Jim Davey from Redwood Event Solutions gives his advice on the absolute event safety must-dos for all event organisers.
When it comes to event health and safety, we like to do things a bit differently at Redwood. We firmly believe that you can do whatever you want at your event, you just have to think about it first. There’s always a way to making the most spectacular things happen, that’s why we work in events, right?
This may be a slightly different approach to the more traditional H&S ways, which conjure up images of the safety officer walking round site with a clipboard and a ‘don’t do that’ attitude’. The safety sector is moving on and I feel, being seen more as an event partner and enabler rather than trying to make things more difficult.
Of course, there will always be the paperwork and weighty issues that are intrinsically linked to event safety. As an event organiser, you have legal obligations that can’t be ignored, and by taking H&S seriously you’ll achieve higher safety standards for your event. Providing safe working conditions for everyone on site and a safe environment for those attending should be a focus for every organiser to help build a positive safety culture – but before anyone even steps on site, there is some work to be done.
The ‘big five’
There are five key documents which should be on every organiser’s list and, depending on the size of the event, these could be separate documents or combined into one to make a complete and very important overview of your event safety. The big five are the event safety management plan (ESMP), the emergency evacuation plan, risk assessments, fire risk assessments and a weather plan.
Preparing these documents as early as possible and sharing them through the local authority SAG (Safety Advisory Group) will give you access to the relevant agencies such as the local authority, police, fire and ambulance services. This provides you with access to the working SAG and shows that you have thought and considered different eventualities and how you might deal with them.
Either a H&S specialist can prepare these documents or an organiser can produce them themselves, with the option of also having them reviewed by an expert. I would actively encourage an organiser to write their risk assessments themselves as it gives the individual a better understanding and clearer picture of the event.
When it comes to the ESMP, depending on the scale of the event, I would lean towards a H&S professional to draft this document, purely because it carries a lot more weight and considers the ‘big picture’, and an organiser can benefit from the H&S expert’s previous experience and expert knowledge to draft a plan that will meet all safety requirements.
Be prepared for your plans to change between writing them and the event day; these are live and working documents that can change as your event grows and develops – you might end up on version six by the time you open your event! Keeping an executive summary of changes at the start of the document is an excellent idea.
Working with SAGs
Anyone who has been part of a premises licence application process for their event will have sat in a SAG meeting, and for those of you that haven’t yet, the biggest piece of advice I can give is to submit your plans in advance. This gives everyone in the room a chance to review the documents beforehand thus making the meeting more productive. Rather than presenting your plans there and then, it provides you with time to work through them with the group, test them and ask questions on moving things forward – much more valuable and a better use of everyone’s time.
By taking your safety plans seriously and owning them, rather than seeing them as a tick box exercise, you really will put yourself in the driving seat not only when it comes to SAG meetings and managing suppliers, but also in knowing that you have thought through various scenarios. You will have a clear plan for dealing with the possible curve balls you might get thrown and contingencies in place that you can draw on should that happen.
One important thing to remember about SAGs is that they are there to advise and make suggestions on how your event and plans can be changed and developed, but these are your plans and you have to deliver against them.
Whatever the weather!
The great British summer is… unpredictable. In the words of Forrest Gump, ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’.
Being in this wonderful country of ours, we have to plan for rain, torrential rain, sun, heatwaves, and high winds, meaning that weather plans are an all-important part of event preparation. While we usually end up with some of the less desirable wet weather situations – last year was the first one in 16 years where I had to write hot weather plans based on the scorching summer we experienced.
We know that one way or another there will be weather to deal with – whether it is rain or shine – and having your plan in place makes dealing with it that little bit easier.
Once on site there are various tools you can use to monitor and keep track of conditions to try and avoid getting caught out, but every now and again an unexpected weather system can arrive unannounced. Last year at Pub in the Park in Tunbridge Wells, we had 18mm of rain in 10 minutes – that’s a month’s worth of rainfall (combined with 35mph constant and 45mph gusting winds)! The weather system popped up to the south of the site and hit us within two minutes. At that point, you have to make very quick decisions to preserve the site and ensure everyone knows what to do.
My advice when it comes to planning for weather follows my advice for planning for anything – be prepared and expect the unexpected, that way you won’t have any surprises you can’t deal with!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Davey is the founder of Redwood Event Solutions, specialists in safety, crowd management, operations, production and site management for events. Clients include Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, CarFest North and South, The Big Feastival, the Pub in the Park series, London Classic Car Show and Backyard Cinema. www.redwood.events