Friday, 10 February 2017

Following the recent terrorist outrages to what extent are our staff at risk when travelling?

The security issues faced by global event companies have never been as serious or complex.  Global jihad appears to be able to attack public spaces, hotels, airports and planes with impunity and whilst the statistical risk to any individual may be little changed, event companies, especially those with international interests, have a clear responsibility to staff and key stakeholders to assess and mitigate the threat this poses.  With regard to venues at risk a very clear pattern of terrorist targets emerges as follows:

·         Places visited by foreigners (British nationals and British interests in particular)

·         Airport check in areas

·         Railway stations and trains

·         Open air markets and shopping malls

·         Hotels

·         Beach resorts

·         Bars, nightclubs and restaurants

·         Places of Christian worship

Exhibition, convention and conference centres and other such venues do not themselves feature though this cannot be ruled out.   This may be because all of the above can be targeted and attacked without having to buy a ticket or pass through any kind of controlled entrance (except perhaps for some hotels and shopping malls).   To some extent therefore, the risk can be greatly reduced by simple avoidance and restricting movement to these places for business or leisure.  Risks of passing through airports are probably no greater than any other public place but can be mitigated, for example, by booking in on line and travelling with hand luggage only to reduce the time spent in the public areas before passing through security.  Corporately companies need to think more holistically about all of the travel arrangements including the selection of approved airlines and hotels.  Staff need to be briefed on the threat and personal avoidance measures as well as the ‘Stay Safe’ attack drills promoted by the UK National Counter Terrorism Security Office.

In collaboration with the International SOS Foundation, IOSH has published a new guide, Managing the safety, health and security of mobile workers.  It covers a wide range of personal health, safety and security issues when travelling can be downloaded at . 

CDM – What difference does it actually make?

Most event companies appear to have got to grips with the new legislation.  Our view has always been that the intricacies of CDM matter far less than the fact that it gives the HSE a direct mandate to regulate and enforce criminal law in event construction and so it has come to pass.  Thus far, they have taken a light touch approach but that may be about to change.  The HSE have been making pre-announced inspections of the build-up and break down of events.  Whilst they have taken no official enforcement action, it is very clear that they view certain common practices and certainly work at height as being unacceptable.  After one visit the HSE inspector cited 70% of what he saw as being ‘actionable misuse’.  At the moment, we appear to be in a phase of dialogue between the HSE and the events and exhibitions industry whilst they formulate an approach.  We may be given some time to bring about improvements but it is probably only a matter of time before they take legal action against poor practice that they regard as actionable.  Work at height will definitely be a key issue for 2017 and a separate discussion paper is attached.

It is not clear at this stage whether the HSE will take action against offending contractors, exhibitors or the Client in the form of the organiser.  Organisers should take note, however, there is a limit to the extent to which the HSE will tolerate endemic health and safety violations by contractors and exhibitors before they take issue with, the organiser.  CDM places clear responsibility for overall site management on the organiser and senior management within the organiser’s structure.  Heavy punitive action against event organisers will hurt everyone’s business including venues.

New sentencing guidelines applicable from 2016

Five event companies have been prosecuted and fined in the previous year one of the most high profile of which was the £1.6 million fine meted out to Foodles Production when Harrison Ford broke his leg on the Star Wars set.  The new guidelines* apply to health and safety offences committed by individuals or companies including corporate manslaughter.  The devil is in the detail, they can be downloaded at and should be required reading for company secretaries, health and safety managers and directors.  In all cases fines are potentially unlimited but prison sentences are limited to 2 years (although there is a potential whole life tariff for manslaughter by gross negligence).

The new guidelines set out tables for calculating the sentence based on company turnover (or individual’s ability to pay), actual or potential for harm including how many people were or could have been affected and the degree of culpability.  This produces a ‘start point’ within a suggested range.  The fine can then be mitigated by cooperation with the authorities and/or an early guilty plea.  This is perfectly sensible and reasonable in concept but there are some very clear issues for the events and venues business.

A ‘large’ company is deemed to be one with a turnover of more than £50 million for whom the starting point for a medium harm and medium culpability incident is £600,000 but ranges up to £10 million for the most serious (non-fatal) incident.  Where it involves a charge of corporate manslaughter the start point for a low culpability incident is £500,000 ranging up to £20 million for the most serious offence.  The start points are scaled down for smaller companies but the point is that the fines for larger companies are many multiples of what they would have been before.

The next issue is the potential for harm and the potential numbers of people involved i.e. there does not have to have been an incident or any injury.  Here the events industry is very vulnerable.  The HSE has already stated that it regards the whole industry as ‘high risk’ and has issues with crowded construction areas.  A moving forklift quite clearly has a very high potential for harm.  A worker standing on a live edge at 3 metres could fall and be killed or suffer life changing injuries.  Fire hazards would be classed as potentially very harmful to many workers or occupants.  In essence, most of the industry’s activities are likely to be in the highest harm category.  For example, if a worker were injured by a moving forklift and the offending company had a turnover of more than £50 million, assuming a ‘medium’ level of culpability (which means a lapse in what was otherwise a good set up) the start point for the fine would be £1.3 million but could be up to £3.25 million.

We have got to the point where in business terms the type of financial loss that would be associated with the total loss of an event or the loss of a venue for an extended period could now result from a lapse in an otherwise sound health and safety management system.

* Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline

Never have we faced a more complicated range of risks than those we face in 2017

We have got to the point where in business terms the type of financial loss that would be associated with the total loss of an event or the loss of a venue for an extended period could now result from a lapse in an otherwise sound health and safety management system.

Five event companies have been prosecuted in 2016 none of which involved CDM regulations but all of which resulted in record breaking fines ten times higher than they would have been this time last year.  Company directors should note that it is possible to be fined over half a million pounds or more for a relatively low fault incident even if it did not involve an injury.  At the upper end, in September 2016, a warehouse operator was fined £2.2 million after a worker was killed falling 2.5m from the unguarded edge of a loading bay in circumstances which are replicated at event builds every day.  Where CDM does make a difference is that previously health and safety in event construction would be dealt with by the local authority who would take a pragmatic approach whereas now it falls to the HSE who are on record as stating that they regard event construction practices as poor and a problem that needs fixing.  Added to this is a very specific and far reaching terrorist threat to the public places which are vital to our industry both in the UK and overseas.  Event companies need to recognise the pressure this places on operations team who have to deal with these realities on a day to day basis.  The next series of blogs will look at these in more detail.