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The power of the people

by Paul Brady

Europa Showfreight operations manager Paul Brady calls for industry-wide standards on looking after logistics staff.

Like everything else, the world of exhibitions is continuously evolving. Every month we learn that a venue is expanding or an organiser is announcing a new partnership. 

Regulations are constantly changing and new ground-breaking improvements are being introduced; the emergence of low emission vehicles, shipment track and trace, ANPR, hybrid forklift trucks, electronic signature capture, completely paperless operations and invoicing – to name but a few. 

We’re excited to introduce all of these more technologically advanced and sustainable ways of working, but we must not forget the backbone of the event itself – the people who bring it all together. The forklift drivers, stand contractors, floor walkers, carpet fitters and catering teams are all fundamental components to the success of this industry.

Aside from all of these recent improvements, it’s the people that determine the success of an event. They need to be valued and protected from the numerous health and safety hazards and risks that any event brings.

Even with the developments in technology and improved systems, a busy exhibition hall during build-up and break-down is still an extremely dangerous environment to work in. 

An average build-up setting includes articulated lorries moving around the perimeter of halls, after-dark unloading/reloading, electric pallet trucks manoeuvring in between half-built stands and even heavy lifting machinery and power tools being used alongside pedestrians. 

All of this, added to the backdrop of frantic exhibitors making last minute changes to their products and stand displays, naturally creates a high-risk environment.

Although this stereotypical scene is somewhat unavoidable, it becomes crucial in these situations that as industry professionals, we endeavour to control the risk we are presented with to the best of our ability. At Europa Showfreight we see it as our duty to provide the relevant health and safety information, instruction and training for all staff.

We pride ourselves on performing rigorous risk assessments whether it is site-based dynamic assessments or a briefing with our client before the show to understand their needs and mitigate risks. 

We equip our site teams with the correct task-based training including guidance of safe systems and processes, suitable and sufficient PPE and regular in depth ‘tool-box talks’. 

Alongside the visible risks, we naturally move onto the increasingly talked about issue of mental health and well-being. The very nature of our industry means staff can often be placed into high pressured, fast-paced environments with strict deadlines and standards.

Of course, some work-related pressure is normal and many become motivated in this environment but not everybody has the same ‘tipping point’. Therefore, as employers I think we have a certain responsibility to empower our site managers with the relevant health and wellbeing knowledge, as well as provide confidential support for all staff. 

At the risk of stating the obvious, all of these measures to protect our people must be considered standard practice for all businesses, particularly in our case, those working on site at an exhibition centre. In order to ‘look after our own’, we must set our own industry standards – working smarter and more professionally than ever before to not just deliver successful events time and time again but to ultimately create a safe working environment for all involved. 

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