Public property

Arjun Aiyar looks at the legal implications facing organisations staging major events for the public.
Analysis, Content management
Event organisers bear a legal responsibility to ensuring the safety of their staff and guests at live events.
Event organisers bear a legal responsibility to ensuring the safety of their staff and guests at live events.


Following on from last month's special health and safety investigation, Arjun Aiyar from The Rights Lawyers takes a look at the legal implications facing organisations staging major events for the public.

As those in the business will know, event management is a relatively labour intensive exercise. Whether it's engaging a vendor to set up an exhibition stall, recruiting ushers to show people to their seats at a theatre performance or securing the services of a star to perform at an event, event management is all about bringing people together to produce something that is designed to inform or entertain.

In addition to managing people employed or hired in for an event, the event organiser is also responsible for ensuring the safety of the general public attending that particular event.

In essence, the primary stakeholders involved in staging an event include: the sponsor (or client), the event organiser, the vendors (performer, production crew, etc) and the public.

Each of these parties primarily need to be taken care of by the event organiser and a lack of care shown towards any of them, from a health and safety viewpoint, potentially carries significant legal and financial risk for the event organiser.

As with most creative enterprises, an event is only successful if the various stakeholders buy into a particular concept. In legal terms, this is achieved on the basis whereby the event organiser promises the sponsor that he can produce an event which will appeal to the public and on being funded by such a sponsor, the event organiser promises the vendors that he will pay them to produce the event.

An event organiser should not only take into consideration the financial and practical issues associated with putting on a show but also the health and safety aspects and the risks carried with it.

Many inexperienced event organisers working with artists of note for the first time will baulk at the voluminous size of technical rider that their production crew and management insist be delivered.

It's interesting to note that in most cases, the vast majority of the terms and conditions laid out by stars prior to performing at a particular venue relate directly to health and safety issues.

Usually in such cases, event organisers are forced to adopt health and safety standards which are fairly onerous.

Our advice is that not only should they abide by the requests of a touring artist's production crew, they should adopt an all-encompassing safety regime which they can implement for future events based on the demands received from these performers.

It should be borne in mind that most successful artists perform on a fairly regular basis and their demands relating to health and safety are derived from years of experience and understanding of what can potentially go wrong during a show.

Planning for unforeseen happenings is key to ensuring the success of an event. This planning process begins with having a well thought out and detailed budget which takes into account contingencies on account of health and safety considerations.

It would be advisable to always have a certain margin on line items in any budget to cover for health and safety considerations (for example, bad weather may necessitate the use of more robust equipment) in addition to having a separate line item to cover health and safety requirements such as having enough fire fighting equipment or protective gear for the set up and tear down crews.

Equipment suppliers and rental companies must bear the burden of responsibility of ensuring their equipment meets strict OHS guidelines.

Event organisers should ensure that the vendor agreement includes clear warranties from the vendor ensuring compliance. Similarly, in most cases, the health and safety obligation can be delegated to the actual party providing paid services at a given event.

Apart from when dealing with sponsors or star performers, such obligations normally fall to the event organiser due to the relative bargaining position of the concerned parties.

As far as employees are concerned, they should have, in any case, comprehensive insurance cover which will mitigate most of the risks associated with their participation in an event.

However, we do advise that event organisers should review such insurance policies to ensure that they address potential OHS issues that may arise during a particular event.

Longer-term measures may require mandatory training for personnel to further protect the company and strengthen the individuals' competence in the health and safety aspects of an event.

For example, it's all very well for the event organiser to take all the preliminary precautions possible but if the lights have exposed wires or are sitting in water, they will still be held liable if something goes wrong even if they were not directly involved during the set-up process.

The other critical area that needs to be addressed by an event organiser is ensuring the chosen venue is equipped with mandatory and up-to-date health and safety technologies.

Typically, most venue organisers will require their own agreements which will also require the event to meet certain health and safety standards.

While agreeing to any such venue agreement the event organiser needs to ensure that the venue is suitably equipped for the purpose of a particular event, i.e. that it can handle the expected number of guests and he also needs to ensure that the terms set out by the venue do not conflict with requirements set out in the technical rider of the performer.

If there is such a conflict between the terms, the venue will generally agree to comply with the health and safety requirements of the star's technical rider since their performance will surely offer added kudos to the venue in question.

Insurance can help cover losses incurred at events where health and safety issues arise, but the more efficient and cost-effective approach is to ensure strict adherence to OHS guidelines before, during and after an event to minimise risk.

Calling all riggers!

Staging equipment manufacturer Prolyte has confirmed it will hold a five-day rigging training course in Dubai in June.

The training programme, which will run from June 29 to July 3 at a venue to be confirmed, will focus specifically on promoting safe working practices and is designed for technicians and project managers working in the rigging industry.

The course will be overseen by Rinus Bakker, managing director of Rhino Rigs Netherlands. Bakker is a respected industry veteran who has been involved in developing a number of rigging training courses during a career spanning twenty years.

The course programme will cover the basic theoretical rigging skills, including risk assessment, rigging basics, calculations, PPE (personal protective equipment), hoist technology and controllers, as well as a hands-on workshop and truss technology.

For more information, email Inge Heuker at

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