Arts Derbyshire Header Image

Festivals Toolkit: Health & Safety

Setting up and running a festival counts as a work activity and is subject to the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and related regulations and subsequent amendments.
Festivals image 2

Health and safety needs to be a clear priority, as not only is it a legal requirement but taking a proactive approach to managing health and safety can avoid potentially very serious consequences.

As a festival organiser you have responsibility as an employer for the health and safety of staff and volunteers as well as for the general public who attend the festival events. This will ensure the continuation of the festival and protection of the environment.

How healthy is your festival?

adapted from information
Answer the following questions:
Q1 - Have you registered your festival/event with the HSE or local authority?
Q2 - Have you carried out a health and safety risk assessment?
Q3 - Have you fully evaluated the hazards?
Q5 - Have you taken ‘reasonable’ action to minimise risks?
Q6 - Have you recorded your findings?
Q7 - Have you got an accident book that all volunteers and paid staff are aware of?
Q8 - Do you continue to review and revise your assessment regularly?
Q9 - Have you taken out Employers Liability Insurance?
Q10 - Is your certificate on display?
Q11 - Do you ensure you provide safe equipment for volunteers and paid staff?
Q12 - Do you ensure you provide safe systems of working to volunteers and paid staff?
  • Have you informed them about your health and safety policy and procedures?
  • Have you informed them about safe working methods, protective clothing and workplace rules?

Q13 - Have you appointed a dedicated safety representative?
If you answered yes to 5 or less then you need to take some urgent action.  Don’t wait until you receive a complaint or one of your volunteers/paid staff has an accident - or the health and safety inspector turns up unannounced – act now! The delay could prove very costly.
If you answered yes to more than 5 then you are doing well but where health and safety are concerned you can not afford to be complacent. Working in the open as many festivals do and often in temporary spaces the potential for accidents is ever present so your systems need to be checked and rechecked. Whoever has the role in your organisation has a major responsibility and should be supported by everyone to deliver it even when it seems intrusive and a nuisance.
The Dumfries and Galloway Council Event’s Organisers Toolkit has an extensive section on Health & Safety. It can be downloaded from the Related Documents section of this page.

Emergency/Disaster Plans

Increasingly Health and Safety and Risk Management issues are being treated in a broader context as part of a local or regional emergency plan and strategy rather than as a series of discrete challenges managed by the festival/event alone. Festivals are working in collaboration with their local authorities and emergency services to develop more extensive strategies that take account of possible need to evacuate an area in response to flooding or restricted use (e.g. following the outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in 2001).
For further information about this issue contact Emergency Planning at your local authority. Derbyshire County Council tel: 01629 580000 ext 7364, email:
Establish an emergency plan and include as many potential emergency scenarios as is realistic.
A successful emergency plan depends on each designated person clearly understanding their role and responsibilities in the event of an emergency.
The following information on emergency planning has been extracted from Timeline for Events Toolkit.
It suggests that in your emergency planning you should cover:

  • Evacuation of site/venue – exits
  • Location and use of on-site fire equipment
  • Emergency phone/communication procedures - who contacts whom, at what point and with what information
  • Location of medical room and First Aid kit
  • First aid - identify trained first-aiders (St John Ambulance and the Red Cross can advise)
  • Communication with visitors
Ensure that you practice and amend the procedure before the event and brief all the appropriate staff and volunteers. Designate one person to manage the emergency plan and to act as coordinator in the event of an incident.
Before the event, contact the emergency services for advice and guidance on developing your Emergency Plan:

There should be first-aid cover throughout the event and the St John Ambulance and/or the Red Cross will be able to advise you on the appropriate cover. Be aware that there will be some costs involved.
Case Study

Download Festival 2005 Case-study - this can be downloaded from the Related Documents section below.
Source: Leicestershire County Council, Emergency Management Newsletter - Summer 2005

Further reading

The following Voluntary Arts Network briefings are available after signing-in to the website:

  • VAN briefing no 61: Just how safe are you? Health and safety for voluntary arts organisations

  • VAN briefing no 103: Health and Safety in Offices – electrical equipment
  • VAN briefing no 105:  Health and Safety in Offices – fire safety

Related documents

The following documents are in Portable Document Format (PDF). You can download software to view PDF documents for free from the Adobe website (opens in a new window)

Featured artists

Angela Thompson

Angela Thompson

Paula Sharples

Paula Sharples

Richard Bett

Richard Bett

Featured articles

Derbyshire Festivals

Take a look at all the amazing festivals that Derbyshire has to offer right through the year and right on your doorstep - come along, join in the fun and see the world-class entertainment.

Courses, workshops and education

Check out these courses and workshops across Derbyshire through the year.

artsderbyshire on Facebook and Twitter

Come and join in the conversation.