Highly qualified and experienced events health and safety specialist Chris Hannam would like to know how health and safety budgets are set, and is not convinced sufficiently qualified staff are taken on. Here he outlines his concerns and explains what the various qualifications mean.

During my years of working in event safety I have become more and more intrigued as to how clients, promoters and event organisers have set their budgets for health and safety.

I knew from a previous lifetime when I had been a production manager how production budgets were set, this was at a time before health and safety was even a consideration, it simply did not exist and was certainly not budgeted for. Things have changed since those heady and euphoric days but I am still nowhere nearer to finding out how safety budgets are set. I believe they are simply a matter of pure guess work and based on a fantasy with no idea of the different levels of qualifications, experience and general competency of practitioners.

Health and safety is always the budget to be cut when money is tight. I have known promoters to cut the safety budget by 100% to pay for an artist’s hospitality rider. This is totally stupid. If any readers have a better idea on how these budgets are set, perhaps they would not mind sharing it with me?

Why do we need safety advisors? Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 (as amended) requires employers to appoint one or more competent persons to assist in undertaking measures required by health and safety legislation. The employer is also required to make arrangements for ensuring adequate co-operation between appointees, when more than one is appointed, and to ensure that appointees have sufficient time and resources available to them to fulfil their functions.

The HSE leaflet INDG 420 “Getting specialist help with health and safety” states, “In many cases, businesses can manage health and safety themselves or with the help of in-house advisors. However, there are times when businesses will need to get external help, particularly on more detailed or technical issues. This is often referred to as specialist help. Event safety advisors fit into this category of specialist advisors.”

I have received many phone calls that have started with the following question: “We are running a new festival, can you give us a quote for doing the health and safety for us please?”  My usual answer is “string”, as in how long is a piece of string?

I need a lot of information, what am I actually quoting for? Event management plans, policy, risk assessments, advice, attending SAG meetings, on site monitoring etc. Usually the best I can offer is an indication as to my daily rate plus travel disbursements. I am then told that is of no use for their budgets, they need a fixed price, and I in turn need a detailed schedule to base my quote upon.  Quotes are based on qualifications and experience, not what is included in a fantasy budget.

Often potential clients do not respond favourably when I start asking simple questions about their proposed event, such as when is it planed for and where is it? What size audience are you expecting? What is the profile of the acts performing and what is the audience profile? Or, do you have a license?

Usually the caller has at no time asked me for details of my qualifications, experience, training, insurance and competency, to properly assess if I am suitable for their project, they just want a fixed price.

This has now become the norm. Despite the information I give on my website it seems nobody bothers to read it so this has now prompted me to address this problem and explain to event organisers, clients and promoters what the various levels of qualification mean and give them an idea of realistic average daily rates within our sector.

To simplify this I am only looking at average UK rates and qualifications, there is a huge amount of training available but most of this training does not lead to a qualification, there is a difference, I have a few qualifications and they are on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The NQF is the system that records the credits assigned to each level of learning achievement in a formal way to ensure that the skills and knowledge that have been learnt are recognised throughout the country.

I have also attended dozens of training courses on subjects such as temporary structures, rigging, work at height, plant operation, barriers, electricity, crowd safety and noise.

So what qualifications are we looking for from a safety advisor and at what level?

There are basically three main awarding bodies set up to produce H&S qualifications and that are of interest to us. :

  1. National Examination Board for Safety and Health (NEBOSH)
  2. National Compliance and Risk Qualifications (NCRQ)
  3. National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) City and Guilds.

All three of these bodies offer qualifications of interest to the professional safety practitioner at certificate level, which is a basic, intermediary level qualification ideal for trainees and includes:

  • The NEBOSH General Certificate (Level 3)
  • The NCRQ Certificate in Applied Health and Safety

(NCRQ call this Level 6 but it is really a Level 3)

  • The Level 3 NVQ in Occupational Safety and Health

The next up is a Level 6 Diploma Qualification for fully qualified health and safety practitioners and includes:

  • The NEBOSH Diploma (Level 6)
  • The NCRQ Level 6 Diploma in Applied Health and Safety
  • The Level 6 NVQ in Occupational Safety and Health

There are many other health and safety training courses (and qualifications) but these are the most popular and common and are to be recommended.

This situation does become very confused when we introduce the two main health & safety institutions, they are the Institute of Safety and Health (IOSH) and the International Institute or Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) who both have their own membership levels.

To become a Technician Member of IOSH (TechIOSH) or an Associate of IIRSM (AIIRSM), a Level 3 Certificate qualification or NVQ is required.

To become a Graduate Member of IOSH (GradIOSH) or a Member of IIRSM (MIIRSM), Level 6 Diploma qualification or NVQ is required.

IOSH holds a Royal Charter so there are two grades above Graduate Member, that is Chartered and Fellow. A Graduate Member and become a Chartered Member (CMIOSH) by following what IOSH term IPD that includes a Peer Group Review Interview. To become a Fellow (FMIOSH) first Chartered Membership is required followed by an individual review.

IIRSM have Fellow Membership (FIIRSM) as their highest membership grade and involves an application and assessment. IIRSM also have a Specialist Fellow membership (SFIIRSM), this is not a high a level as a normal Fellow and is for specialists such as Crowd Safety and Security workers.

If you are selecting a freelance health and safety advisor it is best to check their insurance, this needs to be professional indemnity insurance a well as normal public liability insurance if required. Do some home work on your potential safety advisor, check their training, qualifications, experience, CV, recommendations but do not select any kind of safety advisor based on price only.

I have had experiences of potential clients dictating to me what they propose to pay me, often they do not bother to ask my daily rates. As a rule of thumb guide and depending on experience and additional training, a Certificate or Level 3 NVQ holder will normally charge between £250 – £300 per day and a Diploma or Level 6 NVQ holder will charge between £350 and £450 per day, travel disbursements and charged extra, the normal HMRC travel rate is 45p per mile. I have heard of some Level 6 or above who charge more than £500 per day. Apart from complete novices, nobody should quote lower rates as this devalues themselves and the industry.

A contract or written agreement is highly recommended and should included terms and conditions.

Clients are advised to select experienced Diploma Level event safety advisors, they can keep you out of prison and will not be immediately discredited while defending you in a Court of Law by a prosecution barrister. They are certainly worth the extra.

Maintain high standards and sensible costings. Remember the old industry saying, if you think health and safety is expensive, try having an accident.

The Health and Safety Executive suggests that a good sign when looking for event safety advisors is if they are a member of the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register  (OSHCR). This is a register of consultants who have met set standards within their professional body. All those on the register have a minimum of two years’ experience, a degree level qualification, are committed to continuing professional development, and give sensible and proportionate advice on general health and safety matters. You can search the register by topic, industry, location and keywords. The register is available at www.oshcr.org

Recently the HSE selected IOSH to run the register as a commercial concern, the big problem is that anyone who is a Chartered or Fellow of IOSH or a Fellow of IIRSM can be listed on the register for £70 under any category they like regardless of experience in that particular area and nobody checks. I do not think the register is fit for purpose. I am entitled to be listed but I refuse to use it.