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A question of safety

Chris Hannam of Stagesafe highlights the essential cooperation of vital roles in event and crowd safety management, and the correct use of relevant terminology

01 Feb 2019

Chris Hannam, Stagesafe

In order to successfully complete a risk assessment for safety management at temporary event sites – and, it could be argued, on every site where entertainment is performed – “two entirely separate, but equally important roles” were vital, argued the late Mick Upton:

1. Crowd safety manager (CSM)
2. Health and safety consultant (HSC)

Upton clearly advises in one of his papers that the “crowd manager should be responsible for designing a crowd management plan and then focus on command and control of the event. The health and safety consultant or advisor should adopt a broader role in monitoring working practices during the build-up, event day(s) and de-rig.” (Upton, 2004) Both should operate in co-operation and in tandem with each other, as the roles complement each other but are not interchangeable.

Health and safety management is an industrial process defined as organised efforts and procedures for identifying workplace hazards and reducing accidents and exposure to harmful situations and substances. It also includes training of personnel in accident prevention, accident response, emergency preparedness and use of protective clothing and equipment. Typically at events, these hazards include work at height, temporary structures, rigging (lifting equipment and lifting operations), electricity, noise, plant and machinery, fire, weather, hazardous substances, manual handling, etc.

“Occupational health aims at: the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological capabilities; and, to summarise, the adaptation of work to man and of each man to his job.”

Even highly experienced event professionals still talk about … “event safety and crowd management”

Crowd safety management is the supervision of safe, orderly movement and assembly of people. It is a vast subject that the majority of health and safety practitioners have little or no knowledge of and, until relatively recently, was not considered a social science. Sadly, it is not a term that the majority of small security companies (who often make unsubstantiated claims that they are event security companies) are familiar with, and who still place emphasis on public order rather than public safety. The Security Industry Authority (SIA), the UK government body which licenses companies and individuals in the security industry who have passed a relevant compulsory industry training course, has not helped, as there are no crowd management aspects included within SIA training, so in effect we have two separate roles to consider – crowd safety management and security – and it is the forward-thinking and well-placed event security companies and individuals who undertake crowd safety management.

By the same token, very few crowd safety managers know very much about general event health and safety. I am not saying they do not know anything, but that they are two very different roles.

Local authorities, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforcement and police officers are not trained in, and generally know nothing of, crowd safety management, but they are charged with the responsibility of assessing us (usually during the event licensing process) and enforcement. A case of the blind leading the sighted, as we have many trained, experienced and qualified crowd safety managers within the events industry who have far more knowledge than most of the regulators and enforcers.

Local authorities, HSE enforcement and police officers are not trained in, and generally know nothing of, crowd safety management

A similar situation arises within health and safety enforcement: many local authority officers lack the required knowledge and skills to assess health and safety standards within the event industry, but, fortunately, the HSE are aware of this problem and are attempting to bring local authority officers up to speed – an issue that will not be resolved quickly enough.

So, we have three very different yet equally important roles – the event safety manager, the crowd safety manager and the security manager – but, unfortunately, many see the three titles as interchangeable and simply a matter of semantics. They are not.

This does not help our situation, especially with limited local authority and police understanding and knowledge. Even highly experienced event professionals still talk about and even run conferences or training courses in what they generally refer to as “event safety and crowd management” that, when looked at in further detail, are actually crowd management or security with little or no reference to event (health and) safety. They are different disciplines and I beseech everyone to use the correct terminology in the right context.

Let’s stop the confusion now!


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