Event Risk Assessment Made Easy Part 2

In Part 1 we talked about what an event risk assessment is and the benefits of doing one.

And I promised you a framework that will make reducing risks easy for you.

Once you’ve identified a hazard, you want to think of ways to reduce the risk of someone getting hurt. That’s the whole purpose of doing a risk assessment.

The first thing you can do is eliminate the hazard altogether by not doing what could be potentially dangerous. The ultimate solution could be, not staging the event because of weather or not having a risky artistic show during the event.

But we’re here to make things possible, not to stop doing events altogether. And because we know that there are risks we must take, a framework was developed called the Hierarchy of Controls. 

Hierarchy of controls

Hierarchy of Controls means the order in which we go about introducing control measures to reduce risk. We want to do the most effective first and foremost and then if that isn’t possible move to the next best control measure. The original hierarchy of controls look like this:

  1. Remove the risk (not possible in our event world).
  2. Replace the risk with something less risky (works sometimes).
  3. Use engineering controls (meaning something that works without human interaction).
  4. Use administrative controls (meaning people have to follow rules or obey signs).
  5. Use personal protective equipment (these only work after an incident).

This seems quite complicated and I’ve come up with a simpler form that’s easy to remember…read on to find out more.

Introducing the TOP framework

I’ve been using this framework for decades and it works! 

I will go into detail below but the way to use this framework is to first try and find a 

Technical solution, then an 

Organizational solution and then a 

Personal (protective) solution. 

TOP, easy as 123! (I’m starting to sound like Michael Jackson).

Now to explain this framework, let’s use the analogy of boarding an airplane for a flight. 

Think of the last time you boarded an airplane. Most of you felt safe because you know that the airline has undertaken everything possible to reduce the risk of the airplane crashing. Why do they do that? Because flying is inherently risky for people! We’re just not made for flying or we would have grown wings. Another reason is of course accident costs and loss of reputation. 

It’s the same with events. We humans are not made to withstand high sound levels like at a rock concert or fall from height without getting hurt.

Technical Solutions

Technical solutions are automatic. They don’t need human interaction.

So when you get on a plane the first thing you notice are the sturdy door, emergency lights and further exit doors. Of course you don’t see all the safety systems in place that keep the plane flying. These are all technical solutions to reduce the risk of you getting hurt. 

Analog to the plane we have the venue that has all the necessary fire fighting equipment, safety exits and emergency lighting necessary to reduce the risk of people in the building getting hurt. In reality, there’s a lot more that you don’t see like smoke extraction, but that’s another story. In a licensed event venue, you can be pretty sure the operator is doing their job of maintaining this high level of safety for events. 

The important thing to remember is, these technical solutions don’t need anybody to do anything. They work automatically.

Organizational Solutions

Organizational Solutions are not automatic. They need humans to do something.

You sit down in your seat and before take off, the stewardess does her thing showing you how to put on your seat belt, your life vest and where the exits are. Did you know the main reason for even having stewardesses is to guarantee your safety? Their side job is serving drinks and food. This is a good example for an organizational solution to reducing risk. 

During your event, organizational solutions can be something like doing a site safety induction, explaining where fire extinguishers or emergency exits are before the event build takes place. Or restricting access to areas not intended for your participants. Or putting up signs that show people where the exit is. 

Organizational solutions require a person to do something, like follow instructions on a sign or keep out of restricted areas.

Personal (Protective) Solutions

Personal protective solutions only work after something happened.

Seat belts, oxygen masks and life vests are the last resort, when all else fails to keeping you safe should a plane crash. This is your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Everyone on the plane has it for their own personal use in case of an emergency. 

During an event build, PPE can be the hard hats or steel toed work shoes or the harnesses worn by riggers that protect them from falling out of the roof.

The important thing to remember here is that Personal Protective Equipment doesn’t stop the accident from happening. It only reduces the severity should something happen. That’s why it’s the last resort.

In many risk assessment, you’ll see PPE named as the first resort. That shows me the person writing the risk assessment hasn’t thought enough about actually preventing the accident from happening.

So that’s the TOP framework I use for coming up with solutions for a potential risk. I hope it gives you an idea on how to approach reducing risk at your next event. 

In my next post, I’ll show you practical examples of typical risks during events and how to reduce them.

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