Health and Safety on the cheap? Peanuts and monkeys?

To raise standards among event safety practitioners and other interested parties, a collaboration has been formed between SAGE (Safety Advisors Group in Entertainment), the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, STAGESAFE and Bucks New University’s International Centre for Security Studies. STAGESAFE’s Chris Hannam explains the background.

In recent years it has become more and more common to find that clients now only want the services of a safety advisor or consultant for the build and breakdown periods only, with no involvement in planning, contractor assessment and documentation. This often means that inappropriate contractors are appointed, for example generator and power distribution contractors who have no idea of industry standards such as BS 7909: 2011.

Code of practice for temporary electrical systemsfor entertainment and related purposes, or security companies who have no experience with crowd management procedures. It is common not to win a contact because price was the only consideration; we are told clients' budgets will not extend to more and, sadly, clients usually have no idea of the correct qualifications and insurance requirements they should be looking for from a potential provider in such an important role.

We are commonly undercut by people happy to work for ridiculously low fees. These are normally under-qualified and under-insured; often youngsters trying to break into the industry who think their college or university course makes them a qualified safety advisor and when you break down theiur quote one can see they are sometimes working below minimum wage. Working cheap does you and the industry no good at all; it just lowers all standards and devalues the industry and the problem is not just confined to event safety - all event industry sectors are now blighted and some festival promoters are advertising for qualified staff to work for nothing!

Organisers often choose these people because they are not aware of the requirement to have competent safety support or they claim: “We don’t have a budget. It’s an open market, so we must go for the cheapest". How wrong and how dangerous can you get? There is an absolute duty (must do) under Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations to appoint a competent safety advisor.

There is a further complication that production companies and suppliers tendering for an event know that if they budget sufficiently for proper H&S support they are unlikely to get the contract, simply because the successful bidder will not include it in their quote, unless specified as a pre-requirement. The people who can sometimes break this ‘vicious circle’ are venues if they include it as part of a tenancy agreement. Upon arrival at a venue it is still common to find there are structures and stages that should have made the site or venue subject to CDM but this was not done, or to interrupt unplanned, unsafe practices or activities which clients were aware of but have not made anyone else properly aware of. These days we find the qualifications of many events safety practitioners who actually get the work is often only a NEBOSH General Certificate (Tech IOSH) or equivalent. This is far from adequate: a NEBOSH Diploma (Grad IOSH) or equivalent should be the minimum standard of a consultant or advisor who should also hold £1,000.

Professional Indemnity Insurance cover and have at least five years’ event industry experience. The HSE web site advises those looking for a safety consultant to use the online Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR), the problem being that most event safety consultants do not use the register and they do not obtain any work after paying the annual fee to be registered.

Approximately 160 consultants are registered who claim to be event safety specialists, yet only a half dozen of those are known within our industry, other than ensuring those who do register are qualified to Charted and Fellow status of one of the two institutes. No checks are made to ensure those registered are specialists in the area claimed. Many event safety consultants do not consider the register to be fit for purpose. Promoters requiring low competence requirements, combined with the requirement to only require on-site services or documentation only and no on-site work, contractor assessment or planning involvement, often leads experienced and qualified practitioners to be faced with a dilemma. According to IOSH Codes of Conduct, we should ultimately walk off site if presented with unsafe activities or lack of planning, which realistically cannot be changed within budget and/or tenancy periods.

What if we did legitimately withdraw our services? What might happen that we could have prevented? We still encounter the poor excuse, “I have been doing this for years and no-one has ever asked me for/told me this before!” Well now you do know better, no more excuses. As safety practitioners we are more than happy to work alongside crowd safety management practitioners. Sadly there are very differing standards here as many smaller promoters only understand security and not crowd management, and so a local security firm is hired who usually work as door supervisors and not crowd safety specialists. This can cause many problems and a lack of communication in what becomes an “us and them” situation. In order to raise standards among event safety practitioners and other interested parties, as well forging links between crowd safety and health and safety (two different roles as crowd safety is not health and safety management but is very much part of risk management), a collaboration has been formed between SAGE – Safety Advisors Group in Entertainment, the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, STAGESAFE – the trading name for Chris Hannam the leading health and safety advisor - and the International Centre for Crowd Management and Security Studies at Bucks New University. Other organisations such as medical, fire and welfare will be added later.

The first objective is a conference in London on November 17th to start the process. The conference promises to make a real difference by taking action and not be just another talking shop. The longer term objective is to produce a Continued Professional Development (CPD) scheme and register for event safety practitioners. The CPD scheme would be open not only to professional event safety practitioners but to crowd safety practitioners, promoters, event organisers, tour stage and production managers and students on event management courses etc., in fact anyone with an interest in event safety.

Further details on 07832 437062 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.stagesafe.co.uk