Visitor Management

Tally Wade talks to industry experts about successful visitor management – from planning to safety, controlling movement and making a good impression.

Visitor management is a legal requirement of any event. In line with guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), crowd management is an important element of the overall safety plan for an event, which will be enforced by local authorities. As an event organiser you will be ultimately responsible for the safety of visitors, even if, for example, you contract services such as stewarding out to another company.

Stewards and Marshals

As with most things, preparation is key. The strategies for managing people throughout their visit will play a significant role in event risk assessments and management plans. Get it wrong and there will be more at stake than slow admissions and chaotic queues; organisers could face serious legal and financial implications.

Visitor management starts from the moment visitors leave their arrival route (their car, the bus stop, train station etc). In this feature we chat to industry experts about the considerations that need to be made from planning safety management to handling admissions, stewarding inside the event and the use of barriers to control movement.

Making a plan
Part of your pre-event planning should include comprehensive risk assessments and safety plans. Steven Allen, founder of event safety consultancy Crowd Safety, suggests the following: “The documentation required by a local authority for an event will vary depending on its type, but as a basis you will need a crowd management plan along with an event risk assessment, a fire risk assessment, and a raft of further risk assessments from food safety and hygiene through to noise and dangerous substances (LPG, diesel etc), and other appendices depending on the event (safeguarding, welfare and lost children policies etc).”

So what does a crowd management plan consist of? “The plan needs to detail to the local authority, and those agencies it liaises with, such as the police, how the organiser will manage crowds,” continues Allen. “This includes how the event is laid out to allow circulation space, the number of lanes for admissions and the expected egress – whether people will leave en masse or drift off over a period of time. The plan should also detail emergency measures. It is a sad state of affairs, but in today’s climate these procedures should include measures for terrorism and marauding gunmen.”

Within these documents there should be detailed consideration given to the layout of the event, any barriers used to control visitors, provision of escape routes, signage, gates, fences and where dead ends and bottlenecks may occur. Identification of these elements will help alleviate many crowd problems before any member of the public enters the site.

Stage barriers by Mojo Barriers
Stage barriers by Mojo Barriers

It seems it pays to get these things right. The crowd management plan will be brought before a QC in the case of a fatality. “These documents will be presented with a coroner’s report should the worst happen,” says Allen, “so they have to be comprehensive and demonstrate the highest level of preparation.”

Although by law organisers are not required to use an external consultant, many choose to employ external expertise to prepare these documents. “Legally you must ensure your safety plans are carried out with someone who is competent in the field and has experience,” says Allen. “This person may well be from within the organising team or be a consultant. The Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) can provide you with a list of people who have had to undergo a rigorous verification process to determine their suitability. The process includes qualifications, experience and references.”

If you are planning to keep your visitor safety in house, advice can be found through the HSE and the Purple Guide – a resource created by a panel of experts in the UK event industry.

In preparing any plan, knowledge of the potential hazards presented by both crowds and venues is essential. The HSE lists these as:

Crowd hazards

  • Crushing between people
  • Crushing against fixed structures, such as barriers
  • Trampling underfoot
  • Surging, swaying or rushing
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Dangerous behaviour, such as climbing on equipment or throwing objects

Venue hazards

  • Slipping or tripping due to inadequately lit areas or poorly maintained floors and the build up of rubbish
  • Moving vehicles sharing the same route as pedestrians
  • Collapse of a structure, such as a fence or barrier, which falls onto the crowd
  • People being pushed against objects, such as unguarded, hot cooking equipment on a food stall
  • Objects, such as stalls that obstruct movement and cause congestion during busy periods
  • Crowd movement obstructed by people queuing at bars etc
  • Cross flows as people cut through the crowd to get to other areas, such as toilets
  • Failure of equipment, such as turnstiles
  • Sources of fire, such as cooking equipment

Barriers at events serve several purposes. The HSE lists these as follows: an aid to manage and influence the behaviour of an audience; to line routes; to prevent the audience climbing on top of temporary structures and putting themselves at risk of falling; to relieve and prevent overcrowding and the build up of audience pressure; to provide physical security, as in the case of a high perimeter fence at an outdoor event; to shield people from hazards.

If you decide to use barriers and fencing as a crowd management tool, then they should be risk assessed too. Depending on the complexity of the risk and barrier(s), you may need advice.

Barriers supplied by GAP Group
Barriers supplied by GAP Group

Daimon Dunhue, event services division manager at GAP Group, explains the types of barrier available. “The core barriers we supply are lightweight pedestrian barriers used for demarcation purposes, creating walkways, queuing systems and perimeters for sites, and heavyweight barriers used in situations where there are higher crowd pressures, such as lining the course of a running event. These are harder to move or push over. From there you go to front of stage barriers for festivals and gigs, which are even stronger.

“You can also get water filled barriers, which tend to be lower and are useful for demarcation of car parking areas and race routes, although they are too low for people to stand behind. Finally, there are fencing systems that are higher and barriers that can take branding too.”

The HSE guidelines state that, ‘It is crucial that the type of barrier or fence used does not present greater risks than those they are intended to control. In some cases, barriers have failed due to incorrect selection.’ On this Dunhue advises that barriers and fence systems be suitably fixed and braced where necessary, depending on the weather conditions and crowds expected.

“Barriers and fences will be interlocking, with hooks and eyes. Front of stage systems are usually bolted together for extra strength. You shouldn’t need to pin systems to the ground, and often this is not possible if they are running over concrete or land where there are underground services. If you are expecting high winds, systems can be braced by placing a 45 degree arm into a tray with a ballast or by arranging the barriers into a T-shape for extra brace. Fences may need bracing if they are used with branded boards as the wind won’t be able to pass through them.”

Event fencing from GAP Group
Event fencing from GAP Group

Barrier systems are usually hired by the metre, and a good supplier will help calculate the amount required plus a contingency amount. Installation should be relatively straightforward and can often be handled by the event organiser. However, for more complex systems, such as stage barriers, the supplier will often be able to help.

Stewards / marshals
Deploying barriers and fencing will aid proper crowd management, and in many cases will be absolutely essential for the safety of the public. However, stewards or marshals are vital for all-round effective management of risk. They are invaluable for directing and managing crowds as they will be able to give information in a timely manner. Matt Babiy, head of security for Your Events Team, explains the factors that determine stewarding requirements.

“The majority of outdoor events are based around families and are advertised as such, so this predetermines the type of crowd you would be expecting. A family type event will require fewer stewards or marshals than a music festival for instance, which is likely to attract a different type of crowd with a different social mix.”

St Leonards Festival parade, 2015

The primary role of a steward is to assist with the delivery of a safe enjoyable experience for event audiences, says Babiy. “Stewards should help to maintain a high level of customer care and provide assistance where needed. They also act as ‘front of house’ upon arrival at an event, directing traffic, checking tickets, performing bag searches, and giving directions and information.

“A good steward should know all the information needed when asked, be able to spot potential trouble before it occurs, and understand crowd management and control procedures. As an individual, they should be a good team player yet able to work independently and, above all, should have a friendly disposition. Stewards are often the first and last people visitors see at an outdoor event and the impression they create is vital to the event’s overall success.”

Of course, providing stewards with the right resources is imperative. Babiy recommends that the steward / marshal manager should ensure they communicate their brief to the stewarding team on the day of the event. This will involve health and safety information, details on emergency exits, information that the general public may require and where the stewards should be positioned. Stewards should also sign in and out at the event command centre at the start and end of their shifts.”

Where it may be tempting to use untrained volunteers or organising team members in the place of professional stewards, Babiy warns against this. “Using volunteers in any event environment without adequate training is seen as a cost cutting ploy throughout the event industry. Not only are they unlikely to be prepared for what the job entails, which might impact on your health and safety standards, but you have to prepare for some of them not to turn up on the day, turn up late or just wander off!

“Trained stewards on the other hand have many benefits. The majority will be NVQ spectator safety qualified, which means they will have the required knowledge to do a good job. To hire in stewards or marshals for an event you are looking at a cost of between £9 and £11.50 per hour.”

Controlling access
One area in which crowds are likely to gather is at the entrance and exit of an event, where tickets are processed, money taken, wristbands / hand stamps applied and visitors checked out. Whereas this can be overcome with an adequate number of ‘lanes’ and enough staff to process the traffic, some event organisers may choose a more high tech option.

Gatekeeper turnstiles from Mojo Barriers
Gatekeeper turnstiles from Mojo Barriers

“In recent years technology advancements have led to the development of our intelligent turnstile system Gatekeeper 2.0, which incorporates ticket scanning capabilities,” says Kevin Thorborn, UK manager at Mojo Barriers. “Designed to integrate with any type of scanner, including RFID, QR, mobile ticketing and barcode, the Gatekeeper is a solid temporary entranceway, meaning it can be used to control access into events, festivals, venues and designated areas (VIP, staff only and camping).

“Our Gatekeeper turnstile is a popular product and its popularity has only increased in recent years with the growth of RFID technology at festivals and live event sites across Europe for cashless payments and access control. It can take any of the RFID providers’ reader systems and give them an intelligent turnstile to regulate any entrance or egress. Recently, we worked alongside Starticket at Zurich OpenAir 2015, to integrate its ticketing technology into our barrier system. The Starticket sensors were integrated into Mojo’s Gatekeeper system, which helped reduce queuing times, manpower and improved crowd safety through the audience ingress.”

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