Matt Hodges-Long 16/11/2018
“Dad, there’s been a big slide accident at the Woking fireworks, the air ambulance is coming and they are evacuating”
This had caught my youngest son’s attention on Snapchat. He goes to school in Woking and a large group of his friends were at the annual Woking fireworks event.
What he didn’t know was that his older brother was there with his friends.
Thankfully our son picked up his mobile on the 3rd ring. In typical teenager fashion he couldn’t understand why we were concerned about him. “It was a kids inflatable slide and we were nowhere near it” was his response.
From a quick look at Twitter and Google, I could see reports of multiple (child) casualties.
Woking fireworks: Eight children hurt in fall from inflatable slide
Thankfully better news was released the following morning by Surrey Police
The “HSE will now investigate”
Inevitable and necessary but these are the words event organisers never want to hear.
A group of well intentioned volunteers get together to organise an event to raise money for charity. In this case it was Woking & District Rotary Club who then ended up in a media frenzy and regulatory investigation.
So what will the HSE be looking for?
Organisers of an event are responsible for safety and have a duty of care to visitors. The HSE website gives specific guidance on event safety. So, aside from inspecting the specific scene of the incident, the overall organisation of the event will also be assessed.
The HSE investigation will be stressful for the organisers. Information gathered may become evidence, so it is a formal process and will be thorough.
Accidents do happen and the job of the HSE is to investigate whether Health & Safety Law was broken, and if it was, to apply appropriate sanctions.
Evidence, evidence, evidence
Investigators will be looking for evidence (usually documents) to prove that proper process was followed.
“Have you risk assessed your event and prepared a safety plan?”
Where is it, when was it written, was the author competent, was it suitable, where is the evidence?
“Have you gathered and assessed relevant information to help you determine whether you have selected suitable and competent contractors?”
What was the oversight process, was the process followed, where is the evidence?
Unfortunately, it is very easy to miss key steps and collation of evidence in the run up to a major event. This is often made worse by the organisers being a group of volunteers. They will lack a management system to drive workflow and warn of missing items.
The majority of ‘inadvertent omissions’ go unnoticed since incidents that prompt HSE investigations are rare. However, the Woking Fireworks incident is a clear example that accidents do happen. Hindsight will be applied to establish all of the facts and apportion blame.
Practical steps to follow for a safe and secure charity event
Carnivals, fireworks, concerts and other events are the lifeblood of local communities and raise huge amounts for charity. The last thing we want is for volunteer organisers to be ‘scared off’ from hosting these events due to Health & Safety concerns.
So what can be done?
- Take advice – appoint an event Health & Safety specialist or at the very minimum follow the HSE guidance
- Insurance – make sure you speak to a specialist insurance broker, get the best cover you can afford and don’t be afraid to ask the insurer for assistance
- Be organised – make a checklist of documents and review progress against the list regularly
- Be formal – ask for and collect relevant information in writing. You may need to rely on this evidence later
- Share – provide copies of your plans to authorities and ask for their feedback and suggestions
- Simulate – run through some key ‘risk’ scenarios with the event team, record the findings and update the plans
- Review – formally review the event afterwards and update plans as necessary in anticipation of the next event
- Version control – make sure you keep copies of previous document versions, this will demonstrate continuous improvement and how you arrived at your current version
TrackMyRisks for charity events
As the leading Risk & Compliance document control platform in the UK, we already support a number of charities to simplify and evidence their risk control programs.
Robust document control is, in our view, essential for any large charity event, to protect the interests of the organisers.
We feel so passionately about the good work of charity volunteers and the lack of support they receive that we would like to offer an initial 100 TrackMyRisks accounts to the organisers of charity events.
TrackMyRisks users benefit from version control, secure permissions, document expiry reminders, user activity tracking and 24/7 access from any device.
TrackMyRisks is simple to set up (takes about 5 minutes) with full online support. If you are involved in organising a local community event, contact us to claim your Free TrackMyRisks account. Just contact us and we will set up your account within 24 hours.