Please note this is a guest article written by an external Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner. Edward Connor Solicitors do not have expertise to advise directly on Health and Safety matters. See below for how to access specialist support in this area.
There is great excitement, anticipation and thankfulness at our ability to once again hold outreach events, and share the gospel with our communities. Trepidation too, either with lingering fears of the pandemic, or simply because we’ve not had to think through the logistics of large-scale events for so long!
Ultimately for any event you put on, you want to keep everyone involved safe, and to meet any legal requirements of holding such an event. So, if you are planning an event, what are the things that your church or Christian organisation needs to work through to meet those requirements and keep everyone safe?
(NB: For guidance on legal requirements under ‘Martyn’s Law’ see our separate article: What will Martyn’s Law mean for churches and Christian ministries?)
What are you legally required to do?
Your first consideration might be to ensure you meet any legal requirements for putting on an event. For example, how much detail must you put into the planning and risk assessment of your event? In large part, this comes down to your own judgment as you consider your event. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advise that the level of detail in your planning be proportionate to the scale of the event and degree of risk. A 50-page emergency action plan would be uncalled for at a Bible study group held in your church building, but might not be enough for a large-scale Christian music festival!
As we mentioned in our last health and safety article if your organisation employs staff, then you have a legal duty to protect their health and wellbeing during their work duties as far as is reasonably practicable. This duty of care also extends to non-employees and members of the public coming into contact with your activities. Whether or not you have paid employees, or possess your own property, all organisations have a legal duty of care to those people who may be affected by your activities.
If you have paid employees, you are required by law to have employer’s liability insurance. You are not legally required to have public liability insurance, though you may want to consider this in the event of someone making a claim against you.
If you employ more than five staff, you are legally required to have a written record of identified hazards, associated risks and what measures should be put in place to mitigate and control risks.
Larger type events may require the submission of an ‘event management plan’ to your local Safety Advisory Group (see below).
How do you plan a safe event?
First, identify the scale, type and scope of the event, and the makeup and size of your audience, if appropriate. Think too about the duration of the event, and when (what day, and what time of day) it will be held. All these things will help you consider the most suitable venue for the event.
Note down decisions
From the outset, make suitable notes of any important discussions and decisions made in the course of planning the event. These might be in the minutes of a trustees/church leaders/members meeting, and noted down separately in the event risk assessment.
Develop a health and safety plan
The key component of your event’s health and safety plan will be a risk assessment. Risk assessment is all about assessing activities and practices carried out within the organisation’s undertaking or operations, on site or elsewhere.
A risk assessment for an event of any size can seem like a daunting task, but much of it is simply common-sense checking. Breaking it down into the following ‘P’ areas may help:
Where is the activity taking place? Is it your own building, or someone else’s? If someone else’s, ask to see their health and safety policies to help inform your own for the event. What is the capacity of the venue, i.e. how many people will safely fit inside? How many people will feel comfortable inside, particularly as we enter the winter season? Where are the entrances and exits? How will you control the flow of people, and where could crunch points occur? Could people be at risk in the car park or roads around your venue?
Who will be attending the event? How will you cater for those with accessibility needs – wheelchair or pram access for example. Is it a standing event? Will it be inside or out? If so, will you have chairs available? Will you ask people to bring their own chairs, or bring things to keep them warm? What happens if someone suffers an injury during the event – do you have an emergency plan in place (see below)? And while it is no longer a legal requirement, what measures would it be good to put in place to prevent any spread of COVID-19 and other pathogens?
What equipment will be involved? If using electrical equipment, is it all PAT tested? If the event is outdoors, how will you keep equipment from getting wet? Will there be wires and cables? How will you prevent these from being a trip hazard? Where can you safely store boxes etc. out of the way of those attending? Is there going to be a raised stage area? How can you prevent people from getting too close or climbing on/falling off? Will extra lighting be used? How will this be secured? What about candles? How will these be used and disposed of safely? If using ovens or hot urns, how will these be made safe for your volunteers and your guests?
Think about the actual activity itself. If serving food or drink, for a one-off event you have a general responsibility to ensure food and drink are safe to consume and comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Act. Will the main event be dimly lit or in darkness? If so, how will you ensure the safety of anyone needing to move around, either as part of the event, or to make an exit? Will there be loudspeakers that people need to be positioned away from? If you plan to film or photograph the event, have you assessed risk from a safeguarding perspective, particularly for children and vulnerable adults?
Plan for incidents and emergencies
You need to have plans in place to respond effectively to health and safety incidents and other emergencies that might occur at your event. As with the overall health and safety planning for the event, this emergency plan should be in proportion to the level of risk presented by the event’s activities, and the potential extent and severity of the incident.
Emergency plans should address basic requirements such as getting people away from danger, summoning and assisting the emergency services, dealing with injuries, and protecting property.
Communicate your health and safety plan!
It’s no good having the most detailed and thought-through health and safety plan ever written if no one helping at your event knows about it! It’s a good idea to involve from the outset those who will be helping at the event in your health and safety planning. Not only will everyone then have a good grasp of the plan, but those who will be ‘on the ground’ may well be best placed to flag issues and risks to consider, ensuring important things don’t get missed.
It is good practice to assign roles to people with specific health and safety responsibilities. Having a designated lead person for each team will go a long way to ensuring everyone knows their role and responsibilities during the event – for example, having a stewarding team to ensure people are kept safe arriving and leaving the venue, as well as entering, exiting and moving around the venue; having a first aid team at an easily accessible point; or having a set-up/set-down team who are familiar with all the equipment being used, with each team having a designated lead.
What about large-scale events?
As mentioned above, a key preliminary consideration for any event is its size, and whether numbers should be limited or restricted. Larger type events may require ‘event management plans’ submitting to your council’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG). Even if not required, the additional elements in such a plan can be used – and be useful – for events of any size.
There will likely be a greater need to have an event management plan if your large-scale event is a commercial event, that is, chargeable, and held on church land, or public land (if permissible) and members of the public are being invited.
What goes into an event management plan?
Event management planning is crucially important for larger scale events. The event’s success will primarily be based on planning and preparation and who sits on the planning team. An event organiser will be expected to be nominated or appointed. Usually, a competent health and safety professional is expected to attend any earlier planning stages, to advise and support your event planning team.
When planning larger type events consideration should be given to what is to be expected. It is advisable to consider aligning the planning to that of ‘the Purple Guide’ (the Purple Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Music and Other events), that can be subscribed to for a fee of £25 for 12 months. Alternatively, the HSE provide good advice for free (see Event safety – Running an event safely (hse.gov.uk).
Otherwise, we have listed the contents of what would primarily be expected in an ‘event management plan’ below. You might not need to input much information under each heading, it is more to provide a basic structure covering the areas that will need thought and attention. Although these criteria are advised, it may still be advisable to contact your local health and safety enforcing authority (Environmental Health) to discuss further, as your plans may require submitting to the council’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) if certain event criteria are met.
It is advised an ‘event management plan’ should include the following contents:
- Event description
- Dates and Duration
- Entrance and Exit points
- Audience Profile
- The Event Organisers
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Catering and Hospitality
- Drinking water
- Liquid Petroleum Gas
- Security/Stewarding Companies
- Safeguarding children and vulnerable groups
- PA System
- Loud Hailers
- Signage and Public Information
- Media Handling
Medical and First Aid Cover
Fire Risk Assessment
Camping Provision (if necessary)
- Risk Assessments
- Incident Recording
- Health and Safety Executive
- Extreme Weather
- Emergency Vehicle Access
- Event Evacuation Plan
Getting the balance right
The health and safety of our volunteers, staff and guests is of paramount importance. Yet we never want the assessing of the risk of an event to get in the way of – or even prevent – the event’s true purpose.
It’s important therefore to strike the right balance in your planning. Don’t overthink, but don’t underprepare. Ultimately, this whole process is about avoiding unnecessary risk – in any activity, there is always some inherent risk, and the most we can ever do is prevent as much as reasonably possible, and entrust the event into God’s hands through faith and prayer!
Support for your church or Christian organisation
Special thanks are given to Jules Wilks, a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner, and consultant who specialises in Food Safety and Hygiene & Health and Safety, in writing this article. Jules currently works in both the public and private sector and provides strategic and operational advice to a number of leading and high-profile national companies, within the hospitality, building and construction and retail sectors.
If you would like support or advice to develop event management plans, or have a professional carry out a sense check, whether a local church event or a larger regional public event (that requires plans submitted to your local authority Safety Advisory Group) Jules can be contacted at [email protected] or on 07725 657792.