Thoughts from Cuckoo HQ
Dec 13

Who Is Keeping You Safe At Events?

I was recently awarded a Level 4 NVQ in Spectator Safety Management. This is a UK qualification specifically designed to equip graduates with the tools and methodologies needed to work as Safety Officers and Event Controllers at public mass gathering events .

Completion of the course took over 2 years in total and involved countless submissions for countless Units, numerous professional interviews, multiple on-the-job assessments of me working in a Safety Officer role for significantly large events as well as more Q&A documents than he cares to remember.

I set out on the course with Mags from Health & Safety Essentials and some members of the Sword Event Guard senior event management team back in 2011. We began the course in advance of working at the London Olympics 2012 and our completion of it was somewhat delayed by our focus being on London 2012 for a large chunk of time. Luckily those running the course understood the pressures involved in working on an event as large as the Olympics and allowances were made. 

Mags and I have worked on countless events together over the years, with a lot of them being for Diarmuid in Sword. She actually likes to take credit for me having a career in Event Safety at all and, to be fair, she may actually be right on that one. Don't tell her though!

Our final submissions for the course were made at the start of Summer 2013 and we received our certification in the last few weeks. 

We're delighted.

It's a significant milestone in our ongoing professional development in the Event Safety arena. There aren't too many people, especially in Ireland, who are experienced, competent and qualified to work as a Safety Officer or Event Controller for large events. 

This Spectator Safety Management qualification ensures that Mags and I are among the most qualified in Ireland to fulfill these roles and ensures we can continue to give the best service to our clients. 

Event Safety in Ireland

The reality is that there is very little regulation on the events industry in Ireland. There are no courses you can do here to qualify you to be an Event Safety Officer or Event Controller. That's why we had to look to the UK to get qualified. 

Specifically there is NO regulation governing who can work as an Event Controller or a Safety Officer. There is nothing that says 'your Event Controller and Safety Officer must have X experience and Y qualifications'.

Just think about that. Think about that and then think about the events you might have been to recently.

The people in charge of YOUR safety may not have had any qualifications in Event Safety and, worse again, may not have had even a decent amount of experience either. 

There are people putting themselves forward for EC and SO roles who shouldn't be.

There are also people employing people for EC and SO roles who don’t know what they should be looking for and what questions they should be asking.

Why do I need a Spectator Safety Management Qualification?

A lot of people have asked both Mags and myself this question. 

We've both been working as Event Controllers and Safety Officers for years now without a specific qualification in Event Safety so why did we suddenly feel a need to spend a lot of time and money on a specific qualification? 

I guess the simple answer is that we didn't have specific qualifications in Event Safety, yet we were taking on roles with a lot of responsibility and risk. As the Event Controller or Safety Officer you were the person with ultimate responsibility for ensuring people were safe at the event. If anything were to go wrong or if an accident happened then it fell back on the EC or SO in the end. 

We have been doing this work off the back of years of experience in event security and safety as well as other qualifications. I have a Postgrad in Event Management and have been working running events for years. That combined with my experience in event security saw me transition into Event Safety. Mags has a Health & Safety qualification and has worked in construction site safety etc. too when there were things being built. She worked with Sword when they were based in Galway and growing into a huge event security contractor. 

We wanted to prove to ourselves and to clients and potential clients that we are both experienced AND qualified to take on these roles.

So those without the SSM qualification are no good?

No, that's not what I'm saying. 

There are people who have been working in this area in Ireland since before the likes of Mags and myself. Some of them are Fire Engineers. Others have simply learned 'on the job', as it were. 

They are experienced and well respected people in the industry. 

Whether they choose to do the SSM qualification or another similar one or not is their own business. They have still built up a level of experience and expertise from doing this work for so long.

The bottom line

If you’re involved in events and are in the market for Event Controllers or Safety Officers, just be sure you’re satisfied that they have the necessary experience and qualifications.

ALWAYS check that they have insurance to take on those roles.

If you’re a punter going to events then please maintain a level of personal responsibility for your own safety and be alert.

Regardless of who the Event Controller or Safety Officer is things can go wrong and you can help yourself quicker than anyone responding to an incident.


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