Thursday, 26 April 2012

Speaker Session at Safety and Health Expo

I have been invited to represent the IOSH Sports Grounds and Events in a speaker session at Safety and Health Expo on 16th May at the NEC (1330 – 1530).  I would be delighted to see a few friendly faces in the crowd.  I have two slots; one on disaster handling and recovery for events and one on the HSE’s involvement in event construction.  The link to the IOSH page is below.  I have written a couple of articles on this and posted them on this blog site  As with all of these type of sessions they are made by the intelligent and informed questioning that follows which is why I am hoping that some of you lot will show up!  Of course you will also be able to drop in and see Mirabelle and the UBM organising team at the same time.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

What lies behind the HSE’s decision to get involved with enforcement of event construction?

IOSH Sports Grounds and Events Group - Safety and Health Expo 2012 16 May

As a preface to the IOSH speaker session which will provide ‘An update on the HSE’s new initiative to enforce construction safety at events’ the speaker, Simon Garrett, looks at the background to this.

The HSE is responsible for the enforcement of health and safety law in the UK.  For events this is usually delegated to the local authorities who have laregly the same powers of enforcement as the HSE.  The London Olympics were the catalyst for a review by the HSE into event construction.  The HSE have decided that they will take on enforcement with regards to construction at events.  The HSE report, ‘Identification of safety good practice in the event construction and deconstruction of temporary and demountable structures’ was based on a review of six accidents and six site visits.  These were all related to entertainment, festival or sporting type activities and there is a concern among event safety professionals that this was a very narrow focus on which to base some of the generalisations stated as fact in the report.

CDM 2007 applies to all construction projects and essentially is about the management of those projects in a safe manner and the design of structures so that they are safe to use and maintain.  The HSE’s stated position is that although legally this legislation does technically apply to events, they will ‘not enforce CDM provisions at events’.  This was always a bit of grey area but we now have a definitive position.  The HSE’s view is that duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations the Working at Height Regulations and other construction activity related regulations are perfectly sufficient for the enforcement of event construction. 

The HSE’s focus will be on construction by which they mean ‘any structure being constructed’.  It may reasonably be assumed that they intend to focus on the larger more complex structures though in theory it applies to all structures from shell scheme up to complex structures.  The HSE have been somewhat opaque in regards to the extent that this covers rigging though it is reasonable to assume that there will at least be overlap.

Where does this leave local authorities?  This is difficult to gauge because it will depend on individual authorities.  The HSE has limited resources and some industry commentators believe that it may not have fully appreciated the extent of activities covered by their new remit.  Notwithstanding there is a clear HSE agenda here and they would not be doing it if they did not feel that there was a problem to be addressed.  One thing is clear, the events industry is going to have to ensure that it has its house in order with regards to event construction if it is going to be put under renewed scrutiny by the HSE.

Simon Garrett is the MD of X-Venture Global Risk Solutions and a Chartered Practitioner

Do we really live in a more uncertain world?

IOSH Sports Grounds and Events Group - Safety and Health Expo 2012 16th May

As a preface to the IOSH speaker session which will consider ‘The Essentials of Contingency Planning and Major Incident Handling’ the speaker, Simon Garrett, considers whether the rising interest in this subject stems from the fact that we really do live in an uncertain world.

Who would have thought that the actions of a Tunisian fruit seller would trigger a series of events in the Middle East in 2011 that would lead in the space of a year of the toppling of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya that hitherto had had an iron grip on power for decades?  Many argue that the pace of these events was fuelled by media exposure and the ability of the masses to use social media to organise themselves in a way that would not have been possible a few years ago. 

Closer to home, those living in Western economies have for decades enjoyed the proceeds of growth, prosperity, longevity and free access to education and health care.  The next few years will bring with it the need to share austerity, accept falling living standards and stricter rationing of social infrastructure such as education and health care long considered a basic right.  The rationing of university education in the UK through pricing is just one example.  The riots in London and other UK cities in 2011 is testament to the ability of relatively small numbers of people organising themselves using social media to wreak havoc to the extent that city centres became no go areas and thus subject to mob rule.  We have seen riots before of course but these were largely contained to specific areas.  Are we now seeing the beginnings of a new and less containable social phenomenon?

Whilst risk prediction even a few months out is usually a mug’s game it is hard not to conceive that the latter half of 2012 will see the dénouement of the Euro and the whole EU project in some form or another.  The backlash from the dispossessed victims of austerity measures who feel that they have little to lose and much to gain from mass civil disobedience against leaders seen to have long ago exceeded their political mandate is likely to be violent, massively disruptive and unpredictable.  Economic opinion appears to be divided between those that think that the collapse of the Euro is unthinkable and those that believe it to be inevitable. 

In the events industry we are uniquely vulnerable the sudden changes and disruption to civil infrastructure.  Our business is expeditionary conducted at a distance from our base location.  An event organising team can leave its London office to set up an event in Birmingham, Barcelona or Beijing. The greater the distance, the greater the dislocation from our normal environment.  We are highly dependent on meeting tight deadlines.  A factory may lose production for a morning and catch up using overtime. We have no such ability to catch up.  We are thus highly reliant on the civil infrastructure and in particular transport links to function normally and efficiently.

The uncertainties of the world around us and our unique vulnerability to unforeseen changes in local conditions, presents both a challenge and an opportunity to event organisers.  It is a challenge to the unprepared and an opportunity for event organisers to expand into new markets where others fear to tread.

We cannot know what the next unthinkable or unforeseeable crisis will be, but we can prepare knowing that the only certainty in our business is the need to plan, prepare and train to deal with uncertainty.

Simon Garrett is the MD of X-Venture Global Risk Solutions