The drugs issue, covered in Access’ September issue, requires risk management, says Luker Rowe’s Peter Tilsed.

Who would want to be responsible for organising an event where several thousand people arrive on one site for a small period of time, where health and safety is a major issue and where it is known there is likely to be a substantial amount of drugs? 

From the increasing number of festivals organised over the last few years, it appears that lots of people are.  Due to the possible problems of accidents occurring, drug abuse and financial loss, many festivals have set up limited companies to protect themselves.  But what about the individuals behind these companies?

Regardless of whether you run a manufacturing company, a building contractor, a motor garage, an estate agency or even an event company, directors have individual responsibilities.  The number of claims where directors have individually been sued has increased in recent years.  Areas where a director may be personally liable are where they have failed to put safe places of work in place or provide protection for their employees.

Whilst a company can be held responsible for corporate manslaughter, the director can be held personally responsible for gross negligence manslaughter.  Claims may not be restricted to those against directors and could for instance be against the health and safety manger.  Protection is available under a Directors & Officers insurance policy and with premiums for a small company starting around the £250 bracket, it would be a sensible area for any director to review so that their own personal assets are not lost in the event of an incident.


Shifting conversations

Bestival have announced that they will be providing drug-testing whilst Reading and Leeds have the opposite approach saying that there will be none. Whilst it is initially not an insurance issue, I do wonder how long it will be before it gets brought into the conversation.

When actions are taken which others do not agree with, there has been a tendency for one of two reasons to be given: that it is for Health & Safety reasons, or that it is an insurance requirement.

So much is blamed on Health & Safety that the HSE have added a Myth Busters page to their site ( This lists over 400 cases where Health & Safety reasons have been quoted and the HSE have explained why the reason was not relevant. They even list at least 15 examples directed solely at events.

The Insurance Industry has not been so robust in replying to comments which in many cases are also myths or are where the insurer is just trying to enforce good management practices.

This brings us back to the drug issue at festivals. No doubt either action or non-action by organisers will at some point be passed back as an ‘insurer requirement’.

Any accident at a festival is possibly going to be a future insurance claim. So will insurers be required to deal with claims because either:- a festival has offered a drug-testing facility but it has failed to recognise a bad batch of drugs or there have been deaths or illnesses because no drug-testing was in force.

Whilst the phrase volenti non fit injuria may not be in daily use, it is very relevant when someone is injured from undertaking something that is known could cause injury. This could reduce the duties of the organiser but wouldn’t take away all their responsibilities. A claim may therefore still succeed under public liability insurance, although organisers need to be aware that sometimes a drugs exclusion will be added to an event organiser’s policy.

I am sure that the discussions will continue to develop but on this occasion it may be a one that does not claim to be due to Health & Safety or Insurance reasons.