a step by step guide to safety at events, fêtes, fairs, car boot sales, indoor and outdoor fundraisers, craft shows etc. page updated 4 Mar 2017

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Guide to Planning
Safe Events part III

A Step-By-Step Guide with Hints and Tips
© KayDeeElle 2002

If you're looking for The Event Safety Guide by the
Health and Safety Executive, you can buy it here

Guide Contents

we've scattered around pictures of decor, themes and
props to break the monotony of plain text

Is this for you? ...read on
No scapegoats! ...the buck stops with you!
Plan your event ...you gotta have a plan, Sam
Evaluating any risks ...danger, danger, Will Robinson
Preparing for Emergencies ...contingencies, belts and braces
Let's get organised ...don't overdo that committee thing!
Who to contact prior... ...you're more than a number in my little black book ;-)
Prepare the Site and facilities ...special guide to doing it in public
People are People too ...lost souls, special needs, and erm.. biological functions
Stewards' duties ...the nameless officials who make it all happen
Pre- and During-Event checklist ...did I leave the cooker on? Or last minute checks
Recommended reading ...for the specifics

If you're using health and safety consultants, use this guide to confirm they're on the ball!

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Prepare the site and facilities

You should find that the following examples wll help you choose and prepare your site for the activities planned. They will help you identify some of the possible hazards and ways to eliminate them.

The Site

The site should be big enough for all the activities planned. Make sure that there's plenty of space for the public to move around any stalls, rides, performance, stage, arena, exhibition areas. It is especially important at indoor events to prevent stalls or goods obstructing exit routes and doors and to check that fire exits are operational.

You should:

  • prepare a scale sketch plan of the site showing the position of all the activities, attractions, circulation routes and exits
  • keep this sketch plan updated as your plans are refined
  • copies of the final version must be available at the event (a master copy will, of course, be included in your safety manual)
  • have enough exits for a mass orderly evacuation of the site
  • have entrances and exits clearly marked for emergency vehicles. Agree them with the emergency services, bearing in mind the size and weight of their appliances

Condition of Outdoor Site

Check that:

  • the site will be suitable in all weathers and that any staging or structures will be safe in bad weather
  • there are no trip, slip or other similar hazards to the public
  • wet weather will not cause any other hazards
  • there will be suitable lighting throughout the site, including emergency lighting, if the event will go on after dark
  • there are no obvious hazards on both the site and surrounding areas. Examples include:
    • overhead power lines
    • stored chemicals or machinery
    • unfenced holes
    • steep drops between different ground levels
    • ponds / water and unsafe or other structures that the public should be kept away from by means of barriers or fencing

Preparing the Site or Venue

Make sure that any construction work and vehicle movements that take place during site preparation are supervised and protected by suitable barriers.

Public Entry / Exit, Vehicles / Parking

  • Arrange separate vehicle and pedestrian entrances/exits to the site
  • Arrange entrance queues so they don't obstruct vehicle access or nearby road junctions
  • When there is a limit on the number of people the event can hold, make sure the entrance is well stewarded and that they use an accurate form of head-counting to prevent overcrowding.



there should be enough exits to allow evacuation in 22 minutes for indoor venues

for oudoor venues this is reduced to 8 minutes.

This is especially important for indoor events as the maximum number of people will be set either by the floor space or the size and number of fire exits. There should be enough exits to allow evacuation in 22 minutes. If you didn't know, in two and a half minutes you get up to 250 people through a normal pair of exit doors 1.2m wide.

  • Outdoors, provide at least two pedestrian exits from the site. The number and size of the exits should be large enough to permit an orderly evacuation from the site in under 8 minutes.
  • Exits should be not less than 1.2m in clear width, spaced well apart around the site. They must be clearly marked, kept free from obstructions and well lit where the event is likely to last beyond dusk
  • Keep car parking well away from the pedestrian areas of the site. Clearly signpost the parking area and do not allow cars to be parked anywhere else.
  • Design any steward car parking areas to eliminate hazards to pedestrians such as reversing vehicles.
  • Except for emergency purposes, don't allow vehicle movements in the public areas of the site during the event or as the public are leaving.

Emergency Access

Keep the emergency service entrances, exits and routes within the site clear of obstruction at all times. This could excercise the authority and patience of your stewards!

Safety Barriers

Decide if you need to provide barriers around attractions, displays and equipment to protect the public and to prevent unauthorised interference. Do take into account the presence of excited people, especially children.

Examples where barriers may be required include:

  • barbecues
  • stages and platforms
  • radio-control demonstrations
  • displays involving moving machinery.

If you do use barrier or fencing it must be capable of withstanding any reasonably foreseeable loading. The design must be suitable to contain and protect people, including small children.

Staging or Structures

  • If seating staging, lighting, sound towers and so on are to be erected this must be done by a competent person. Get written certification from them to the say that the structures are safe.
  • The Fire Safety Officer will advise you on the safety aspects of marquees and tents, including their siting, construction, and the provision of exits, normal and emergency lighting and so on.
  • Make arrangements so that unauthorised people can't gain access to or interfere with equipment, etc, when the event is open to the public.
  • Make sure that all staging and other structures are positioned so they don't obstruct any entrances or exits from the site.
  • Protect the open edges at the sides and rear of performance platforms to prevent people falling off. Secure, safe flights of steps should be provided to access the platform.
  • All staging and structures should be free from trip hazards and other physical hazards such as sharp edges, points and protruding support members


in two and a half minutes you can get up to 250 people through a normal pair of exit doors 1.2m wide.


in the UK, the safety standard of electrical installations should be at least that of the current I.E.E Wiring Regulations

Electrical Supplies, Installations and Equipment

The whole installation, including wiring, switchgear and any generators, should be installed in a safe manner by a suitably competent electrician. They should provide a written certificate to prove this.

Your electrician will ensure a safe temporary electrical supply:

  • the supply will be protected by suitable earth leakage devices or residual current device (RCDs), having a maximum tripping current rating of 30 mA
  • cables of the correct rating will used for the possible load. Insulation will be clear of defects and the correct type of connectors will be used for external use
  • all supply cables will be positioned so they aren't liable to physical damage
  • all cables, including connections to sound equipment, will be positioned so they don't cause a trip or other hazard
  • any generator being supplied will have a certificate to show it is electrically safe
  • any generator or other electrical equipment, including switchgear, will be satisfactorily barriered to prevent unauthorised access or interference
  • All electrical equipment used at the event must be in a safe condition and suitable for that type of use, i.e., in the open air where it may get wet


Provide equipment for putting out small fires such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets. Put them at strategic points throughout the site.

Make sure that stewards know where the equipment is and how to use it. They should be told not to attempt to fight major fires.

The Fire Brigade should be called at once to any fire, suspected or real, however slight.

First Aid

The first aid provision needs to be suitable for the number of people expected to attend and for the type of event.

Make sure that the basic services for first aid are always available. At smaller events such as indoor markets, jumble sales and so on, a qualified first aider should be present and you must provide an area suitable for first aid treatment, including a supply of water.

A voluntary first aid society can be asked to provide a First Aid Post, staffed by qualified first-aiders.

Check the following to see what the minimum for your event is:



Further advice can be found in the Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Pop Concerts and Similar Events (see Recommended reading)


Number of people attending

Number of first aiders

Number of first aid posts


















  • Clearly signpost the first aid post and provide easy access for spectators and an ambulance at all times. Where an ambulance is required, provide a parking area close to the first aid post with a direct and clear exit from the site.
  • Make sure that everyone helping at the event knows where the first aid post is and the identity of the first aider.
  • Locate and provide access to a telephone or provide mobile phones. With mobile phones, make sure everyone pre-programs them with the required numbers and tests them. For a fixed phone, keep the list of contact numbers beside it and make sure it can't go wandering.


The duties of the stewards are covered in detail in the appendix, here. Make sure you get an appropriate number of stewards for the security and control of the site and the expected number of attendees.

Work out the number of stewards you need by considering each of the separate tasks they need to cover:

  • staffing entrances and exits
  • controlling access to attractions and activities
  • general crowd control
  • patrolling public areas
  • securing unauthorised areas
  • monitoring and securing hazards
  • car parking duties

If the event is to last several hours, allow for extra stewards to cover for meal and comfort breaks.

Control Room

Consider setting up a control room on the site to:

  • act as a base for any communications systems, not forgetting recharging points for mobile phones.
  • monitor the event, giving an early indication of any problems
  • control any incidents
  • direct resources to deal with any problems, and

The control room should be constantly staffed during the event and provided with a telephone.


Consider providing personal radio contact between the safety officer and senior stewards and any other people responsible for activating the contingency arrangements.

Public Address

Consider providing a public address system for announcements and instructions to staff and the public. Larger events may require a system with an emergency power backup.

For smaller events a portable loud-hailer may be sufficient.

Staff Safety

  • Late finish - If the event is to finish late, make sure that all staff can get home safely and that they do not have to wait alone at bus stops, stations and/or travel alone. Consider arranging taxis for staff where public transport will be a problem.
  • Cash handling - Make security arrangements for staff who are handling cash or valuables.


Take a pocket digital camera with you to record moments for your web site or jsut to email to people.

People are People too...

People with disabilities

  • Make it easy for people with disabilities to gain access, to see and to take part in the attractions and activities.
  • Make sure that the ground conditions in public areas and access pathways are suitable for people with disabilities, as well as families with toddlers and pushchairs.


  • Make sure there are enough toilets for the number of people expected, including provision for people with disabilities.
  • It is best to use mains-connected toilets but you may need to consider temporary units for outdoor events. Bear in mind odour when considering where to site them.
  • Arrange for all the toilets to be serviced regularly to keep them fully operational, clean and hygienic throughout the event.
  • Provide ample direction signs to the toilets and provide adequate lighting especially if your event continues into the evening.

Lost Children, Information Point and Lost Property

  • Provide somewhere where enquiries can be made about lost children, lost property and for information about the event. Make sure it's well publicised, signposted and easily identifiable. This could be in the Control Room.
  • Make provision for recording people's mobile numbers to make tracing them easy if they are needed later.
  • At larger events provide site maps at the entrance and around the site and signs to indicate the other activities, attractions and facilities.

Barbecues and Food Outlets

  • Barbecue and hot food stall hazards include naked flames and hot components, the use and storage of fuel - usually gas bottles. Safety barriers may be required.
  • Guidance notes and advice on all aspects of food hygiene at the event can be obtained from your appropriate local authority department.


  • Consider making free drinking water available on site.


  • You'll be surprised at how much rubbish your event will generate, so provide an adequate number of rubbish bins around the site where they will be most required.
  • Make arrangements to regularly empty the bins, and to satisfactorily dispose of the rubbish at the end of the event.
  • Consider making it easy for people to recycle, you can get guidance from the local authority.

Community Safety

  • In flyers, promotional literature and event programmes, suggest directions and travel routes with advice on planning journeys, travelling in groups and avoiding short-cuts. This can be particularly helpful if your event is to finish late.

Go to Part II                   Go to Appendix

make it a priority to cater for people with disablities

SPAR Tropical Island exhibition set

SPAR Tropical Island exhibition set: close up of tropical pool


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