Health and Safety at Motorsport Events

Credit Lawrence Hammonds - FIME Semi Final

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How many safety barriers does it take to line a Grasstrack European semi-final event? That was the question posed by Midshires Grasstrack Club when they were appointed race hosts for the FIME European Solo Semi Final, held earlier this year at their Midlands venue, near Royal Leamington Spa.

The answer is 650 barriers, which, when laid side by side stretched to 1.5km – the same length as 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This was the same type of barrier installed at a number of events during the 2012 Olympics so they already carried a strong seal of approval.

The fixed-leg 2.3m barriers supplied by SafeSite Facilities for the FIME European Solo Semi Final helped to control pedestrian traffic, ensuring participants, spectators, the media, marshals and officials could move safely around the venue and watch the race from a safe vantage point. Thanks to their innovative interlocking design it’s possible to create a strong and continuous barrier that cannot be broken or breached easily – ideal when you’re responsible for the safety of a sizeable crowd.

The barriers were used to mark out the entire event layout, from the design of the race circuit and run off zones, to creating pit bays and a safe service area. They were also used to cordon off the hospitality area, to control access to the prohibited pit jury for race officials, and for parking control – enabling people to park and leave the course safely.

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Credit: Darren Noakes – FIME Semi Final

Here are some useful tips when choosing safety barriers for your motorsport event:

  • Ensure they provide the necessary level of protection for participants (drivers/riders), which take into account riders falling and impacting barriers. For example, if a vehicle is likely to collide with a barrier at a ‘glancing’ angle, the barrier should be of a type that allows the vehicle to slide along it so that the risk of injury to the rider/driver is reduced.
  • Check with your governing body to see if they have a specified choice of barrier, based on accident history, testing and engineering calculations. For permanent race circuits, barriers are normally covered by an annual or pre-event inspection by a relevant sport’s governing body.
  • The safest way to slow down a vehicle and prevent or reduce injuries is to provide enough room for it to decelerate. A larger run-off area will allow the driver/rider a greater opportunity to regain control of their vehicle.
  • Check barriers at the start of your event and at regular intervals throughout it. Once a barrier is damaged it may no longer be capable of absorbing further impact or preventing another vehicle or debris from hitting spectators. If damage occurs during a race take steps to warn and slow approaching vehicles and move spectators to a safe location.
  • Use your professional judgment about where it is safe – and where it is not – for spectator the watch the race. Take action to prevent entry into prohibited areas using warning signs and temporary barriers.
  • Plan your approach to protecting spectators carefully and make sure your safety measures are proportionate. Use previous attendance figures and experience to guide you. Consider the types and positioning of any safety barriers. Creating designated spectator viewing areas can help to minimise safety risks.
  • To reduce the risk of collisions and injuries in the pit and service area take steps to ensure that vehicles and pedestrians can both circulate safely. Create a traffic management system incorporating one-way access to minimise the need for reversing, and impose a speed limit.

Clerk of the course and Vice Chairman of Midshires Grasstrack Club, Matthew Wear, said: “Running European Grasstracks of this standard is an enormous task and the FIME European Solo Semi Final was the largest event our Club has hosted in its history. As with all events it was essential that our safety and security arrangements fully complied with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the regulations made under it. SafeSite Facilities were able to recommend the right safety measures to minimise risks in a proportionate way, enabling the safe running of the event and safeguarding employees, volunteers, participants and spectators.”

The Health and Safety Executive has published a guide for motorsport event organisers about managing health and safety at motorsport events. It provides guidance on how to comply with the HSW Act, an update to legislation and links to further information.

Molly joined the editorial team in March 2019. She has several years’ experience working in broadcast and journalism, as well as marketing and PR. Past experience includes working for the BBC and independent publishing houses. If you have a story you think Molly might be interested in, please email: molly@eventindustrynews.com