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One rule for all

by Nicola Macdonald

Biba Lille-West, founder of Mobile Massage, says there shouldn’t be one rule for the BBC and another for exhibitors.

You may have seen the recent episode of The Apprentice on BBC1, the one filmed at the Bodypower show at the NEC.

The competitive task that week was to set up stall and sell a couple of products and services that the production team had seen around the show and deemed viable. One of these was offering short back massages and the contestants were then filmed having a laugh and a few minutes’ training to do it. Unsurprisingly, it proved to be the hottest sale, though a painful one by the public receiving it, not a professional and enjoyable 10-minute Mobile Massage, which my team were selling, unaware of their presence, a block or two away.

What is of interest perhaps to you in the events industry is a wobbly health and safety call here. None of these people performing the massage were qualified so would not therefore have had malpractice insurance. No-one appeared to be exercising any hygiene. None of them had any experience with interacting in such a personal capacity with the public. All of which require lengthy statements on risk assessments for anyone non-BBC.

Though deemed a successful service for events by Lord Sugar, there’s a good chance it also tarnished an image of basic professionalism that show specialists like Mobile Massage so carefully work at to maintain.

I am the owner of Mobile Massage and I can tell you this is most definitely NOT how this service operates. You are in the safest of hands thanks to many degrees of intense scrutiny. I have been providing massage at events for 11 years, most of which are at trade and consumer shows helping organisers turn odd space into lively feature areas for visitors. You may well come across my teams in green at at least 100 major industry events a year, mostly at the NEC, Olympia and ExCeL, but also in Berlin, Amsterdam, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and so on, together with summer festivals up and down the country, so we are really in on the industry and its needs.

We only get to provide Mobile Massage thanks to a lot of effort from so many levels of an event’s organisation to assess risk to the public. The organisers, the venue’s event management, the venue’s H&S team and the local authority all check things out. And the first step here is quite a lot of effort recruiting the therapists with the right qualifications, experience and social requirements to be trained in interacting with event visitors and event staff. The risk is very minimal from a 10-minute massage but as a therapist at events you have to excel what you are doing and have a string of credentials behind you.

It’s not that hard a process once you’ve got it together, but all of us in the layer cake of H&S compliance are endlessly submitting and checking my certificates and documents along a chain: extensive risk assessments, suitable and up-to-date training qualifications, individual professional indemnity insurance, individual public liability insurance, usually professional membership certificates, and obviously business public liability insurance and employer’s liability insurance like everyone else – and checking nothing has expired takes even longer. There are teams dedicated to ‘special treatments’ at local councils to pick over it all. All this is to say that I assure you there is nothing left to chance by the time the show opens. Within London there are stacks of further laws, regulations and fees at local councils, binding therapists and business owners to paying exorbitant annual amounts to do this sporadic work. It’s a barrier to recruitment. Only if all is in order can the Mobile Massage feature can go ahead.

The rules around the conduct of massage training, determination of which courses are valid, qualify for what kind of and what level of insurance and membership are thriving industries. There are specialist insurers, codes of practice, professional bodies, CPD courses you need to take. So your Mobile Massage team member will have really gone through the wringer before they can squeeze out any of your own stress.

On the stand we hand out disclaimer cards – minimising perceived risks even further. All this is the result of 11 years of speaking to, I reckon, almost every single visitor to an event, and to date there have been no problems because of all the checks made.

Thank you, then, H&S teams everywhere, and may we spend many more fruitful years at Dropbox together. Just, please, if we are doing all this, can we make sure there’s one rule for us all – or none at all…

The Apprentice boss missed a trick anyway: the best stuff to shift at Bodypower is the sugar-free snack bar.

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