Paul Edwards, operations director at deckle edge, examines the minefield that is health and safety.
I doubt you’ll ever meet an event planner who, when asked why they got into it, will respond with: ‘my love of health and safety’.
Nor will they tell you that paperwork and red tape is what excites them when planning an event. But, as we all know, health and safety is a large and crucial part of an event planner’s job, and one that can cause major headaches if it not done properly.
Of course, it’s well known that the UK can perhaps be a bit overzealous with its evolving and increasing rules and regulations. But, in the event world, we can all agree it’s a necessary component to enjoy a successful event.
With the ever-changing rules and regulations, how does a busy event planner ensure that they’re not neglecting vital parts of the planning process? Well, like everything in our world, planning and research is key to making sure things go smoothly.
One key area for health and safety due diligence is exhibition stands. UK exhibitions attract more than 13m visitors annually, so venues need to ensure that public safety is a priority. There are huge exhibition halls in the UK, from ExCeL to the NEC, and the paperwork can seem very overwhelming for those unfamiliar with it.
So, how do you go about tackling the health and safety regulations at an exhibition?
Firstly, it’s very important that you read the rules and regulations for each individual show, as they do differ and mistakes are made when planners assume that previous shows they attended are the same.
One good aspect is that, in general, the UK exhibition venues tend to have similar requirements, with only slight differences between them. However, you still need to read through everything to ensure you’re compliant. If you’re planning an event abroad these can differ vastly, so allow for extra time and planning.
Once you have read the rules and regulations then comes the tricky bit; time to fill out the forms. Someone with experience can expect to spend an hour or two filling out the lengthy forms, but for those who don’t exhibit regularly it can take much longer. The forms can be daunting, and require a lot of specific detail.
It’s easy to make mistakes if you aren’t familiar with the forms by missing or providing incorrect information so it may be worthwhile engaging with an agency that has experience in order to save time and money.
For some shows structural calculations will be required if a stand is over a certain height. This has to be done by an outside engineer who will charge between £350 and £650 on average. Again, reading each individual show’s requirements will help you decipher what is needed.
There are strict deadlines on when forms need to be completed and returned to the venue and the organisers are often unimpressed if these are late, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to complete it.
If you’re overwhelmed, seek help from an experienced partner who can take the headache out of the planning for you.
Once you have submitted the forms you have to wait to hear back from the organisers; they will tell you if there are any issues with your submission ahead of the show. If there are any areas that need clarifying or sorting you will need to be vigilant with getting this done as soon as possible.
During the stand build it is crucial to ensure that the health and safety regulations are being met and, once complete, that a thorough check of all the aspects is conducted.
During the show, ensuring that the on-going risks are averted will also need consideration. For example, if you have two storeys then you need to make sure capacity limits aren’t exceeded.
It sounds a lot, but ensuring that health and safety is carried out properly saves you time and money in the long run.
While it may seem daunting initially, seeking help to guide you through the process will give you confidence when planning future shows. Luckily, some of us find nothing more satisfying that sending off that completed form!