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  • Writer's pictureDorset Health and Safety

Guidance on Running Events Safety

Getting started


The level of detail in your planning should be proportionate to the scale of the event and the degree of risk

Health and safety management arrangements

Whatever the scale of the event, make sure there is a clear understanding within the organising team of who will be responsible for safety matters. For organisations with five or more employees, this is likely to be driven by the company's health and safety policy. Write a health and safety policy for your business provides further information. If your event includes building temporary structures like stages and marquees, consider our CDM 2015 guidance when making your event management arrangements.

Safety plan

As an event organiser, identify the:

  • scale, type and scope of the event

  • type and size of audience

  • location

  • duration of the event

  • time of day and year the event will be held

These factors will help you to determine what resources and facilities will be required.

Translate this information into an appropriate safety plan.

The key tool for creating a safety plan is the process of risk assessment. For information to help with your event risk assessment, see also health and safety topics.

Worker involvement

The best way to protect your employees and visitors from harm and illness is to involve your workers during the planning phase. See consult your employees.

Liaising with others

Liaise with the venue owner / management, emergency services and, where appropriate, local authority Safety Advisory Group for advice and information relevant to your planning.

Discuss with them how you can control risks.

Selecting contractors

When you select and appoint contractors, consider their suitability and competence for providing a safe and reliable service.

Ask contractors to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of their work and the health and safety hazards involved

  • provide evidence of a trained workforce and the competence of key staff for the project

  • confirm that they have sufficient resource levels to do the work

  • provide evidence of previous successful work that shows they can adopt and develop safe systems of working

In the absence of experience of previous work, ask them to demonstrate an appropriate level of technical ability (e.g. being a member of an accreditation scheme, professional organisation or trade association may help with this)

Further information

  • Using contractors: A brief guide

  • Managing contractors

Providing workplace facilities

Provide the right workplace facilities, including welfare and first aid before works starts

Emergency planning

Checklist - Planning for an event

Ask yourself:

  • Have you decided who will help you with your duties?

  • Is there a clear understanding within the organising team of who will be responsible for safety matters?

  • Have you risk assessed your event and prepared a safety plan?

  • Did you involve your workers during the planning of your event?

  • Did you liaise with other agencies?

  • Have you gathered and assessed relevant information to help you determine whether you have selected suitable and competent contractors?

  • Have you provided the right workplace facilities?

  • Have you planned for incidents and emergencies?

Managing an event

Your duties as an event organiser

You are responsible for ensuring that overall safety at the event is maintained so that as far as reasonably practicable, people setting up, breaking down and attending the event are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

These duties will include:

  • having health and safety arrangements in place to control risks

  • ensuring co-operation and proper co-ordination of work activities

  • providing your employees and others with relevant information on any risks to their health and safety

  • ensuring the competence of staff to undertake their role safely

  • monitoring health and safety compliance

  • reviewing your health and safety arrangements

What you need to do

Once physical activity starts at the event site, attention should move away from planning and paperwork to the effective management and monitoring of site operations, as follows:


Have appropriate management systems in place for each phase of the event to make sure health and safety risks are controlled. While the numbers onsite during the public period will be significantly greater, the need for safety management during build up, load-in, breakdown and load-out is just as important. There may be fewer people, but this is likely to be when the highest-risk work activities are carried out.


Ensure co-operation and proper co-ordination of all work activities on the site. This does not mean you become responsible for all the individual technical work carried out by third parties. Rather you should make sure you develop a safe overall phased programme of work by taking into account contractor risk assessments and communicating this to all relevant parties.

Further information

  • Construction activities

  • Using contractors: A brief guide

  • Managing contractors


Provide your employees and others, including contractors, with relevant information on any risks to their health and safety identified by your risk assessment/s. Your contractors will need to do the same for their employees.

Do this as part of a general site induction and briefings about individual work activities or tasks. For example, you may need to tell people coming onto site about:

  • site hazards and control measures

  • buried services such as electric cables

  • safe speed limits

  • where they can safely park

  • first aid, toilets and wash facilities

  • emergency arrangements

  • weather forecast news

  • procedures for using / booking plant

You may also want to provide relevant health and safety information to the public, eg in the form of signage.


Staff should be competent to undertake their role safely. There should also be an appropriate level of competent supervision, proportionate to the risk, nature of the work and the personnel involved.

Monitoring and review

Periodically, you should check your agreed methods for controlling risks and test them to make sure they are working and being followed. Your risk assessment should set out the frequency of checks, who is responsible for them, and the methods they use.

For small-scale events, a simple checklist is probably enough.

For larger events, such as a festival, a number of people may share the monitoring role. Whoever has the role should be familiar with the risk assessment findings and control measures, and be able to identify new hazards and assess risks as they arise.

Others with managerial responsibilities can also assist in this monitoring role while undertaking their other duties.

For guidance on accidents, ill health and dangerous occurrences see RIDDOR.

After an event

It is also good practice to debrief after an event and certainly after any significant incident/emergency or when any changes in venue design or procedures are considered.

Include other agencies like the police and local authority in the debrief process. Listen to problems and successes and make improvements for future events.

Planning for incidents and emergencies

You must have plans in place to respond effectively to health and safety incidents and other emergencies that might occur at an event.

This emergency plan should to be in proportion to the level of risk presented by event activities and the potential extent and severity of the incident.

Consider the key risks

Using the resources available to you onsite, develop emergency procedures to be followed by staff and volunteers in a significant incident/emergency, e.g. sudden bad weather, a fire or structural failure.

Include contingencies to deal with incidents and situations as varied as an entertainment act cancelling at short notice, severe weather, or the unavailability of key staff in your team.

You will also need to consider your response to more serious emergencies, including major incidents that will require help from the emergency services and implementation of their regional emergency plans (which may not be specific to the event).


The National Counter-terrorism Security Office have produced specific advice to help mitigate the threat of a terrorist attack in crowded places.

The key message for the public is 'Run, Hide, Tell':

  • Run - to a place of safety. This is a far better option than to surrender or negotiate. If there's nowhere to go, then…

  • Hide - it's better to hide than to confront. Remember to turn your phone to silent and turn off vibrate. Barricade yourself in if you can. Then finally, and only when it is safe to do so ...

  • Tell - the police by calling 999

Sharing your plans

For all but the smallest events with low risks (or those in fixed venues with established procedures), draw up and discuss your plans with:

  • the police

  • fire and rescue service

  • ambulance service

  • emergency planning

  • for fixed premises like stadiums and arenas, the venue management

The detail and complexity of any discussions should be proportionate to the risks involved. You, as the organiser, and emergency services should be clear about who will do what if there is an emergency or major incident.

Develop an emergency plan

Most event emergency plans should address the same basic requirements, to:

  • get people away from immediate danger

  • summon and assist emergency services

  • handle casualties

  • deal with those who have been displaced but not injured (eg at a festival with camping)

  • liaise with the emergency services and other authorities and, where the situation is serious, hand over responsibility for the incident/emergency

  • protect property

Emergency procedures

Procedures for staff and volunteers to follow in an emergency should include:

  • raising the alarm and informing the public

  • onsite emergency response, ie use of fire extinguishers

  • summoning the emergency services and continuing to liaise with them

  • crowd management, including evacuation, where necessary

  • evacuation of people with disabilities

  • traffic management, including emergency vehicles

  • incident control

  • providing first aid and medical assistance

First aid, medical assistance and ambulances

As well as workers, HSE strongly recommends that you include the visiting public in your first-aid, medical and ambulance needs assessment. Make sure you will have enough medical assistance and ambulances onsite and liaise with your local NHS and ambulance service so they can balance your needs against their local capacity.

Except for small, low-risk events where ambulances may not be required, and at events where they are not onsite, plans should be drawn up in conjunction with the local NHS ambulance service to clarify how patients will be taken to hospital.

The Events Industry Forum's 'purple guide' includes example first-aid and medical assessments for an audience at an event.

Have clear emergency roles and responsibilities

You should appoint people to implement your procedures if there is an incident or emergency. Make sure that all relevant staff members, whatever their normal role, understand what they should do in an emergency, for example:

  • the location of exits

  • how to use emergency equipment

  • how to raise the alarm

  • who they should receive instructions from


Emergencies can develop very rapidly. Make sure you are equipped to move the audience to a total or relative place of safety without delay. The following actions will help.

Escape routes and exits

  • Plan escape routes and make sure they remain available and unobstructed

  • Make sure all doors and gates leading to final exits, as well as site exits themselves, are available for immediate use at all times. Check they:

    • are unlocked - if security is an issue they should be staffed not locked

    • are free from obstructions

    • open outwards in the direction of escape

Signs and lighting to help evacuations

  • Consider signs for people unfamiliar with escape routes

  • Light all escape routes sufficiently for people to use them safely in an emergency

  • Emergency lighting should comply with the requirements of British Standard BS 5266-1. Use an independent power source, eg a generator, in case the mains electricity supply fails

  • If using floodlighting, lighting towers etc as temporary lighting make sure it does not shine in people's faces along the escape route, making it more difficult for them. As an alternative, 'festoon lighting' along an escape route prevents glare

Places of safety

Plan how you will evacuate people to a place of relative safety from where they can make their way to a place of total safety

Vulnerable people

  • Plan to provide additional assistance to people with a disability, people with learning difficulties, those with limited mobility and children

  • Where children are separated from their parents, in play areas etc, make arrangements for their safe evacuation clear so parents don't try to reach them against the normal direction of escape

Communicating with the public

Plan for how you will communicate official event messages to the public in conjunction with the emergency services, eg via social media

For further guidance on escape routes and strategies see the Guide to safety at sports grounds and Fire safety risk assessment guides.

Show stop

Effective response to an emergency can sometimes mean a rapid and controlled halt to a performance to prevent further risk to the audience or to initiate an evacuation.

This sort of 'show stop' involves:

  • identifying the key people involved, particularly those who can:

    • initiate a show-stop procedure

    • communicate with the performer or participants

    • communicate with the audience

  • deciding how these key people will initiate a show-stop procedure

  • having pre-agreed wording for public announcements (consider your lines of communication, eg radios, PA systems)

  • briefing the management of performers or participants in advance about the show-stop procedure

After the incident

Once the risk has been reduced to a tolerable level, you can consider restarting the performance/event.

Only restart the performance after consultation with other key agencies on site, e.g. emergency services. Make sure staff are back in position and services are ready.

Transfer of authority for an emergency/major incident

If the emergency services declare an emergency/major incident onsite, all the event personnel and resources will work under the command of the police. However, the police may declare one part of the event as under their authority to respond to the emergency/major incident, but leave other parts of the event under your control as the event organiser.

Testing and validation

In many cases, validation of your emergency plan may take the form of a table-top exercise, where you and others work through a range of scenarios and establish the effectiveness of your responses.

Test the communication systems, e.g. radios and public announcement equipment, before the event.

Find out more

  • Case study of a developing emergency

  • Protecting crowded places from terrorism

  • Event Fire Safety

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