The UK has some of the most stringent Health & Safety standards in the World. Most blue chip companies go even further than the prescribed standards to ensure the wellbeing of their employees. Yet the majority of companies employ team building providers without checking on their own policies and procedures. In effect they are handing over the wellbeing of their employees to companies who do not have the same standards as they do and in some cases companies who have no standards at all.
This is not to say that these companies are purposefully dangerous but some team building providers are small or one man bands and lack the resources to have set up and run an acceptable Health & Safety policy on an ongoing basis. In my experience less than 10% of companies so much as enquire about Health & Safety and the vast majority do not even check whether event providers carry adequate insurance. This is a shocking fact and I believe that it is caused by that dangerous adversary of risk management; assumption.
It is very difficult to assess the size and standard of operation of a company from their website. Companies may look like an International operator with hundreds of employees when in fact they are a one man band trading from a spare bedroom. It is essential that those booking events ask for reassurance in the form of copies of insurance cover documents, a written Health & Safety policy and Risk Assessments of each of the activities being undertaken. This is a simple process; documents need to be seen and dates need to be checked to ensure that they are current.
Every activity provided by an event company should have a unique Risk Assessment. In some cases there is clearly no risk at all, but still the procedure should be undertaken. In such cases the Risk Assessment will read ‘this activity has been assessed and classified as low risk’ with the name of whoever undertook the Risk Assessment. Companies should have a designated Health & Safety Officer who has undergone training and is sufficiently experienced to know how to recognize potential risks.
The key document to consider in this process is the Risk Assessment. This supports the investigation of the activity by the provider. A Risk Assessment ensures that potential dangers have been considered and steps taken to minimize the risk. Activities are then classified as low, medium and high risk. You may decide to avoid high risk activities on your event. Risk Assessments are living documents, in that an activity provider should update it along with lessons learned as they practice.
If you are choosing medium or high risk activities it would be prudent to ask how many times the activity company has provided these activities before. You may wish to avoid undertaking a high risk activity run by a company who was providing it for the first time.
The corporate event industry is divided into companies operating on static sites and companies with a mobile operation who travel to venues. In most cases the event will be held in a field, often close to the hotel at which a client is staying. It is essential that any company providing such events visits the site before hand to assess the land. It is not enough to use a map as there can be trees in dangerous locations, particularly for motorized vehicles such as quad bikes or dune buggies, or holes in the land which make it dangerous for activities. In some cases land can be contaminated with dangerous scrap metal or broken glass.
If an event is water based the water should have recently been tested. In water parks or regularly used locations this is likely to be a regular undertaking, but in some cases a pond or waterhole will be used for bridge building or raft racing. This should be tested for bacteria or other dangerous deposits. It’s a risk to simply use an area of water without considering this.
There are many other areas that a sound Health & Safety procedure will cover. It takes time and effort to set one up and it needs to be maintained and updated on an ongoing basis. All event management companies should have one in place and they will only improve if more clients demand to see them.