Charlie Dorman: Tough love

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Charlie Dorman, director, Connection Crew, believes that the live events industry requires tougher regulation to ensure best practice

Whilst health and safety issues are widely accepted as paramount in a number of manual industries, for the crewing and live events industry, legislation remains largely non-existent. One publication available to the live events sector is the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Purple Guide. But the Purple Guide is for event organisers and not those who are responsible for the manual aspects of building and disassembling the temporary infrastructure on site.

For the crewing companies whose staff are responsible for this, the guide offers very little guidance that is specific to the work they are undertaking. In fact, HSE categorises the live event sector as a “non-major hazard industry”. This low risk categorisation precludes a mention of the crewing aspects of the live events industry within the guide.

HSE’s reason for excluding event crewing from the major risk category could be that crewing companies are widely perceived to be sufficiently self-regulated. This is a fair assumption, because in such a diverse and fast-paced working environment, the risks are plenty and varied. Worryingly though, self-regulation is an awfully loose term and by definition brings no guarantees. Many companies are still producing detailed health and safety materials without adequate management systems to successfully implement them on site. In reality, these policies and qualifications are nothing but gestures, unless they can be successfully implemented on the ground.

There is strong opinion within the crewing industry that because of the similarities in the health and safety issues experienced in both the live events and construction industries, the two should be categorised together. HSE is currently revising its Purple Guide; but it is still likely to again be highly geared towards event organisers and contain very little for crews.

In the meantime, it is this disparity in the approach to health and safety between industries that is driving the live events arena to become self-regulated. So, whilst this can be regarded as a good thing, it doesn’t bring any assurances and most feel that a more enforced approach over such an important issue should be a priority in all manual industries.

Positively, there is growing evidence within the industry that the 2012 Olympic Games will bring some governance for crewing at live events in the UK. As the demarcations between manual industries become blurred and event crews find themselves on site with construction crews, there is certainly an argument for the introduction of universal safety laws.

The mandating of Safety Passports for all suppliers in the live events sector at the Games indicates that regulations are toughening up. Industry-specific Safety Passports have been available for some time and were introduced into the live events industry in 2006. They provide a nationally recognised – although not currently mandatory – standard of health and safety training and assessment.

Clearly some crew providers are coping admirably without the strict governance that will come to realisation during the Olympics. But is this mandating of Safety Passports for the Games a genuine signal that 2012 will see an upturn in health and safety regulation for the live events industry or just a token regulation cropping up merely for show whilst the whole world is watching?

There is increased need for tougher regulation and a system which ensures that best practice is adhered to on-site. There are a number of companies across the sector that supply the Safety Passport as a matter of course; however, where crew is concerned, there is a greater need for something other than the current Live Events Passport. The next 12 months will be interesting and I certainly hope that the Olympics are a catalyst for a more stringent view on health and safety regulations for the live events industry in the UK and that this will be demonstrated in the HSE’s revised guidelines.