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February 22, 2012

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Leisure event personnel must be better trained in health and safety

Tighter crowd controls and better training for stewards must be introduced at large-scale public events if spectators are to be properly safeguarded, IOSH has warned.

To coincide with the official launch of its new Sports Grounds and Events Group today (22 February) the Institution is calling for formal safety training for stewards, the retention of all-seater stadia, and better management of crowd flows by those who organise the likes of music concerts and festivals, and sporting events.

Acknowledging that most big gigs or matches are well organised, with health and safety as a top priority, IOSH nevertheless claims that many events that fall well below the necessary safety standards are still taking place across the UK every year.

Its concerns are based on the results of a survey it recently carried out among 3000 sports and music fans – almost a third of whom said they had feared for their safety while attending a major event. Of those who felt unsafe, half blamed it on overcrowding, with other concerns specified including drug and alcohol misuse (18 per cent), crowd rowdiness (16 per cent), and fighting (13 per cent).

On the other hand, nearly two thirds of those who took part in the poll said they were reassured by the presence of police officers, security guards and stewards.

Consequently, IOSH wants to see event organisers ensure their stewarding and security staff are fully competent by providing on-site training in health and safety, as well as better crowd management once people are inside their venue.

Carl Hagemann, speaking on behalf of the new Sports Grounds and Events Group, said: “One of the main problems organisers of large-scale, one-off events face is having access to stewards that are fully trained and competent. And, because of the numbers of stewards required for large events, achieving this can be problematic.

“In an ideal world, all the stewards employed would already have a great deal of experience and training as they step off the bus to work at an event. However, this isn’t reality, so organisers need to invest in good, comprehensive on-site training for all stewards – arming them with all the relevant knowledge to keep people safe.

“Training should be delivered by competent safety personnel and be seen as an investment by bosses rather than a cost.”

The Security Industry Association (SIA) emphasised that security guards working under a contract must hold an SIA security guarding licence, which shows they are trained and subject to checking. A spokesperson for the organisation told SHP: “The training includes modules on health and safety awareness, searching, communication, and conflict.”

She conceded, however, that many events are staffed by volunteers, who do not need a licence.

On IOSH’s call for better “crowd control” Dr John Drury, a specialist in crowd behaviour, took issue with the use of the term, claiming it implies the crowd itself is the problem, rather than its management.

If, on the other hand, the question is that of enhancing crowd safety, he said, “then it is clear, based on the evidence, that the provision of specialist people who can provide information, who know the appropriate safety procedures and exits, and who understand basic principles of crowd safety management can enhance both crowd enjoyment and crowd safety”.

Dr Drury agreed that overcrowding can be a frightening experience for event-goers and said the key factor is trust in the organisers: “If the event is not perceived to be well organised and safely managed, people will certainly feel threatened in relatively crowded conditions.”

The new IOSH Group is also calling for all-seater arrangements in Premier League and Championship stadia. These have been compulsory in the English Premiership since the 1994/95 season and the publication of the Taylor report, which looked into spectator safety at football grounds in the wake of the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989, when 96 fans were crushed to death.

Since then, there have been periodic calls for the return of standing areas but John Holden, chair of the new Group, pointed out that while smaller terraces may pose less of a risk, “it’s a known fact that it’s safer to sit than stand, especially where large numbers of people are in the same area. By allowing people to sit down they have their own safety-zone in which they can safely support their team without the threat of being pushed, trampled on, or crushed.”

His comments were supported by the Hillsborough Family Support Group, whose chair, Margaret Aspinall, added: “There should be no terracing brought back to English League football. Why would people want to take 10 steps back, when sports-ground safety has now gone forwards?”

Below is a video from the launch event for the Group, which features Liverpool Walton MP, Steve Rotheram, talking about the importance of safety at sporting events. He also reflects on his own experience of being present at the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989.


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12 years ago

“it’s a known fact that it’s safer to sit than stand, especially where large numbers of people are in the same area”

But in the premier league all away fans stand in the seated areas and some home fan’s areas also have the same problem. When you experience it you know that it is unsafe. It would certainly not be safe to do anything about it at the time and the stewards have to just put up with it.