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27 Nov 2019

IOHSS focus on fire safety for 2019

IOHSS focus on fire safety for 2019

Following a survey of the most common health and safety issues facing organisers operating overseas, the International Operations Health, Safety and Security Group (IOHSS) selected fire safety optimisation as its main objective for 2019. 

To this end, IOHSS began a project to identify best practice guidelines for venues and organisers to implement globally; taking in to consideration the many ways of working and being mindful of regional legalities and language barriers.

We spoke with Corina Hedley, Group Event Operations Director, Hyve Group plc and Verena Lester, Operations Director, Clarion; IOHSS Chair and Vice Chair respectively to find out more.

“Although UK venues and organisers are not perfect, enforced legislation and venue regulations make what should or shouldn’t be done very clear.  Everyone’s duty of care is understood; as a result, the UK is best in class.

Some of the largest events businesses started in the UK and many have international events; we aim to bring their best practice around the globe.” says Corina.

Organisers are proud to have some great UK venues and when working with international venues, many use the UK venues as a benchmark. Some large venues outside of the UK aspire to have the ‘International Venue’ status, ultimately attracting international events and Organisers outside their region, however to do this they have to consider having an acceptable base level in H&S and Security.

Verena adds, “The reality is that some things which we see as basic requirements aren’t necessarily on their list of basic requirements.

The scale of this task is no mean feat; anecdotally there are stories of very small events with unnecessary enforced five metre aisles and, on the flip side, events with huge expected footfall where local organisers have blocked over 50% of the event’s fire exits and venues have allowed them to. We’ve seen service ducts unacceptably full of detritus and generally not well maintained; lack of investment in up to date fire equipment; even fire exit doors locked with chains and padlock.

With fire safety we have learned through experience and we see it as our role to protect the people we bring to the international venues by working closely with these venues who want to be first in class. This will take investment in time, money and in building knowledge and understanding so that we can work together to building safer events.“

The hope is the project will foster open and progressive conversations with venues and therefore improve ways of working together which Corina and Verena both see as a positive step.

Corina stresses the importance of supplying teams with supporting tools when overseas.  “In locations where there may be ambiguous, unenforced or even no regulation, it is important our teams have guidance and knowledge to ensure they are confident they are asking the right questions, obtaining the correct information to enable them to assess and manage risk.”

Verena adds “We have a common goal to keep everyone safe and we work together to continually improve this.”

As Chair and Vice Chair of IOHSS, they are committed to change.  “We are realistic in our plans, it won’t happen overnight.  Venues may take more time through socialisation and bringing them on the journey showing them that, as a working group of large Organisers, we are committed to change.  For organisers, considering the international job at hand, we envisage staged change across 1-3 years.

Progress will become clear with the consistency of how venues support teams across the organising companies in addition to starting to understand the importance of, and the part they play in, fire safety, including duty of care and making step by step positive changes.”

Both believe in the benefits of being a member of the AEO IOHSS group.  “Picking away at problems individually can be time consuming, frustrating and delay change, it can also be confusing for the venues if each organiser has their own approach or requirement. “

This project falls in line with the Group’s strategy to collaborate on building a suite of resources that international organisers can use to drive consistency overseas, strengthening relationships with venues and above all else, prioritising the safety of those on the show floor.