Where there are large excitable crowds packed into a venue it can sometimes lead to friction, accidents and occasionally violence. There are many different ways in which you can ensure the safety of staff and customers at such venues. While there is no one size fits all solution to crowd management, training, communication and abiding by health and safety regulations can go a long way to maintaining safety. We will now take a look at some of the ways in which you can not only avoid accidents and injuries but also protect yourself when it comes to personal injury claims.
Carry Out An Initial Risk Assessment – Is Te Venue Suitable?
If you don’t know the potential problems then there is no way on earth that you can resolve them. Therefore, you need to carry out a full risk assessment when considering venue/crowd management. This will take in issues such as:-
- Crowd movements
- Crowd behaviour
- Entry points
- Exit points
- Evacuating crowds in event of emergency
When you see these issues broken down into individual subjects it becomes much easier and it also makes you think about the bigger picture. Is there sufficient room at the front of the venue for people to move freely inwards and outwards? Is there potential for friction as crowds move in opposite directions? How quickly would you be able to disperse troublesome individuals in the event of threats of violence?
If you consider venue suitability/crowd control in its entirety, without breaking it down into various actions and subject matter, it would blow your mind! So, now you have confirmed that the venue is suitable for a particular event it is time to look at controlling crowd numbers and managing expectations.
Crowd Numbers And Managing Expectations
Before we take a look at the specific risks to consider it makes sense to clarify the maximum number of people who can attend and also managing expectations. Entertainment venues, including pubs, sports clubs or nightclubs will be restricted to a maximum number of attendees by law. It is obviously essential that these restrictions are adhered to as overcrowding could leave the organisers open to legal action if accidents and injuries occur.
Other issues to take into consideration when looking at entertainment events include:-
- Using advanced ticket sales to control crowd numbers
- Review previous attendance figures for similar events
- The popularity of any performers
- The level of publicity given to the event
- The location of transport hubs – moving people on when the event is over
- What level of security will you require on the door
Once you’re able to clarify the number of people attending a particular event and any issues from similar gigs you can then begin to make detailed plans. There needs to be some degree of flexibility because large crowds are often unpredictable, what worked perfectly for the previous event may not work as well for the next event.
While it could be argued that profiling your audience may give way to stereotyping, it can give some very important indicators about what may or may not happen. If for example the event is revolving around an evangelistic speaker then it is unlikely excess alcohol or rowdy behaviour will be a problem. Alternatively, if the England football team are playing a game in the World Cup, and you are hosting an event in a pub, things may become a little more rowdy, the crowd may be excitable and they will present different challenges. As with any service industry, the more you know about your customer profile the better experience you can provide which also goes hand-in-hand with safety.
When you consider that your staff, whether customer services or security, are your feet on the ground, it is imperative they are trained to cope with an array of different challenges. There have been many staff injuries which have resulted in personal injury claims which basically revolved around a lack of training. If you attempt to place an individual in a scenario which may have various challenges, but one for which they have not been trained, this can be extremely dangerous – not only for your member of staff but also your customers.
There are many different aspects to staff training which include:
- Emergency procedures
It is vital that employees are trained to take the appropriate action in the event of an emergency. This could be anything from a fight to a medical episode, a fire to overcrowding. While health and safety is obviously one of the first subjects that new staff will be trained on, this is not just a one-off session. It is vital that you maintain records to show that your staff have been trained and updated on a regular basis. Regulations change, emergency procedures can evolve for different events and it is vital that all employees are aware of these.
- Clearing spillages and breakages
In the entertainment industry, especially those which revolve around pubs and nightclubs, there will inevitably be spillages and breakages during a lively event. As soon as members of staff become aware of these, they should be cleaned up as soon as possible. In the meantime, warning signs should be erected to avoid any potential injuries.
- Respecting staff
No matter what industry you are working in, members of staff are not paid to be abused either verbally or physically. As a consequence, it is vital that any venue owners/entertainment organisers have a clear procedure for handling abusive customers. This may involve an official warning from a member of security/management and then further action. However, with potentially serious incidents this can lead to automatic ejection.
- Crowd control
Even if a venue has been cleared as suitable for a particular event, entry and exit points clearly defined and security in place, staff on the ground will still have a role to play in crowd control.
Ensuring that customers are directed into the correct areas in a controlled and relaxed manner can avoid any potential crowding issues. It is very helpful to train all members of staff to spot a potential issue before it happens – if that makes sense? For example, if there are crowds starting to gather in a particular area. These may cause problems with those wishing to enter and exit the venue and need to be disbursed and moved on before the issues gets serious. This is a perfect example of proactive crowd management as a means of preventing potentially serious issues further down the line.
- Rest periods are vital
It is often easy to underestimate the importance of rest and recuperation during a potentially long shift at an entertainment event. Whether you are working behind the bar, organising the entertainment or involved in customer services, concentration and focus is vital. This is why the authorities brought in regulations regarding rest periods, not to be awkward, not to “waste money” but to ensure that members of staff are able to remain focused at all times.
Common Injuries At Entertainment Events/Social Gatherings
In reality, when you have a large and potentially boisterous crowd this can lead to accidents and injuries. While it will often depend on the type of event and the venue, some of the more common injuries include:-
- Cuts and lacerations
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Puncture wounds
- Crush injuries
This is just a small selection of the more common injuries which have resulted in personal injury compensation claims. While many of these injuries in isolation can be potentially life-threatening, the situation can often be exacerbated when involving large and to a certain degree uncontrollable/unpredictable crowds.
The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations Act 1981 requires employers to provide “adequate and appropriate equipment and facilities” for employees. The Health and Safety Executive also recommends that these facilities are extended to customers when assessing potential medical needs. In the event of an emergency even relatively simple medical equipment, and staff medical training, can help avert a potential life or death situation.
If you are hosting a relatively large entertainment event, such as a music concert, you may need to liaise with your local NHS/emergency services to clarify the proceeds in the event of accidents. Indeed, for many larger events where you might reasonably expect a number of medical emergencies simply due to the size of the crowd, it may be appropriate to have an ambulance on site. In these situations, there should also be a designated person(s) on site whom other members of staff can turn to in the event of a medical emergency. Time can literally be of the essence in these situations…..
Sometimes we forget that while professional event management companies make it look simple, there are many challenges where large potentially boisterous crowds are gathered and there is alcohol (and potentially illegal substances) available. Whether looking at risk assessments to staff training, medical procedures to emergency exit drills, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than many of us appreciate.
Staff and customer safety obviously comes first – there is a need to ensure you have taken the appropriate action to avoid accidents and injuries wherever possible. Even in the event of an injury partially caused due to excess alcohol this does not necessarily clear the host/event organiser of all potential liability. If negligence can be proven, even if shared with the victim and other third parties, this can often result in significant personal injury compensation. Training, training and more training…that is the answer.