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Crowd Management Risk Assessment

As part of safe crowd management, event organisers are expected to identify what could cause harm to event staff and visitors.

The dynamic of many people gathered at an event or in a small space changes how people react under certain pressures. Their behaviour as they arrive, enter, move around and leave the venue also needs to be considered and directed.

In other words, you need to understand what the risks are and, if at all possible, eliminate them. You will need to bear in mind people with disabilities or learning difficulties, and other vulnerable groups too.

A risk assessment is required by law. It is the opportunity to identify risks and take appropriate and proportionate measures to control or eliminate them.

Right from the early stages of event planning, you should consider crowd management as a key component in a safe and successful event.

Key hazards that affect crowd safety could be;

Crowd dynamics

  • Surging and swaying can lead to people being crushed against each other and/or fixed objects such as pillars or fencing
  • Falling and being trampled
  • Dangerous behaviour, such as climbing onto equipment

Venue or event activity

  • People and vehicles moving in the same space
  • The audience being close to the activity, such as in motorsport events
    The collapse of temporary structures
  • Poor ground conditions
  • Poorly lit areas
  • Lack of suitable entrances and exits
  • Stalls obstructing crowd movement and flow
  • Poor site design leading to cross flows of people
  • Failure of equipment
  • Sources of fire such as cooking equipment
  • Crowd size

Many health and safety arrangement, risk assessments and so on depend on the number of people attending. In forecasting event audience numbers, you would need to consider;

  • Previous attendance figures
  • Audience numbers for similar events
  • Pre-event registration
  • Advanced ticket sales
  • The level of publicity and popularity around the event
  • Which days or times in the programme will be busier than others
  • Whether visitor numbers will increase because there are other events on in the area
  • How variable factors such as weather, the local economy, transport and public holidays could affect event visitor numbers

Venue and/or site suitability

Whether permanent or temporary, as far as possible, the venue or site should be designed in such a way that people can assemble, enter, move around and exit the event safely.

It is also imperative that crowd evacuation can happen quickly too.

For outdoor venues, where boundaries may be less obvious, break the task into zones. Mark out arrival zones and exit points, viewing areas and space around attractions and structures such as stages and bars.

People’s behaviour, to a certain extent, can be predicted when they visit an event thus, you can take action. For example;

  • People will often park illegally or poorly to ‘get a quick getaway’
  • Will wait at entry or exit points for friends or family, obstructing the flow of people
  • A mass change of direction e.g. when they hear a band playing their favourite song etc.
  • Congregate in prohibited areas and can be reluctant to move when asked to leave

Effective crowd management is about looking at your venue and using the space to the best effect.

Audience profile

There are many factors that influence how people behave. It is not uncommon to find that people behave and react differently in a crowded situation than they would in other situations.

Unfamiliarity with the venue and its layout, the age of your audience and the type of event and performance they are attending all influence behaviour.

An audience profile identifies these factors and how they could affect behaviour. You may wish to consider;

  • The impact of what people see as poor management of an event, such as queues to enter or exit, overcrowding, poor traffic management etc.
  • How influencing the ‘right’ behaviour is mirrored by others
  • The timetable of events can influence crowd movement too
  • How staging affects people’s responses
  • The effect of alcohol and how it affects people reactions
  • How behaviour changes if members of the audience are dissatisfied with a performance or the outcome of a sporting event, for example

Assessing current precautions

A risk assessment not only identifies hazards and risks but also identifies measures already in place.

But it asks another important question – what more could be done?

A crowd management plan

Once risks are assessed, you can create a detailed crowd management plan. You could use site plans and drawings to create a visual reference, a much easier way of communicating key information to event security staff, contractors, other event personnel and emergency services.

But you MUST;

Review your plan before with contracts, staff, emergency services etc., making changes as needed
Review your plan after the event to see what lessons have been learnt, what needs to be done differently but, just as important, what did work and why.