As we look back at yet another successful Glastonbury, which seems to have hit more headlines this year than in the recent past, what better time to look at some concerts and personal injury claims. It is safe to say that the UK summer weather is difficult to predict at best and for many people mud larking is now a hobby. However, sun, rain or wind, who is liable for personal injury claims on concert premises?
Health And Safety Regulations
Before we take a look at the array of common injuries associated with summer concerts it is worth reminding ourselves of the legal obligations of all employers. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a legal obligation on employers to ensure the safe well-being of their employees. There is also a legal obligation to ensure the well-being of customers whether this is at a shop, factory or music festival. Some of the more common facilities employers are legally obliged to provide at an outside concert includes:-
- Changing rooms
- Clean place to eat/drink
- Health and safety policies
- Training policies/procedures
- Emergency procedures
While not always applicable, there is also a need to protect staff from violence and aggression which can often occur where alcohol and music are involved. This then brings us onto the subject of security and the fact that they have to act within the law when looking to restrain aggressors and protect innocent parties.
There is also a legal obligation to carry out risk assessments with regards to any business or non-business activities. Outdoor music concerts (and indeed indoor music concerts) carry a whole array of potential dangers with risk assessments taking in the following:-
- Secure well-managed environment
- Safe access and exit routes
- Safe and secure stage and standing facilities
- All machinery and equipment must be checked
- Matching experienced staff with appropriate positions
- Documented emergency procedures
- Medical attention should be available on site
These are just a selection of the specific risk assessments which are applicable not only to outdoor but also indoor concerts. This type of assessment is vital when looking to obtain a health and safety licence from the local authorities to allow the concert to go ahead. If there is the slightest concern regarding risk to performers, employees or customers, these would need to be rectified. If these issues were not resolved prior to the day of the event there is every chance that a health and safety licence would not be forthcoming and the event would not proceed.
The reason why local authority licensing departments tend to err on the side of caution is simple. In the event that a licence was issued for a substandard concert/location and there were injuries it is possible that the local authority may be held partially liable. As a consequence, all parties know where they stand; their legal obligations and local authorities do tend to give sufficient time to rectify any issues before refusing a licence.
Common Types Of Injuries At Concerts
It is not difficult to guess the more common types of concert injuries and their cause. However, some of the more common injuries listed below might surprise you.
- Bruising, cuts and grazes
- Fractured/broken bones
- Various degrees of food poisoning
- Hearing issues
- Crush injuries
- Violent attacks
- Electrocution from faulty equipment
We will now take a look at the more common reasons for the above injuries and why those holding the event may be found liable.
Slips, Trips And Falls
As we touched on above, for many people the art of mud larking is a popular hobby when it comes to summer concerts in the UK. There is a common misconception that this is “part of the experience” when in reality if there is potential danger to life (or an unsafe environment) this can lead to injuries and a slip trip and fall claim. Part of this liability can be mitigated by displaying the relevant warning signs but if the venue itself was inappropriate then the signs would have limited impact in the courts.
While there is no doubt that food services at concerts today have greatly improved over the years, there are still some common issues. These might include:-
- Undercooked food
- Incorrectly stored food
- Dirty cooking area
- Unclean cooking practices
- Personal hygiene issues for those handling food
- Cross contamination of raw foods
- Unclean preparation area
Again, this is just a selection of some of the more common reasons for food poisoning at outdoor concerts. In reality there are no issues listed above which cannot be addressed by simply abiding by health and safety regulations and ensuring high levels of personal hygiene. The type of food poisoning received could be something as simple as an upset stomach to extreme life-threatening illness.
While it the safe to say that loud music and the “experience” is all part of a good concert, there are lines drawn when it comes to hearing issues. The vast majority of concertgoers will generally only encounter short term mild hearing issues. However, if for some reason your hearing issues are prolonged it would be sensible to visit your local doctor for advice.
Perhaps the main recipients of hearing impairment are security personnel who are often located next to loudspeakers for a prolonged period of time. If the music is loud, and the exposure is prolonged, there could well be long-term hearing issues. In these situations it is likely that the employer would be challenged about their role and inability to provide the appropriate safety equipment – such as earplugs. Loss of hearing can have a major impact on long-term standards of living and may therefore attract significant compensation if liability is proven.
It is fair to say that crowd management is perhaps the most important element of a large music festival. When you bear in mind the tens of thousands of people who visit Glastonbury music festival each year, where do you start with crowd management?
Thankfully, there are extremely strict (and detailed) guidelines with regards to crowd management which are provided by the Health and Safety Executive. The flow of traffic and people, access in the event of an accident/injury and doing everything possible to reduce the potential for panic and crushing are some of the main elements of crowd management. It is easy to assume everything is “easy” because when done correctly that is the way crowd management should look. However, there is also a need to plan for the unexpected because inexperienced crowd management personnel and a lack of planning could result in serious injuries and potential personal injury claims.
You will no doubt have come across situations where temporary structures have been put in place for example with large sporting events and summer concerts. While it may look as simple as building the structure, there is important work which goes on behind the scenes. This involves stress testing the structure to ensure it can withstand wind and other extreme weather conditions as well as the combined boisterous movement of large crowds. The fact that you rarely see issues with temporary structures, such as viewing stands, shows how robust and demanding these regulations are.
It is also important to ensure that electrical equipment is in good working order and passes the appropriate tests. When you consider outdoor concerts there are numerous pieces of electronic equipment not only on the stage but surrounding the crowd. While you would hope that the UK summer would be hot and dry this is not always the case. As we know, electrical equipment and water just do not mix and can result in serious injuries if trip switches and safety mechanisms are not in place – and in good working order.
Many people in the UK have a passion for music which can on occasion, together with alcohol, lead to “over-excitement”. Where you have significant crowds potentially under the influence of alcohol, and maybe even other substances, it can be a recipe for disaster if not controlled and managed. As a consequence, security at outside concerts is extremely important as not only will they control the crowds but they will also carry out checks as the crowds arrive.
It is unfortunate but nowadays more and more people seem at ease carrying an array of weapons such as knives. While any attack as a consequence of weapons smuggled into an event, or perhaps somebody fighting under the influence of alcohol, is the responsibility of the individuals involved, a lack of security and search procedures could put the events management company in the frame. Where security procedures and perhaps staff experience has been lacking we have seen event organisers sued for large amounts of money as a consequence of injuries received.
Who Is Liable For An Injury At A Concert?
There are various situations which do emerge from time to time which may well result in injuries at events such as open-air concerts. If an events management company can demonstrate they took all reasonable precautions to ensure the safe well-being of participants and staff, they may be able to mitigate any potential liability – or a claim could even be dismissed. There are situations where crowds are larger than expected, security is lacking and emergency procedures are inadequate which can lead to serious crowd surges and injuries – a loss of control.
At this point it is worth noting that third parties appointed by an events management company are still the responsibility of the event organiser. In the event of injuries there may well be a ruling of shared negligence but at the end of the day the buck stops with the events management company.