Event Safety for Toddlers!

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During the summer of 2013, I managed a tour across 8 outdoor locations in the UK, which consisted of 18 live event days, total attendance at which surpassed 124,000 people. Locations ranged from Bangor in Northern Ireland to Maidstone in Kent, Falkirk in Scotland to Port Talbot in Wales, and everywhere in between.SLS-Events-77-discoveryday

The headliner artists for this tour? Well, with it being a CBeebies mini festival, the headline live performances were from Rastamouse and Mr Bloom.

Events aimed at children and young families present a whole range of Health & Safety issues that differ from say music festival events which are aimed primarily at adults – and this is despite the fact that inebriated adults at music events often behave like toddlers. In all cases however, Event Managers have a duty of care to those attending the event, to ensure their safety.

Risk Assessments and Method Statements became ever more central documents to the event plan, especially as the event was being presented as being run by the BBC – an institution, which raises everyone’s expectations of Safety. So, as the person on site responsible for the safety of all the customers, I had to consider all the potential low level risks that excitable toddlers and young children could encounter. There were seven big challenges I faced

1. Trip hazards became even more of a focus, as we tried to remove any risk of energetic two year olds falling flat on their face. Slips & trips are still the biggest cause of accidents in the UK.

2. We couldn’t remove all trip hazards however; we were in a field after all and had to face uneven dips & ditches, as well as man-made hazards. Our solution to major holes or ditches was filling them with sand or compost, and in extreme cases, we blocked off the area with barriers.

3. Loose cables were an issue all over the site, and the use of cable traps, cable ties and gaffa tape was essential, to secure all cables.

4. Any sharp edges below knee height, such as fence posts or Crowd Control Barrier, were wrapped in bubble wrap or light foam to make them as toddler proof as possible.

5. Wind was a major enemy, and anything, no matter how light, that could blow over was staked to the ground. At 25mph winds, we dropped the light structures such as flag poles and gazeboes.

6. Hazard tape was a major asset, and we covered all edges and blocks to warn youngsters of any dangers of banging heads or tripping over

7. Lost children of course were a major risk and a strict and robust procedure was adopted, including locking the gates to not let anyone in or out until parent and child were reunited.

There is a clear focus on Health & Safety regulations in the Events Industry, and yet it still has a long way to go to catch up with its close cousin, the Construction Industry. Sure, there are some similarities – think of site signage advising of hard hat areas or no smoking, or think of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as hi-vis vests and steel toe caps.

From my experiences, it would seem that the main issue the Events Industry faces is the real lack of a cohesive and collaborative effort across competitors to simplify their own H&S regulations. Plus certainly for our team, the inconsistency across local councils throughout the UK was often a frustration. For one council, the dominant issue would be fire access, for the next it would be structures, the next would be escape routes, the next would be the number of first aid provision, and so on. Each local council had a different set of priorities, and of course the very nature of tour work means that you literally deal with these different priorities, from event to event, from weekend to weekend.

Perhaps a more collaborative approach could be undertaken by local authorities, sharing best practice with input from their clients, the Event Management companies who use their spaces? Of course, what works in Bolton, might not work in Reading, but at least some discussion around how events can be best facilitated in public spaces, would be a start.

On the whole, the Events Industry is progressing however, and indeed not before time. A fork lift is a fork lift whether it’s moving timber for the roof of a house, or a 3 ton generator for a festival stage. Staff and crew need to be protected, whether building big top circus tents, or a new block of flats.

The new Event Safety Passports mirror the Construction Industry Passports and guides such as the HSE Purple Guide or courses such as IOSH, are still invaluable tools for Event Managers.

To continue this discussion, please contact me at Sheffield Business School via email d.strafford@shu.ac.uk


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Mark Norman
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Senior Lecturer in Events Management

I lead on the administration for the Event Management Hub website alongside teaching modules including; Festivals and Outdoor Events, Event Law and Risk Management and The Live Tourism Event