When it comes to an industry that has come from organising milestone birthday parties to coordinating large-scale, world-class events ranging from product launches, brand conferences, rock festivals and large sports events of a global standard, we have to acknowledge the fact that eventing in South Africa has certainly raised the bar in terms of rigorous health and safety measures.
Jason Fritz, chief operations officer for technical support company, Strike Alliance in Johannesburg, comments:
"The success of an event pivots around compliance with health and safety regulations...there's no way around it. The health and safety aspect has evolved tremendously from when I first started in the industry. There were no regulations in place at one stage and standards were non-existent."
Q. In terms of regulations, who are the key players? Who ensures operational guidelines and protection for event management services?
Jason: "The Events Act 2010 provides for measures to safeguard the physical well-being and safety of persons and property at various events. A group like TPSA (Technical Production Services Association) operates within the live entertainment and events industry, ensuring that international ethical and safety standards are maintained, as well as actively promoting the advancement of knowledge and skills of its members and the production services profession.
Strike Alliance's preferred health and safety consultants are Alliance Safety Management, who also provide venue services and disaster management services to the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg and come highly recommended as specialists in their field by Montecasino, premier entertainment complex in Johannesburg. Alliance Safety understands the eventing industry extremely well and has a great reputation".
Business development manager Mike Lord at Alliance Safety comments:
"Primary contractors should be consistent in their implementation of the health and safety system, no matter the size of the event. We are committed to up skilling, empowering and educating and have put together a training schedule which certainly raises the standards. Our objective is to create uniform best practices."
Q. Once the business idea from the client has been discussed and the concept is created, what are the steps taken by the eventing company to meet the objectives?
Jason: "Once the venue has been chosen in accordance with all the requirements needed, it is critical for the event organiser to submit the various specifications of their event to the municipality of their city (Joint Operations Committee or Events office). So, they will require floor and layout plans and emergency evacuation plans. They have to obtain a risk categorisation certificate from the National Commissions office of the SAPS in line with the Events Act. On the day of the event, they should have obtained a structural certificate, a compliance of electricity certificate and if there are food vendors they should meet with all health regulations. Fire-emergency services usually do a thorough walk around to check that everything is in order".
Q. Do eventing companies have to outsource when handling security issues like VIP protection, protocol and accreditation?
Jason: "Yes, usually if there is high protocol involved, then the eventing company would have to beef up security and start a communication process with the VIP's head of security".
Q. As there are no specific qualifications required to enter into the event management arena, more and more new players are entering the market even though they might not have a high level of skill or experience...how does this impact on the industry and ultimately, the client?
Jason: "By cutting corners, people undercut their clients...anyone can start an eventing company, so it becomes incumbent on the client to do his or her homework. The client can ask for referrals, health and safety files and certification of certain technical equipment to ensure that they are dealing with a company that makes health and safety a priority. There is a reason for this: dreadful things do happen. It is an enormous responsibility to be in this type of service and there can be no restraints. The client has to choose the company that has the reputation of implementing the right plans".
Q. In your view, what ensures that after the end production, the client walks away satisfied that all objectives have been covered?
Jason: "The end result has to be a smooth run from beginning to end with no issues on plans or venue and no health risks or injures of spectators, staff, crew or artists. It's pointless if the production was spectacular but someone out there got hurt. Health and safety regulations have to be adhered to meticulously and this is what creates exceptional standards. Each event sets a precedent, as you are only as good as your last event, so the general goal is to aim for excellence in all aspects".