Planning for incidents at your event

Health and safety shouldn’t weigh you down with loads of additional work and paper trails. It’s about realistically considering what could go wrong, the effects if it did happen and what you can do to stop it from happening. The idea is to focus on real risks, without panicking about every possible eventuality. You do that with a risk assessment.

How to identify risks and hazards

Identifying hazards allows you to eliminate or control them. The law doesn’t expect you to remove all risks or account for unforeseen circumstances, but you must protect people by identifying and bringing about the necessary measures to control any risk.

A risk or hazard is simply anything that could cause harm. To determine what controls you need to put in place to manage them safely and to meet the essentials of any risk assessment, there are five key stages:


Identify the hazards. Walk around the venue to see what could cause harm (it’s useful to do this with someone who knows the location well). You could use a scale – for example, 1-5, with 1 being an insignificant risk and 5 a severe one – to rank any risks. It’ll help you prioritise what actions you need to take. Also, get the details of specific hazards from contractors too. They might have their own risk assessments they use.

Decide who might be harmed and how. Different groups of people will be involved with your event. Whether that’s workers, suppliers or different members of the public, different risks may be involved in the activities they’re likely to undertake during the set-up of the event, the event itself and the breakdown.


Evaluate the risks. You need to take reasonable steps to eliminate or control the risk. Control measures will vary depending on the risk, but could include things like barriers or personal protective equipment.


Record your findings. Record the actions you’re going to take, and how you’re prioritising them. This includes clear responsibilities for people involved.


Review your risk assessment. This might happen if you’re running an annual event, and need to change or update the risk assessment.

Source: Cancer Research UK

One of the most important outcomes of a risk assessment is to draft a site plan. It should indicate where key structures will be, as well as all facilities, entrances and exits, as well as any fencing lines you plan to put in. The site plan should be given to all staff, suppliers and contractors so everyone knows where they should be going. It’s no good having one person storing all this information.

Example Hazards

Trip or equipment hazards

Is there anything in the way, such as cables, which could cause people to fall over? You need to take extra care with electrical equipment too, especially if there’s a risk it could get wet or be in the way of general traffic.

Crowd management hazards

Think about whether overcrowding could happen and what you’d do if someone acted aggressively. There could be hazards if people are leaving or arriving at the same time, or if there are roads nearby.

Crew hazards

Lifting and carrying injuries can be common amongst people working and moving equipment. How will you provide the right guidelines so people can stay safe?

First aid hazards

Is it possible people – attendees or staff – could be hurt during the activities at your event? Think about what injuries could be likely, and what plans you’d have in place if someone got hurt.

Weather hazards

Think about the surfaces and structures at your event, and whether wind or rain could make them dangerous.

Fire hazards

You’ll need to control where people can smoke, as well as check the venue provides enough fire extinguishers and has evacuation.

Catering hazards

Risks in the kitchen could be to do with equipment or utensils, as well as suitable storage of food to make sure it keeps.

Child protection hazards

You need to check whether staff need to be DBS checked.

Source: Eventbrite

Do I need insurance for my event?

Public liability insurance provides cover for organisers of an event. It’s designed to protect you financially if you were held to blame for injuries, accidents or damage which occurred during any stage of your event. You can get cover for millions of pounds, but how much protection you need will vary based on the type of event and what activities you’re planning.

If you’re renting a venue, you may be covered by their existing insurance. Similarly, when you work with a contractor or hire equipment, it’s worth checking their insurance too. You want to be sure it’ll be in force for your event. If you’re working with the local council or renting land, you might be required to have public liability insurance as part of the agreement.

Whether you decide you need insurance or are covered by existing policies, always double-check the small print for any exclusions. Think about the activities of your event and if they are all covered by the insurance provider.

Roles and responsibilities in emergency plans

People work best when they know what they’re responsible for, and nowhere is this more important than if an emergency happens. You’ve got to communicate an emergency plan with your team, and practice if appropriate.

According to the HSE, you can test your plans by doing a tabletop exercise with your team. Try and work through as many scenarios as possible and establish how effective your planned response would be at ensuring the safety of everyone.

You can work with venue management on this, as well as emergency services (especially if you’re hosting an event that isn’t in a fixed venue). You should make decisions on, and record details of, the following:

If you’ve got an established emergency plan, with roles and responsibilities defined as above, then it’s a lot easier to act quickly and efficiency, but there’s also other concerns you’ll have to deal with after the fact:

Following up with affected parties.
If someone is affected by the emergency, make sure that’s not the last they hear from you.

Communicating what happened.
People might have seen or heard parts of what went on – but they won’t know the full story. Think about how you will manage what you tell people.

Learning from any mistakes.
Think about whether the incident could have been prevented and if there’s anything you can do better next time.