Selecting and Working With a Competent Event Safety Consultant

Our first question has to be why do we need an event health and safety advisor? There are often several good reasons, first, there is the  legal reason as Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires all businesses to appoint competent safety advisors, the actual wording or the regulation states:

“Every employer shall, subject to paragraphs  (6) and (7), appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions”.

In simple terms, this means employers have to appoint competent persons (safety advisors or consultants) to help them discharge their legal health and safety duties and comply with the law and these competent persons must be given the time and information they need to enable them to do the job properly.

A health and safety advisor, consultant or manager is unlikely to be a qualified and competent Crowd Safety Manager, and an event with over 5000 people will require a Crowd Manager in addition to a safety advisor, they are very different roles and crowd management is very different specialist role different from security. Your safety advisor may be a  qualified Crowd Manager but the two roles still require two separate people, one person can’t do both jobs properly no matter what they may say and an NVQ in Spectator Safety is definitely not a Crowd Management or a health and safety qualification!, it’s a qualification for what is called a “Safety Officer” at football grounds (as set out under the Safety at Sports Grounds Act) .

There are other good reasons;

  • It may be that you have had a visit from the enforcement authorities (Local Authority or Health and Safety Executive) and are in need of help and advice as they may have found possible breaches to Regulations and they are threatening action unless you take action to put things right.
  • Or you may be applying for a Licence under the Licensing Act 2003 to hold an event and need help and advice with Licensing and Health and Safety aspects.
  • Perhaps the Local Authority may be making it a condition under the terms of your License for the event or they may just be applying pressure.
  • Or you just want to cover your self and do it right.

Working with a safety consultant can give business owners, managers and stakeholders peace of mind that the aims of their safety policies have been prepared, communicated and audited competently by someone independent of their business objectives and those of the creative and production processes.

It may be any one of these items or a combination of two or more items.

Either way, Safety Advisors, Managers or Consultants are available to help you as the  law expects, you must manage health and safety and have auditable safety management systems in place in the same way you manage the financial aspects of your business or event, your safety adviser has a similar role in safety management as your account does in the financial running of your business or event but your responsibilities for Health and Safety cannot be passed to your safety consultant, manager or adviser; they are simply advisors with no further responsibilities, but which advisor  is best for you?

The world and his wife are now claiming to be event safety advisors, managers and consultants, many are simply not competent to do the job yet are still out there trading. Like any contractor you engage, your advisor, manager or consultant must be competent, they must have adequate knowledge, training and experience to complete the work involved and you need to assess them properly prior to their appointment and not select them by price alone. Has your candidate previously done similar work at the same level and can they prove it?  Most of the good event safety consultants/advisors come originally from the events industry, they are often "jeans and T-shirt" types and not "suits".

There is a lot of confusion about levels of competence, you can look at a CV and obtain references and testimonials to show experience and knowledge and you will certainly need somebody who has loads (several years worth) of experience in the relevant sectors of the event industry as you require but what about training? Well, qualifications, whilst not mentioned in the HSE definition of competency, are commonly and rightly used to demonstrate levels of training and competence and often you may hear the term NEBOSH, or this or that person has got their NEBOSH. This is a totally incorrect use of this term as NEBOSH stands for National Examination Board of Occupational Safety and Health and they produce several different training courses and qualifications, not one.

A NEBOSH National General Certificate is, in reality, an essential minimum level of qualification for any health and safety job. Many people then realise that they, their employers and savvy clients demand a greater level of knowledge. The NEBOSH Diploma is the required level of qualification for most health management roles but the NEBOSH route is just one way of obtaining a required level of qualification a manager, advisor or consultant will require, they other approved equivalents to the NEBOSH route are:  

  • A National and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (NVQ/SVQ) Level 3, Health and Safety at Work is equivalent to a NEBOSH General Certificate. This is the same as an A Level.
  • The NEBOSH Diploma is equivalent to an SCQF Level 10 and that’s comparable to an NQF/QCF Level 6 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or Honours Degree standard.

There are two Institutes for Health and Safety Practitioners in the UK, they are:

The institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and;

The International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM).

One may join IOSH at Technician (Tech IOSH) or  Associate level or IIRSM at Associate (AIIRSM) level with a NEBOSH General Certificate.

A NEBOSH Diploma is required to join IOSH at Graduate level (Grad IOSH) or IIRSM as a full member (MIIRSM).

Graduate Members of IOSH my progress to Chartered or Fellow Members (CMIOSH or CFIOSH) and Full Members IIRSM may progress to Fellow Members of IIRSM (FIIRSM).

IOSH and IIRSM members are required to maintain a CPD record (Continued Professional Development) to maintain their professional status.

So a NEBOSH General Certificate (or equivalent) is suitable for simple basic work with no high risks such as a simple and safe corporate conference, exhibitions or trade shows and NEBOSH Diploma (or equivalent) for larger events with higher risks (rigging, work at height, plant etc) such as festivals, touring productions etc).

Be wary when using large consultancies, they may send a different consultant to each meeting they hold with you so you have to explain everything starting from scratch again and again or you may get an extremely and qualified consultant at one meeting and the office junior next, you need continuity of staff and competence. 

Next check if they carry at least £1 million of Professional Indemnity Insurance (check their Insurance Certificate, is it in date?)

It is important to remember that any Health and Safety Advisor, Manager or Consultant should have no other role in the event outside of their health and safety role, all to often we have seen event organisers, production and site manager also taking on health and safety roles, this is an obvious conflict of interests and must be avoided at all costs. As well as being “best practice”, this may also be a condition of any Licence granted by the Local Authority under the Licensing Act 2003 to hold the event. It is such major yet such a very common mistake to appoint or hire a person (such as a production or event manager) who already has a role to play in the event as a safety advisor as a secondary role. It is not a secondary role. If they have another role then there will be conflicts of interest, they will not be independent, there may be severe clashes between the two jobs and it really restricts and devalues the safety advisor. Safety is not a bolt on extra! 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), our Government regulator and enforcement body for health and safety, recommend selecting an advisor from the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OHSCR), this is run by the HSE and various institutes and trade organisations and only consultants who are Chartered or Fellow Members of IOSH or IIRSM can become members. Its a good idea but the scheme is unpublicised and not promoted at all so nobody knows of it. The membership criteria and insurance for each consultant are checked on by the OSHCR but no checks are made on their special areas of interest such as event industry knowledge, anyone can claim to be an expert on anything and nobody checks yet each consultant has to pay an annual fee to be listed. It is generally considered, by the industry that the OSHCR is not fit for purpose and should be avoided at all cost. The OSHCR is in need of major changes before it can be successfully and safely used. 

Consultants and advisors give advice on how to meet your minimum legal requirements, they work in the same way as an accountant advises on tax and finances or a solicitor advises on legal issues. do with real health and safety). They are advisers and consultants who work with you to try to solve safety problems and to make sure the job goes ahead smoothly and safely and that safety is proportionate and pragmatic yet does not distract from the artistic content and aspects.

To be really effective, safety advisors need to be involved as a cornerstone of your event or tour at an early stage of your management planning, they need to become embedded as part of the core team, to advise on things like site suitability, planning, assessing contractor health, and safety competence, they must not be a bolt-on extra towards the end of the planning stage. 

Start of by making a bullet point list of your requirements, a list of “wants”, it’s a starting point to give your consultant or advisor some idea of your requirements and details of the project, but remember, your consultant or advisor is the specialist, be honest with him, that is why you have engaged him, he knows best and the list you have made is a list of "wants", your actual “needs” are probably a lot different from your “wants” and your consultant or adviser should advise you accordingly.

If you are starting from scratch you may not be sure of what you need, don’t pretend to know if you don’t and don’t be dogmatic about your “wants”, explain, your business, your event  or where you think you currently stand and letting you consultant or adviser do his job and advise you, consider what you may need. This could maybe help with your Licence application, policies, risk assessments and safety systems of work, event safety management plans and contingency plans, contractor assessments, establishing an event safety file and other documentation. This is a huge volume of work and your safety advisor will use some templates to reduce time and cost but they will be tailored to your business or event.

A decent consultant will not advise you to have anything you don’t need just to gain extra work, his role is to first get the basic legal minimum requirements in place, that is often a major job in its self, going beyond legal minimum requirements is a good plan but initially it’s the basics, one step at a time.

Your consultant or advisor, can produce a lot of the required documentation for you and help and advise you on how to implement the required management systems and advise on training needs (as determined by the results of risk assessments)  they can provide some of that training but they can't do it all, that is down to you to arrange with advice from your consultant. Most of the risk assessments produced by your consultant will need to be completed by you or your staff when they arrive on site, a decent consultant will just not provide a set of generic documents as every site and job is different, they are working documents, they must be used by the staff doing the tasks or jobs and are not to be filed away until somebody asks for them.

For hire and production companies a decent consultant will look at your whole business (office, workshop, warehouse and yard) not just your onsite activities, health and safety has to come from "the top down".  

For events, your safety advisor usually has a lot of work to do, make sure you allow him enough time, his schedule may require him to start work way before you start on the project, a lot of documentation has to be produced and your consultant will need a lot of information from you and will almost certainly need to talk to members of your staff and contractors to involve them in the process and ensure they fully understand their roles and responsibilities, this will vary depending on their role or job function. Your consultant will help establish the required safety culture within your operation as opposed to a risk-taking culture.

Make sure you promptly provide the information your consultant requires to carry out their duties. One of his normal duties is to assess the health and safety competencies of your contractors before they are appointed, a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) is used for this purpose and be prepared to make changes to your list; the law requires you to appoint "competent" contractors who can demonstrate their compliance with health and safety law!

For established events you adviser may suggest some new changes, these are for your benefit and the benefit of the event, don’t take the attitude or view that everything was fine in the past so it must be fine now, things change, a different site or venue, different conditions and different personnel, they all make a difference, not only do things change but you should not stand still, things can and should be improved, try and go beyond the legal minimum. 

Consultants and advisors are not enforcement officers (that is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive and Local Authorities). They are not “finger-wagging safety policemen”, we don’t spy on workers or try to find fault. We don’t make health and safety laws and regulations – that is down to Government. They don’t always agree with all of the laws and regulations that exist but we are obliged to give our clients correct advice on how to stay within the law.

Help your consultant to help you as when it comes to health and safety, he knows best, listen to him but please don’t tell him his job!

There are of course the consultants who are prepared to pass and approve anything they are asked to pass or approve by their clients or to turn a“blind eye” to certain breaches of regulations, even safety critical operations and tasks. They are often loved and sought out by event organisers, promoters and production managers and they perceive that this will make life cheaper and easier for them but they are really low life with no integrity and bring good consultants into disrepute. If they belong to one of the professional institutes they breach the Code of Conduct and must be driven out and avoided at all costs.

During the event, the consultant needs to be on site monitoring the event build, the event itself and the breakdown. The will advise but they are not an enforcer, they will report issues that need to be rectified immediately and will expect production, site manager or event organiser to take the required action to rectify the problem. The one thing safety consultants hate is asking the crew members to wear their PPE so we get their boss to do it as they have the power we don’t have.  

A good safety advisor can sometimes act as a buffer between the event organiser, promoter or production manager and the enforcement authorities as they usually talk the same language but ultimately the person at the top of the chain still holds all responsibility, they have both the Criminal or Statute Law (Health and Safety Law) and the Civil Law (Duty of Care) to comply with.  Your safety consultant can attend any Safety Advisory Group meetings prior to the event and be part of the Event Liasion Team (ELT) during the event. Finally, they should provide an audit and or a report after the event and attend the debrief meeting.

Now if you think this is all too expensive, try having an accident. A good safety advisor can save you a fortune, an under-qualified consultant or advisor will be exposed, discredited and humiliated by a prosecution barrister in Court so don’t scrimp.

We can only outline some of the tasks here a safety consultant can and should carry out, many make exaggerated claims. 

It is important to understand that consultants can only provide a consultancy and advisory service, they can show you and help you with everything you need to do to become and remain legally compliant but they can't do it all for you. There may well be small changes that you may need to make to the way in which you and your staff operate, there will be paperwork and forms that will need completing just to be legal and compliant, these are usually part of the regulations, the law, consultants don't make the law they simply show you how to be legal and comply with the minimum amount of changes and paperwork but we can't get rid of it all. We maintain the same standards throughout, to be compliant with health and safety regulations and law you have to work to the legal minimum standards regardless of the size and scale of your event, business or tour and they can't change or lower those standards just to make life easier for you. If they lower standards and there is a problem then it may cause you serious issues you really don't want. 

If this service is provided by an external consultant you will normally pay an initial fee followed by a monthly retainer fee for continued support and advice should it be required. This service is where your consultant becomes part of your business and should be informed of anything that changes within the organisation. In this service, you will be provided with a full Safety Management System including full Health & Safety Policy and generic Risk Assessments. Your consultant will be on hand to be the link between you and the HSE should this ever be necessary.     

It's not difficult to put in place all the required management systems and other basic requirements of a compliant safety management system but it does require some effort and expense from you, after the initial effort and expense it's easy and very cheap to maintain and you can have help every step of the way. 

Stagesafe meet all the criteria set here so call Chris on 07831 437062 for a chat and to get started now and click here to find out about fees for our services.