Safe and sound: health and safety at your conference
Every conference organiser’s number one priority should be keeping their delegates, speakers and staff safe and sound for the duration of the conference. This doesn’t just mean making sure the building won’t catch fire, but also that everyone feels comfortable and that there are no obvious accident triggers or health risks that will result in medical intervention. Here are some health and safety aspects to consider when planning your next event.
Any event can carry a risk to health or safety, so it is well worth carrying out a risk assessment in the early planning stages. This may involve such activities as visiting the venue and walking round to identify possible trip hazards and injury risks. Working out how people will get to and from the venue safety is also key, as is analysing any concerns around refreshments or accommodation if it is to be a longer event. Knowing what risks you could be facing early on will help you work out how to mitigate against them by working with your conference centre team.
While it may not be your responsibility to physically get delegates to and from your event, you still have a duty towards making the journey as easy and safe as possible. Consider where people will be coming from when choosing the geographical location for your event. Find out what parking is available and what kind of distances people may be expected to drive – and how long the journey will take them. Research public transport and the availability of taxis too. Providing such information to your attendees will not only ease their planning, but it could help prevent accidents occurring from poorly planned journeys.
Make sure your delegates are comfortable during your event. Find out what kind of tables and chairs they will have access to, both during working sessions and during breaks. Ask delegates to let you know of any special requirements they may have when they book, such as physical disabilities that may cause problems with access to the building, or medical conditions that require additional support.
Slips and trips
This should be the most obvious health and safety check to do, but it is surprising how often people fail to look for things like trailing flexes, teetering piles of cups or boxes, overloaded electricity sockets and other things that could cause an accident or injury during the event. Again, pre-planning is key, as is a careful walk round the venue (both inside and outside) prior to the event to identify any potential risks.
Food poisoning can ruin an event in one fell swoop, with multiple illnesses and even hospital admissions at its worst. This is an area where scrupulous hygiene is critical and careful handling of anything edible. Another area to focus on is catering for any divulged allergies, as these can cause life-threatening symptoms if not managed properly. Establish a good working relationship with your venue’s catering team in order to ensure full compliance with food safety regulations and to avoid a widespread sickness outbreak – or worse.
Finally, many conferences and events incorporate an element of fun wither before or after the main session. Things like golf, go-karts, bowling, assault courses and cookery classes can be highly enjoyable. However, as with the main event, they must be fully checked and safety assessed beforehand. Anyone with health concerns that might affect their involvement in the activity must be fully consulted with and their wishes and needs taken into full account.
Health and safety assessments may take up extra time, but they are crucial to any event planning process and must not be skipped. A happy, healthy and above all safe group of delegates will be able to remember your event for all the right reasons and not with horror and regret.