19 Aug 2014

Where has the Safety gone?

Guest Blog, by Roderick van Gelder

In July 2012 I proudly announced the incorporation of Event Safety Alliance Australia at the Entech ‘Safety Seminar’ in Melbourne.  In July this year I had to announce at the Entech ‘Safety Seminar’ that the Event Safety Alliance Australia was no more.

After two years of hard work by those who believed in the concept there just wasn’t the support from the industry to continue.


During the same time Live Performance Australia (LPA) also started to produce a Safety Guide, but even with their resources only managed a broad outline and a couple of draft Guides.  In the same time frame the Event Safety Alliance in the USA gathered a huge support for its’ plans, received support from both people working in the industry and companies providing to the industry and managed to publish the USA version of the UK Purple Guide.

Where does all this leave us?

The biggest problem we still have, and one of the original driving forces behind the Event Safety Alliance Australia, is that we don’t have any industry specific guides or safety standards to work to.  As we heard from a WorkSafe Victoria inspector during the Safety Seminar, if there is a breach of the Health and Safety Act that warrants an investigation, their inspectors will start looking for references and guidance material.  If they can’t find a reference within the industry, they’ll start looking at similar industries.  And that is where things will get very difficult, very quickly.


The core problem is that very few people understand the temporary nature of our industry.  Everything we do is done with the knowledge that it will be removed again, sometimes the same days, sometimes weeks later, but it will be reversed.  And because of that we do thing differently from construction companies although we use the same plant and equipment.  That’s where the confusion starts and that’s what will bite us if we ever have a serious incident during an event, a concert, a performance.

Unless we as an industry can stand up and show a documented ‘industry best practice’ we will be measured with a construction industry yard stick.  And we will fall short.

Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Part 3 Incident notification

35 What is a “notifiable incident”

In this Act, notifiable incident means:

(a) the death of a person, or

(b) a serious injury or illness of a person, or

(c) a dangerous incident.

Have we become complacent?  Are we taking our safety for granted?  If we are, we will hit a very nasty wall very soon because as an industry we have a long way to go to meet even basic requirements under the Health and Safety Acts and Regulations.  Whilst on the surface we may appear to be all over this safety stuff, the reality is quite different.  Let’s not forget that we do work in a business based on smoke & mirrors, which we have adopted as the norm.  The reason we look good in the statistics is because there are no statistics kept.

How many of you reading this know what a Notifiable Incident is?  And if you are not sure, how do you know what has to be done when one occurs?  The issue is that if you fail to notify the Regulator as required, you could be facing a hefty fine.  Look up the list of ‘dangerous accidents’ in the Act, you’ll be surprised about how many things should be reported.

38 Duty to notify of notifiable incidents

(1) A person who conducts a business or undertaking must ensure that the regulator is notified immediately after becoming aware that a Notifiable incident arising out of the conduct of the business or undertaking has occurred.

Maximum penalty:

(a) in the case of an individual—$10,000, or

(b) in the case of a body corporate—$50,000.

Here’s a freebie for you; if you ever have to call an ambulance for a workplace incident, call the Regulator next.  Ambulance drivers will report all workplace incidents to the Regulator, you want to beat them to that or possibly face a very cranky inspector who thinks you are hiding things for them.

This is just one small example of where we fall short.  Another classic example is consultation between companies (or PCBU’s) sharing a workplace.  For your average bump-in there will be at least 4 or 5 different crews working within the same area.

When was the last time you sat down and had a meeting with all stakeholders before work started and discuss all safety issues for the day?  If you haven’t then you would be in breach of the current legislation.  And associated fines.

This is where the events and entertainment industry falls very short of the requirements.

46 Duty to consult with other duty holders

If more than one person has a duty in relation to the same matter under this Act, each person with the duty must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult, co-operate and co-ordinate activities with all other persons who have a duty in relation to the same matter.

Maximum penalty:

(a) in the case of an individual—$20,000, or

(b) in the case of a body corporate—$100,000.

So far we have mostly stayed under the radar but that can change any day.  We are only one Indianapolis collapse away from having the book, if not the whole George Brandis’ bookcase, thrown at us and we have nothing to fall back on.

Why does our industry have such difficulties adopting and implementing basic safety structures?

When new equipment comes out we are over it like a rash but 14 years after the initial new legislation and 2 years after the current legislation we still don’t get it.  Why is that?

Why can’t we work together on this?  We have to get this sorted, we have to write our own guidelines and codes of practice or be prepared to accept whatever some bureaucrat in a comfy office dreams up for us.

As an industry it is time to stop pussyfooting around and get serious about this.  No more lip-services to safety, be serious about it.  No more “I’ll do that tomorrow” excuses. 

Now is the time to get involved and keep it real.  The Entech Safety Seminar was extremely disappointing because it offered a opportunity to discuss and review safety measures yet 99% of the attendees just sat there, waiting for the show to start.  That is never going to happen.  If you want to take safety seriously and not want to get bogged down by bureaucratic tape then you have to act.  Now.

Stop waiting for someone else to sort things out for you and then whinge and whine about it.  Now is the time to get behind the LPA Working Group or sign up for Event Safety Alliance in the USA and be part of the Australian chapter.  But we have to do this together.  And we can, if we get over this reluctance to co-operate and start showing some initiative.


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