is a similar story with the best crowd safety professionals; there are no fast track systems for quality and competency.

The whole situation is exasperated by the event industry press who do not understand the whole situation outlined above, and use incorrect terminology and run articles, press releases and other information submitted to them from companies and individuals who do not meet the best industry standards.

Crowd management guru Mick Upton has long advised licensing for event safety advisers and crowd safety managers – a great idea but who will run and administrate such a scheme? Answers on a postcard please!

Chris Hannam runs Stagesafe, offering health and safety consultancy and training for the live music and event production industries. With over 35 years’ experience he advises event organisers, production and tour managers, promoters, freelancers, service companies and businesses at every level on all H&S documentation, site planning, crowd management, CDM compliance, steward safety training, contractor safety management and more.

Price Promise
STAGESAFE endeavours to match or beat any ‘like for like’ quote from an equally qualified safety advisor. Visit or call 07831 437062 for more.

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