The Green Room

I'm a health and safety specialist for the events industry. AMA

I’m Mark and I run an events business in Dublin, Ireland. We operate as Cuckoo Events but, predominantly, as Safe Events and we specialise in Crowd and Event Safety as well as planning for large-scale, mass-gathering events. Our clients run festivals and events in Ireland and the Middle East, mainly. We do some work occasionally in the UK also.

I consult for a lot of State and private clients here in Ireland as well as developing and delivering training for a wide range of organisations here and abroad. We are currently delivering the first Professional Diploma in Risk & Safety Management for Crowds and Events live, online, every Thursday evening to 24 professionals based around the world. We also deliver an IOSH course entitled Working Safely at Events, which is very popular.

When not working as the HSEQ Director for festivals in the Middle East or as Event Controller / Safety Officer on events here in Ireland, I can usually be found riding motorbikes or being made a fool of by my 4 year-old daughter. I am currently pursuing 2 Masters courses, one that I should have finished by now but COVID has delayed my dissertation and the other that I took on recently to support our work on global master planning teams for events.

We hope to see you here Tuesday 24th August at 12pm!

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Hi Mark, thank you for joining us today! What goes into the planning process when considering Health and Safety at events? How do you plan for factors such as the weather which is outside of our control?

Hi Mark,
Thank you for being here today!
The events industry has had to really adapt over the past year and a half. What would you say has been the biggest issue regarding keeping those who attend in-person events as safe as possible?

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Thank you for the invite, Hannah. It’s much appreciated.

The planning process for H&S for events can be a long process, for sure. We are currently working on an event in Saudi that is happening in December and we have been working on it since January of this year with others on it since before that. On some large-scale annual events the planning never actually stops.

Things like weather come into play for contingency plans etc. Weather is a good one especially in Ireland and the UK so we tend to have Wind Management Action Plans and similar to help us in that regard.

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Hi Jane. No worries at all. Happy to be here.

To be honest, I think the hardest thing has been the moving goalposts, changing rules and advice etc. It’s been really difficult to put solid plans in place without having to amend them a million times!

Also, here in Ireland, in particular, sport has been able to come back in a big way while festivals and concerts can’t happen beyond 500 people currently so that’s very frustrating too.

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Thanks Mark! What’s the most exciting project you have worked on?

Hi Mark, Are there any differences in running events in Ireland, UK and the middle East?

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It sounds like it can be frustrating at times! How do you deal with clients or attendees who don’t follow the strategies you have set in place?

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Would you believe I am half on another call here about what I think is my favourite event, which is Wild Lights in Dublin Zoo. It’s a Chinese Lantern Festival that runs for 50+ nights each year. It happens in the dark. We have all the challenges of live animals, live ammunition (naturally), emergency procedures, back-up lighting etc. It’s a big challenge each year and we love working on it.

One of the events we are currently working on in Saudi is very exciting, in that the scale is significant. It’s well beyond anything that tends to happen this side of the world. It is also giving me the opportunity to work as part of a global masterplanning team, which has some of the best people in their respective fields in the world.

I’m learning loads and, I hope, contributing too!

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Hi Michelle!

The UK and Ireland are ‘generally’ fairly similar. In Ireland we tend to follow and employ a lot of UK guidance etc. Naturally the licensing systems change between UK and Ireland. The UK has SAGs, which we do not have here unfortunately.

The Middle East then is a whole other world! In both a good way and in many challenging ways. In a lot of areas, we need to bring in international standards and guidance as the entertainment ecosystem in KSA in particular is quite young. It also provides the opportunity to be involved in establishing and developing standards too, which is exciting.

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It can be quite difficult to do that, to be fair.

The key thing is to have thought about reasonably foreseeable things in advance and to have plans / strategies to deal with these things. For instance, you need to know how you intend to deal with people who won’t wear masks, for instance, if they’re supposed to.

At all times, things need to be reasonable. It’s a changeable and confusing time for everyone and most people are decent so not adhering to social distancing or masking etc. tends to happen mostly as a result of oversights as opposed to defiance, in my experience.

If that makes sense?

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Hi Mark,

What affect has the recent pandemic had on the health and safety of the events industry, and whether you think they will be temporary, or if they will have a long lasting affect?

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Hi Mark,

What affect has the recent pandemic had on the health and safety of the events industry, and whether you think they will be temporary, or if they will have a long lasting affect?

Great question, Mike.

Firstly - nobody can see into the future. Many people will tell you they can and, the law of averages will dictate, some of them will end up being correct, too! But we don’t know what will stay and what will go. Things are changing too much.

From a H&S perspective, all this has shone a light on the importance of H&S, which I hope will be a good thing for the industry. From an audience perspective, I think a cohort of our audiences will want more space to feel comfortable moving forward. So site dimensions may alter or capacities may drop a bit.

I see the need for some extra space being a likely long-lasting effect of the pandemic.

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Wow - that sounds very interesting!

The Event Manager blog reports that one of the biggest obstacles of returning to in person events is the health and safety of attendees and stakeholders. What measures can we put in place to keep these groups safe and to give the industry more confidence?

Link to the report - State of the Event Industry Report: Second Quarter 2021

Hi, I’m planning an in person event in early October and that isn’t that long away but the health and safety aspects of COVID are quite confusing, any advice, guidance, resources that could help please?

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I think confidence is a big thing. People are different. Some will be delighted to get back to events and will not be overly concerned about COVID while others will be keen to understand what measures will be in place.

I think things like:

  • Hand sanitiser stations
  • Social distancing
  • Reduced capacities
  • Contact tracing

are likely to be features once we get back to running things.

I do think it’s important that we get back to events when it’s safe to do so and not rush back because we all really want to get back to green fields and similar.

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It’s great people are willing to cooperate! Has there been a time where there has been an unexpected issue that’s popped up at an event, maybe a large increase in the number of attendees? If so, were there any issues that needed to be immediately dealt with?

Hi Stewart. I am not sure where you’re based. I’d imagine the UK?

With things the way they are and changing all the time, my best general advice is to stay abreast of what the regulations and guidance where you are based are to make sure you’re compliant.

Beyond that, there are various sources of advice and best-practice out there, with varying organisations putting out good documentation. For instance, the Purple Guide has released a new chapter this week covering Pandemics specifically, which is worth looking at.

Many other trade organisations have published guidance etc. too. I’d suggest get hold of as much of it as you can and review it. You’ll see lots of stuff repeated across them and that should give you a solid handle on what’s reasonable to put in place.

Hope that helps.

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This happens quite regularly, especially with the (horrible!!) free, non-ticketed events. It can be extremely difficult to safely manage those types of events. We tend to only get involved in those types of events when we know there’s enough space to facilitate them and large unexpected crowds.

We’ve had incidents of fires, partial collapses, crowd issues etc. alright but these have been managed well, thanks to planning and the right people on the ground.

Safe delivery of events is as much about the right people on the ground to CHANGE the plan as it is the planning that goes into them.

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Do you know of any Health and Safety checklists that event professionals can follow?