Event Safety – Not a small matter.

This is a reprint of an article I wrote forhttp://www.globalsafetypartnership.com

We in Australia have been rather shocked about the number of incidents involving stages falling down, and the number of people that have died or been injured.  Have we been lucky so far with the fact that we have had no major incidents that have resulted in the loss of life?  But is it luck or do we have better standards of work practices in this country?

So what is happening in Australia? First of all there is fragmented OHS regulations across the country with each state having their own regulations. These may have been similar to each other, but the differences could be extremely frustrating for productions that toured the country. The federal government proposed a national harmonized set of regulations; unfortunately not all states are interested in applying them.

Safety in recent years has become a major topic at trade shows and on various blogs and in the trade magazines here in Australia. Some have begun discussions about improving what we already do. There was a document written in 2001 called “Safety Guidelines for The Entertainment Industry” ,which is available on the Live Performance Australia website, along with a “Employer Guide to Occupational Health and Safety” . These have often been referred to by those in the industry. These documents are what are likely to be updated to reflect changes in the industry. There also has been discussion on the industry being involved in writing policies etc to go alongside the government regulations. At the moment there is not enough information that is specific to the entertainment industry. We need to interpret other standards and see how they relate to our industry and then apply them, not often an easy task.

We are becoming more aware of the risks associated with the event industry, whether they are outdoors or indoors. We are getting into the habit of doing risk assessments, getting structures etc. signed off on. I will admit we still have some old school guys out there still doing it the old way and it will take a while. Some of these guys do not like change as they have done the same task the same way for years. They just have not noticed that the industry has changed around them.

But we as a country must not work in isolation; we should be open dialogue with other countries and exchange ideas. These days a lot of major shows are touring internationally and therefore they are going to need to comply with safety standards in many countries, so why not work together and develop international standards. I know it is a pipe dream but there is nothing wrong with aiming for it.

Now a lot of the discussions around the place have been about major large set ups, but what about the smaller events. Australia is not alone in the number of small events that happen each week around the country. This is also should be a real concern to us all; these events are often set up by volunteers or people with a lower skill set. Often the equipment is hired from a local company. Sometimes these event use structures in a way that they were not intended to be used. Often marquees have lighting bars hung from them and the like. I am not saying that these structures are not able to cope with this load, but often they are not designed for this. I also wonder with recent events if we have reached the limit in terms of size for temporary structures, are they getting to complex that we need a super computer to work out if it will work and be safe. So how do you predict how it is going to behave?

So where would I like it to go? I would like to see us become more serious about safety. I want the industry to be able to self-regulate and also be involved in developing government policies. I want all of us to have access to training and information to help us be safe. But most of all I want us to all go home alive.

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