Why you need to think about event safety *before* you rebook your event because of Coronavirus

Event Safety planning for Coronavirus

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With events being cancelled, postponed and rebooked during this Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, its not only critical that thought is given to the safety and wellbeing of guests, staff, contractors and volunteers, but that any event safety plans, risk assessments and method statements consider revisions to your safe working practices AND that these are communicated as soon as possible.

“Health and safety, especially in a time like this should be at the top of your communications and operations strategy… not just marketing pushes focused on trying to sell tickets”.

Ilijah Mora – Producer – MVMNT Photo, Video, Event Management for Business

Cancelling / postponing

Once the unenviable decision has been taken to cancel or postpone the event you should make sure that you have a plan of action. Whether you are planning to offer full refunds, roll tickets over to the next event/ year or rebook delegates for the future, it’s key that you are ready with the answers your customers will ultimately have. Many of the ticket companies have rules around what you can and can’t do with other people’s money – so you should check with whoever you use, as well as making sure you have rock-solid ticket terms and conditions in place.

What you are allowed to do, and what works well from a PR perspective may depend on whether you have chosen to cancel, or have been forced to do so by the local city or authority withholding your permits or license.

It is key to get this right the first time because there could be an insurance or Public Relations disaster if you get this wrong. Many smaller festivals, conferences and independent events are offering a refund to those that want/ need one – but are asking their customers if at all possible to allow tickets to roll over – in an effort to save the business for future event-years.

The key thing is to focus on the facts – the event safety of the cast, crew, workers, volunteers and attendees should be paramount – and at the time of writing there are many questions and very few answers.

Making changes

Before you rush to rebook your event you should consider what new risks have become apparent because of the Coronavirus – and consider changes in the post Coronavirus lockdown. New event management plans will be required and risk assessments should be reviewed.

Supplier method statements for working, cleaning procedures and catering (to name but a few) will need to be reviewed, updated and revised.

Consideration should be given to accommodation providers and their level of service and event organisers should consider if they can still do everything they planned to – mosh pits in front of stages are probably out for the time being…

Safety planning for revised events

The key thing to remember at this stage is that no-one really has any answers – whilst the lockdown might be removed from retail, fast food and offices more quickly, chances are that it will be a long road for those who work in the events industry. As all experienced event professionals will know – all we can do is hope for the best and plan for the worst – and be willing and able to change those plans in the light of changes to the lockdown, revised government guidance or sudden outbreaks in the locality of your event.

The key is that – like with any good event safety plan the key is to communicate it to all those who are involved – the staff, contractors and volunteers; audience members and attendees; local authorities and officers; other stakeholders. If you explain what you are doing, why you are doing it and what event safety advice you have received it will only be beneficial to the overall organisation and delivery of the event – whether an immersive event, corporate conference or music festival.

Finally – let people ask questions and be open and honest with them – explain the parameters you are putting in place to keep them as safe as you can, as well as what is expected of them to ensure the safety of others.

Talk to your workforce

As the event organiser you have a duty of care to those people who you e (paid or voluntary) or contract to work on your events – in the UK the Health & Safety Executive have guidance about keeping the workplace safe, and in the US OSHA have similar Coronavirus guidelines

It is key that consideration is given to those working on your events – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is usually one of the last control measures to be considered when looking to reduce risk – many other factors should be considered first, as well as specific requirements around social distancing, health screening and communication.

Make your announcement

When you are ready to announce your new dates; location and performers / speaker / line up etc also consider that, at the heart of your message should be a clear plan of how you will keep everyone safe. Some organisations such as Wynn Resorts have posted clear plans of what they will be doing and event organisers should do the same. Explain who you are working with, how rooms/ facilities/ catering areas will be cleaned and what is being done.

Organisers will have to decide if they will provide Coronavirus PPE to event attendees (employers must do this for staff if its part of the risk assessment to keep them safe) or whether they will expect attendees to bring their (and what will happen if they don’t).

Why do all this?

The key thing is confidence. Confidence for everyone at your event to feel like they aren’t in danger. Confidence in you as the event organisers to show that you have considered as many of the risks as you can and are doing all that is reasonably practicable to keep people safe.

There should also be confidence that the event management team are following guidance (when there is some) from the relevant authorities and that suitable and sufficient risk assessments, method statements, policies and procedures are in place.

In addition, if you need your customers to do something differently than they would normally do (bring their own PPE, not attend if they feel ill etc) then these ‘out of the ordinary’ requirements need to be effectively communicated.

Ongoing communication

Because things are changing on a daily basis, communication is key – regular updates to your audience will show that you are taking these times seriously – you can also use these to build your brand and trust with your audience, and look forward to happier, Covid-19 free times.

Don’t forget to check out other Coronavirus Covid-19 Event Safety articles and resources.

If you are planning an event and are looking for specific help and guidance from event safety consultants to reduce the risk of Coronavirus affecting your event, contact us to find out how we can help you to manage your event safely.

Last updated by Rob Haworth on 28 April 2020