Whether you are planning an outdoor fete, a summer fair, a craft show, a food or music festival, or simply a boot fair, there are legal responsibilities and recognised safety guidelines you’ll need to follow to keep your workers and the public safe.

Last year Britain was hit by a series of terror attacks. The Westminster Bridge and London Bridge incidents, the bombing at the Manchester Arena, and the attack in Finsbury Park were chilling reminders of the vulnerability of the public.

Planning and organising an event requires meticulous management and in-depth risk assessment to ensure that workers, performers, contractors and the visiting public are protected and not exposed to health and safety risks. Managing the risk of terrorism is also part of an event manager’s responsibility.

Appropriate precautionary and preventative public safety measures will depend on the type of event and will be dictated by a number of factors. These include the size of the event and audience, the type of audience, the event location, the nature of the event, the duration of the event, the presence of traders and accessibility for emergency services.


No matter how small your event, you will still need to adhere to certain rules and regulations. Street parties aren’t generally classed as a public event if they are exclusively for neighbours and residents, so the guidance for street parties is less rigorous.

For larger events you’ll need to consider security and site preparation, public entry and exit points, parking and vehicle entry and exit points, emergency access, staging, electrical supplies and equipment, fire-fighting, first aid, stewards, a central control room, communications, a public-address system, staff safety, disability access, and welfare facilities.

The Law

The most relevant laws regarding public safety at any outdoor event is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Getting started – be clear on responsibilities

At the planning stage, it is vitally important that responsibilities within the organising team are made clear, and particularly who will be responsible for safety. Appoint a safety officer with suitable competency to take overall responsibility for managing all safety matters. Seek out the advice of experts (such as Sussex-based specialists Maltaward) and create a clear, defined plan of responsibilities for the event. Planning should commence several months prior to the event so you have adequate time to carry out risk assessments and obtain any specialist advice about public safety and security.

Create a safety plan

You will need to think about everything involved in your event that could potentially cause harm, and what steps you can take to prevent that harm. In order to create a safety plan, you will need to draw up and carry out a risk assessment. This involves checking risks and deciding on the action you will take to both minimise risk and your planned action should anything happen. Every event safety plan should include emergency plans, food safety, crowd management, parking and staff training. This all needs to be written up into a safety manual.

Your risk assessment form should have headings something like this:

Event name:

Date of Assessment:

Review Date:

Assessment carried out by:

Hazard What could go wrong? Who may be harmed? What are you doing to control the risk? Is the risk high, medium or low? What further action is necessary? By who? By when?


Types of Hazards

Typical hazards for any sizeable outdoor event can include:

  • Vehicle movement
  • Pedestrian/vehicle conflict
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Collapse of structures
  • Physical hazards at site (e.g. a river or a steep slope)
  • Natural hazards (plant cuts, bee stings)
  • Medical emergencies
  • Insufficient first aid
  • Welfare arrangements (e.g. toilet facilities)
  • Lost children
  • Electrical dangers
  • Fire safety
  • Gas safety
  • Barrier failure
  • Food poisoning
  • Public disorder
  • Crowd management
  • Manual handling
  • Waste disposal
  • Weather issues
  • Contractors (health and safety procedures)

This is not an exhaustive list. If in doubt about the possible hazards involved, seek advice from your local authority.

Contingency planning

As well as carrying out a full risk assessment for your event, you will also need to have contingency plans in place in the eventuality that something goes wrong. Contingency planning is all about the what-ifs. Contingency plans tend to be written documents, rather than the table format given to risk assessments.

Contingency plans should include a site plan and outline how the event organiser intends to deal with certain conditions and emergencies, roles and responsibilities of team members, and who has responsibility for making decisions in certain circumstances, such as evacuation. Plans should also detail emergency response levels, how an incident will be controlled and any handover to emergency services.

Plans should also ensure sufficient staff are on site to deal with any emergency situations, and that those staff are sufficiently trained and competent to carry out those roles. Infrastructure and traffic control are also critical considerations.

Protection and security

You will need to consider adequate measures for the protection of physical assets on the site where your event is being held.  Do you need perimeter security? For large events, you will also need to invest in additional security measures to protect against crime and terrorism.

Most of all, when it comes to public safety and planning an event DON’T BE COMPLACENT.

Contacts and advice

For further guidance on event safety seek advice from the Health and Safety Executive.

In the planning stage you’ll need to contact:

  • The local Police
  • The Fire Authority
  • The British Red Cross or St. Johns Ambulance (or another voluntary first aid society)
  • AA/RAC (if you are expecting people to travel from afar)
  • The Local Authority
  • The Highways Authority
Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.