• Saturday, May 25, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Promoting health, safety and environmental practices in Nigeria’s event industry

Temitope Omolara Popoola.

Every event is a project because it has a start and finish phases. Hence, for every project, there should be a guide or policy in place to ensure successful project execution.

Safety is required as long as humans are involved in a project or activity. Safety concern should be a deliberate effort by all stakeholders involved in the project. There’s also the aspect of safety of the environment and all other things that constitute the environment.

There are typical examples of organisations, where at their entrance you see “safety first” or “safety starts here” or you physically see all the measures in place to ensure safety like designated car parks, signage, use of safety gear, even, as a visitor, as little detail as signing in and being given a tag.

This is because these organisations know the value of safety and ensure safe practices in their work environment. If you think safety measures are expensive, try facing the risk that comes with unsafe practices such as, loss of lives, equipment, facility, litigation and compensation.

Safety concerns in the event industry revolves around areas of likely risk occurrence and safety concern that require adequate Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) management plan to ensure the success of any event.

Choice of event date matters because it can affect the event or cause threat to the life of guests. It is therefore, the duty of event practitioners to guide their clients on their date selection.

READ ALSO: Bristol Palace Hotel donates items worth millions of naira to correctional centres, children’s home in Kano

Some dates to consider avoiding include:  national events (elections, rally, public holiday, protest etc): Risk involved- No movement, traffic congestion, violence, accident;

For weather/season, the risk involved includes rain which results in a wet floor that can make the roads/floors slippery, resulting in accidents, trips and fall, traffic congestion, disruptions in the case of outdoor events that could lead to loss of equipment when it is windy or other natural disasters, for dry season- dust, ease of fire outbreak, fog, dehydration etc.

Religious events should also be considered and fixing a date with a venue close to where these programmes are hosted can be a risk.

Temitope Omolara Popoola, chief operating officer and HSE manager, Events HSE Services, a subsidiary of LuzLeisure Services LTD, in her write-up says a very important factor to also consider is the meeting point.

According to Popoola, an event practitioner without an office space should never invite clients to their home except they have a prior relationship with them.

“It is advisable to meet in a public place. This can never be over-emphasised. They will be guarding themselves and family against kidnappers, abuse, violence, theft, deranged people and psychopaths.

“Every event requires a venue to hold and most times, people are engaged in this venue for as long as 8 – 20 hours. Adequate safety precautions and measures should thus be put in place because people are in the confinement of the given space,” she stated.

She listed some factors to consider as regard venue selection to include the venue’s safety measures, Venue capacity, adequate and accessible entry and exit, trailing cables, strength of materials, flooring, safety signs, obstructions, emergency, restroom, hygiene,  traffic obstruction, and security of life and property.

Food handlers

On Food handlers, Popoola stressed that professionals that offer services such as catering, small chops, grills, drink and anything consumable at an event; should be subjected to food handlers test, as there is a basic package for this in many clinical laboratories, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, HIV etc.

“We take all of this lightly in Nigeria because people have not started facing litigation on cases like this and because we are not conscious, so we can’t trace any issue that spring up to certain places.

“The staff needs to maintain a high level of hygiene, decorum and care while serving/ carrying hot food or bottled beverages. They should also be aware of safety signs and train to use at least a fire extinguisher. Their outfit and footwear should not be such that can expose them to risk of trips, fall and burns,” chief operating officer and HSE Manager, Events HSE Services, stated.

For caterers using paracetamol, nail, soft drinks or some additives that cause danger to human health, she advised that they stop this practice immediately. She acknowledged that this might be a norm in various sectors but it is a high risk they are being exposed to.

She also advised caterers to have a standard in their menu preparation that won’t pose a health risk.

“I shouldn’t have food poisoning because I ate at an event. If people eat the food you served at an event and it leads to them stooling or vomiting, you have done something wrong in your meal preparation plan. Ensure your cooking and serving procedures are safe.

“For the mixologist, I will advise you read the label of each drink you intend to mix and research each ingredient to be sure they are right and fit for consumption. Some drinks have ingredients that should not be mixed with other certain ingredients. All utensils, cutleries and cups should be sanitized per event,” she said.

Decorators, designers and stage designers

Popoola also asked that decorators, designers and stage designers are to ensure safety measures are in place for their staff either ad-hoc or permanent staff.

She explained that when staff have to work at height they should be provided the appropriate tools either a ladder or scaffold where applicable and personal protecting clothing.

“Check the durability of your materials and equipment. Ensure every hanging object are properly fixed particularly ceiling installations. Avoid obstructions in your designs, use the right equipment at all time, no shortcut please, shortcut is the easiest route to death in some cases. Ensure you do the right designs for the right space. Let safety be your watchword. Pray not to suffer litigation before you learn to ensure the safety of your staff or those who your actions and inactions will endanger,” she said.

Hostesses, crowd control, bouncer and security

The HSE Manager also advised that hostesses be trained on handling and responding to emergencies, adding that their agencies should ensure they are guided against abuse or violence.

According to her, if hostesses work late, an accommodation should be secured, if event is longer than eight hours, there should be a work shift and they should be allowed to have in between short break or toilet break.

“Feed them or make provision of it in their allowance. They should know their job description and work accordingly. They under no circumstance, have a face out with guests, they should report all cases to the right channel and escalate if getting out of hand. It is a normal thing for the planner to spell out such circumstance in the contract they draw out, binding them and their clients. The client takes full responsibility of any misconduct of their guests,” she said.

Noise pollution

The acceptable noise level for every normal human ear is 75 decibels, which is also dependent on the exposure time. Anything higher is causing damage and a potential risk. Sound operators should ensure their sound level is on the lowest and they gradually increase it.

“The testing period should be done before guests’ arrival. Many people are walking about with damaged ear drums. Where you can’t hear the lowest sound, there’s a problem or damage already done to the ears. High noise level constitute nuisance to the environment and if found wanting, such practitioner is liable to litigation or the environmental authorities can shut down the event,” she noted.

Special effect

According to Popoola, all special effects to be used should be safe to human health. Outdoor effects shouldn’t be used indoors. Objects that can easily catch fire should not be close to where it will be operated.

“A fire extinguisher should be close by. An entire venue can get burnt or asthmatic attack aggravated. Where it is being used on dance floors, it should be positioned at least ten meters from human contact. Be sure to put in mind the safety of others as the operator and also guide and advice planners and clients on the use of the effects,” she advised.

Make-up artist and hair stylist

“The make-up artists should make sure they wash their brushes and sanitise before use per client and where possible, use tools per clients. Sharp objects should not be shared, client should insist on this by ensuring it is opened in front of them. The ingredients of all cosmetics should be checked and researched. It is the duty of this practitioner to ask client of any allergies and where not asked, client should state it.

“The hairstylist should ensure they check the wiring of all tools to be used. Make necessary guide to protect the client from burns as a result of the use of hot working tools,” she explained.

Planner

Popoola stressed that it is good and advisable to have a safety professional attached to an organisation and where it is not affordable, the planner or a designated staff should take full responsibility of this.

The chief operating officer and HSE Manager, Events HSE Services said that they should attend safety trainings, know what to look out for and risk to be assessed or involved per event type handled and the mitigation to place on each assessed risk.

She said that clients be advised on anything that will breach safety of human lives and properties, adding that anything that will lead to litigation should be avoided.

 Clients

She noted that for clients which is believed to be the organisers of the event have the responsibility to ensure the safety of guests and make sure the event is not of risk to the health & safety of humans and the environment.

“Where not clear, seek advice or talk to a professional. Be sure all risks involved with the event have been assessed and adequate measures have been put in place to either eliminate the risk or mitigate,” Popoola said.

General rules/ practice

Some of the general rules and practices Popoola suggested include insuring life of staff and properties/equipment, teaching everyone about safety signs, teaching and training on the use of fire extinguishers, safety first should be the mantra, learning about ergonomic effects and avoiding damage to staff physiology, carrying out thorough risk assessment before the start of any event, having a safety guideline and policy and using personal protective items where needed.

“In all, every individual is responsible for their own safety and the safety of the environment. They should ensure to have measures to protect themselves and where possible eliminate or mitigate anything that pose a risk. Safety should be the first thing in mind and building block for every event process,” she said.