Tips for Organising a Conference
Complete a risk assessment for all events
All events that exceed 2000 people must have a risk categorisation done, Alan notes that if an event is less than 2000 people a risk categorisation may still be required, but this will be at the client's, Conference organiser's, or the Venue owners’ discretion, and this falls in line with the Sports & Recreation act (SASREA) No2 of 2010. There may be an instance where risk categorisation is medium to high, with low attendance, then certain factors need to be taken into account, such as location and availability of emergency services, hospitals and SAPS personnel.
Select suitable equipment
Structures and equipment that is onsite and brought in, must be in working order and suitable for the function. Your Conference organiser will be knowledgeable as to what OHS requirements the Venue and other suppliers need to meet. Medguys would also be able to carry out an audit to ensure you have everything covered.
Ensure employee health and safety
As these venues will have kitchens, it also means they carry a higher risk of fire and cleaning chemical injuries. Compliance with the act means that fire hazards are minimized and all cleaning chemical are stored and used correctly. This reduces the risk of contamination and helps to ensure food safety.
Alan raises the concern that most venue owners and event planners fail in the selection of the correct staff for a function or event, venue selection is important as the staff need to perform their duties as expected, but they may be unfamiliar with the location and surroundings.
A staff briefing and debrief goes a long way in keeping staff up to date on what is expected of them, and all staff should be covered by COID in the event of injuries.
Set out safe working procedures
Here is another OHS check that your Conference organiser will provide guidance on. Alan comments that “sometimes staff are expected to work under some very unfamiliar facilities and locations that could be too small or compact due to the bad planning, and unfortunately most venue owners do not adhere to space vs personal space measures.”
Ensure people are adequately trained
No matter the type of function, you need to ensure that staff at the Venue or brought in, are knowledgeable and experienced. Your Professional Conference Organiser will have insight to which Venues and suppliers invest in staff development and training.
An accurate observation by Alan Winstanley, is that the success of any event is professionalism and quality staff which include, “are you trained to perform the duties “or “are you being employed because of budget constraints.”
So, why is compliance important?
Compliance with OHS minimises risk, and ensures safety during your event. If you are setting up any audio, visual and staging for a conference, it means that this should be safety checked and all equipment should meet safety standards.
Choosing a venue which complies with OHS also ensures that you are helping to protect the staff in the industry.
It is important to check that the venue you choose has Public liability insurance. This covers all the guests for any injury or loss which occurs during the event. However, if the injury is caused due to non-compliance of the OHS, the liability insurance could be considered void which would mean the guests would be unable to claim any compensation from the venue.
Alan adds that “A thorough Operational / Safety plan for your events is a non negotiable, there are many things that can go wrong at events, some of risks are within your control, others are not. Either way, if you do not anticipate problems you will be unprepared to react quickly and effectively.”
“The type of event will determine your medical need, Medguys can identify an event’s unique risks and requirements in conjunction with Mase Events Safety. SANS 10366 is one model that will determine the medical need, and in some instances the model can be changed to increase the complement and the medical qualification of the staff due to the event's geographical area and attendees. The use of a similar profile calculates the amount of security staff required to adequately service the event, which includes dealing with high-risk scenarios.”
It is clearly very important to ensure the venue you choose complies with the South African Occupational Health and Safety act, to protect both your guests and any staff from any avoidable injury or accidents.