Apart from complying with the law, event organisations do not want to risk the reputation of their business or that of their clients’ by having a serious accident or incident during an event, and experiencing the delays and adverse publicity it would bring.
Although the law exists (Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993), with one standard for all, it isn’t being policed because of the constraints and workload on the Department of Labour. The core difficulty with event health and safety, is that most times the environment is created in which health and safety needs to be managed, whereas in an office or a factory the environment is a consistent location, with generally, consistent health and safety risks.
When it comes to events, there is a myriad of things to consider, and each event is different. Experience is always advantageous, because theory can only prepare you for so much. And it seems the only way to ensure safety is paramount at events is to develop a culture of safety amongst event crews. Presently there are no set standards in South Africa for all venues, so each will have its own, if any. Event professionals need to create their own standards of excellence when it comes to safety for not only them and their colleagues, but for the employer’s reputation.
Introducing a culture of safety
In a culture of safety, people are not just encouraged to work toward change; they take action when it’s needed. Inaction in the face of safety problems is taboo, and eventually the pressure comes from peers as well as leaders. There is no room in a culture of safety for those who point fingers or say, ‘not my responsibility.’
Develop a safety vision
The company safety vision should consist of key policies, goals, measures, and strategic and operational plans. These policies provide guidance and serve as a point of reference that can be used to see if actions support or detract from the intended standards.
Leadership must support the workplace safety program by providing resources (time, training, and equipment) and holding people accountable for doing the same. The entire management and supervisory staff needs to set the example.
Lead from the top
As with creating any change – it needs to come from the top and leaders need to be visibly committed and enable staff to openly share safety information. When this culture does not exist, staff members are often unwilling to report adverse events and unsafe conditions because they fear reprisal or believe reporting will not result in positive change.
Assess you standards
In order to get where you want to go, it is essential to know where you are starting from. Use of self-audit mechanisms, visits to other successful companies, having external audits conducted and carrying out safety perception surveys amongst your employees to measure your safety strengths and weaknesses are various methods of continually monitoring safety standards and checking on progress.
Law requires that each company have a SHE (Safety, Health and Environment) rep that represents the workforce. It isn’t a management role, but represents the employee-base. Appointed by their peers, the SHE rep attends quarterly SHE committee meetings, which is a legal requirement. The chosen representative not only is a champion for safety on the ground, but is also the eyes and ears to identify areas of development and the voice for staff.
Define roles and responsibilities for safety and health at all levels of the business. Safety and health must be viewed as everyone’s responsibility: working safe is not a choice. Clearly spell out how the company deals with competing pressures and priorities (i.e., set up time versus safety and health).
Focus on the accomplishment of tasks
Meaning: train everyone on a particular concern or topic (e.g., implement a new procedure for incident investigations). Companies that maintain their focus on the larger process to be followed are far more successful. They can see the forest apart from the trees and thus can make midcourse adjustments as needed. Because they never lose sight of their intended goals, they tend not to get distracted or allow obstacles to interfere with their mission. The process itself will take care of the task implementation and ensure that the appropriate resources are provided and priorities are set.
Train, train, train
Provide initial training of management and supervisory staff, union leadership (if present), safety and health committee members, and key employees. This training can include safety and health training, and any needed management, team building, hazard recognition, or communication training. By training these people, you have a core safety resource.
Everyone must play by the same rules and be held accountable for their actions. The sign of a strong culture is when the individuals hold themselves accountable.
Measure against objectives
Develop measurable objectives:
• Measure the number of hazards reported and corrected
• Monthly safety walk arounds
• Equipment checks
• Quarterly safety meetings conducted
• Employees leading a safety meeting e.g. shift toolbox talks, on-site inductions
• Completed job safety analyses safety as a company value