MUTA’s Joe Chalk discusses how Covid-19 has affected the temporary structure industry.
MUTA is the UK’s only trade association dedicated to marquees, tents and temporary structures. With the majority of members serving the events industry, which has been closed throughout most of the pandemic, many have shown exceptional examples of diversification to help their communities and the NHS.
The significant number of infections at the beginning of the pandemic led to a demand for bespoke hospitals, extensions to existing hospitals, drive-through test centres and, sadly, mortuaries.
September 2020 marked the re-opening of educational settings and temporary structures were considered the perfect solution for schools, colleges and universities that did not have sufficient indoor space to accommodate social distancing measures. Organisations in the construction and logistics sector have also used marquees and tents to increase space and footfall.
Following a challenging winter, April 2021 saw the return of outdoor hospitality across the UK. This resulted in a rise in the use of marquees and the current ruling is that at least 50 per cent of the walls or sides must be removed while in use.
Most temporary structure manufacturers will supply wind loading information based on a completely enclosed structure with no openings. It is highly unlikely that a temporary structure would be able to withstand the same wind speed when there are openings present.
It is important to recognise that not all temporary structures are inherently safe – there are many varieties out there in the market. Poorly designed and built tents, coupled with inclement weather, present a significant risk.
Weather, such as wind, is undoubtedly one of the biggest threats to the temporary structure industry. The consequences of a temporary structure being damaged by wind can be catastrophic with buildings, vehicles and, most importantly, people all at risk. Thankfully, incidents are extremely rare, but it is imperative to plan properly.
The responsibilities are straightforward. A hirer must supply and erect a temporary structure in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and provide clients with the relevant information to keep them safe during the term of hire. This should include advice on what wind speed the structure can withstand. Those that acquire temporary structures must:
• Frequently monitor and record the local wind speeds
• Work with the hirer to agree a clear and concise wind management plan.
A wind management plan should clearly detail what action will be taken at what wind speed. The hirer should be able to provide an operational wind speed which is the maximum speed at which it is safe to use the structure based on its design.
There are a number of methods of wind monitoring, from complete weather stations that can be fixed in position on site for long term projects or sites with multiple structures, to simple handheld anemometers. MUTA has produced comprehensive guidance on this issue. To find out more, email
May 2021 saw England move to phase three of its roadmap and, at long last, wedding receptions in private settings and outdoor events are permitted to take place. Make sure to hire structures from a reputable supplier by visiting www.muta.org.uk to find a member near you.
If you are involved with organising or attending outdoor events then download the Events Industry Forum’s guidance on keeping workers and audiences safe during Covid-19. This document contains critical information on how to operate safely in England – visit www.eventsindustryforum.co.uk
For further guidance on the safe use and operation of temporary structures you can download our Best Practice Guide, and for information on choosing a temporary structure company, download our Guide to Choosing a Hirer.
There is no doubt that the past 15 months have been extraordinarily difficult for the temporary structure industry and the sectors we serve. However, with the development of the vaccination programme, we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s to a safe and productive summer!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joe Chalk is membership support director at MUTA, the UK’s only trade association dedicated to marquees, tents and structures. Since 1919, it has been working to improve standards in the industry and its Best Practice Guide is followed by members, which are also inspected against it. www.muta.org.uk / 01379 788673.