Event Safety: Plans Won’t Save You…Planning Will
In 2011, a severe thunderstorm was approaching an outdoor concert in Indiana. The approaching storm caused a wind gust so powerful it collapsed a roof injuring 58 people and killing seven. A probe into the cause of the disaster revealed a series of complex events that taken together contributed to the tragedy. Many of these could have been avoided through better communications, chains of command and an overriding mandate to protect the safety of the gathering.
It also sparked the development of The Event Safety Guide from The Event Safety Alliance® . As described in the guide's introduction, “It became apparent that systemic issues affecting safety had to be identified and addressed in order to prevent further tragedies.”
The 366-page guide, based in part on Britain’s HSE’s “Purple Guide,” was the result of hundreds of contributions from event professionals. The guide outlines in detail the requirements for creating safe events whether they be large events, roadshows, area events, trade shows and conventions, music events, amusement attractions or promotions.
eConnections spoke with Jacob Worek, Director of Operations for the Event Safety Alliance about safety and security at trade shows and corporate events.
First off, he corrected us.
“It’s important to define safety and security in the context of events,” he said. “Security is a function (access control or crowd management), while safety is a condition (an environment free of hazards). The terms are often used interchangeably to describe a condition. However, I believe doing so can impact role clarity. While security is usually the purview of a specific department, EVERYONE is responsible for ensuring a safe environment.”
Precise definitions and role clarity are key elements of an effective safety plan. “By identifying the chain of command, you eliminate much of the ambiguity and uncertainty that has hindered decision-making in many past incidents,” he said. “As is identifying potential hazards, outlining response actions, establishing communication methods.”
It all starts with a plan. “Plans don’t need to be long and complicated – simple and flexible is often preferable to dense and rigid,” Worek said.
The Event Safety Guide provides outlines for risk and hazard assessment, checklists for threats, requirements for outdoor structures, and addresses for organizations contributing to and supplying information for event safety.
A 10-page section devoted to trade show and convention safety traces the requirements for mounting a trade show from the show management’s point of view. An eye on safety threads throughout every step from choosing a venue that can safely accommodate the expected crowd to the safety record of the general contractor, from a floorplan with adequate aisle widths to chocking the wheels of a tractor trailer at the loading dock.
For exhibitors, this minutia is of passing interest. They trust that the general contractor is an expert on top of its game with all the proper insurance. But exhibitors also have safety responsibilities depending on the kind of show, their products or services and the design of their exhibit.
The Guide takes a look at floor coverings, overhead signs, fireproof textiles, double-deck exhibits and outlines what is acceptable from a safety point of view. “For booths and other temporary structures, the most important considerations will be structural integrity and traffic flow,” Worek said.
The Guide is exhaustive and informative. But to put it simply, Worek has five safety tips for exhibitors.
- Have a plan to address safety-related issues
- Design your exhibit with safety in mind
- Choose suppliers with a demonstrated commitment to safety
- Collaborate with stakeholders whenever possible
- Educate yourself about safety risks and mitigation strategies
Worek reminds us that “Unless you have unlimited resources, it’s impossible to prepare for every potential scenario. Rather than focusing your efforts on the latest shiny object (such as terrorism), perform a risk assessment, identify the most likely and most severe threats facing YOUR event, and take reasonable actions to reduce or eliminate the risk. When you encounter an unexpected situation, your existing plans and the collaborative spirit fostered during the planning process will likely carry you through. After all, plans won’t save you,,,planning will.”
About the Event Safety Alliance
The Event Safety Alliance® (ESA) is a non-profit trade association of live event industry professionals committed to eliminating unsafe behaviors and conditions throughout our industry. The association is made up of individual and corporate members from all segments of the live event industry who are devoted to making a difference—and saving lives.
The Event Safety Guide is available on Amazon.
The 2017 Event Safety Summit will be held in November. Check the Alliance website or join the mailing list for upcoming details.
The Event Safety Insights quarterly magazine can be found online at http://eventsafetyinsights.com/