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Re-opening guidelines for event industry in South Africa released

The Event Safety Council (ESC), a special interest group, has released a 68-page document which details new health and safety protocols for the MICE industry (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) moving forward.

The documentation highlights the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at future events, due to the high risk of transmission when hosting gatherings of all kinds.

The ESC assembled a dedicated task group, made up of a mix of event safety practitioners, venues, technical production companies, disaster management officials and academics to form the document.

They worked with the Event Safety Alliance (US) and other bodies from around the world to develop protocols of a global standard, and then shared these locally with key industry stakeholders for their comments and input.

“Through this collective process, we adapted the global protocols to comply with our local regulatory framework… We also wanted the philosophy embedded in the NCCC strategy for the progressive development of the economy to be reflected in the document.”

The protocols were created to safeguard staff working at events, as well as the visitors, exhibitors and other stakeholders. However, they also apply to other public gatherings, such as churches, weddings and funerals.

“The reopening of events can only be determined by government – but at least we can show that we are ready to host events responsibly as soon as they are allowed.”

He cautions that the release of the document does not mean that live events can now resume; “When you go back to work, the document outlines the things you can do to help keep people safe at your events. The guidelines are in depth, thorough and based on best practice. The reopening of events can only be determined by government – but at least we can show that we are ready to host events responsibly as soon as they are allowed.”

The protocols are identified as Version 1 given that new discoveries about COVID-19 could impact current best practice recommendations. Jones adds, “We had to get this out as quickly as possible, so it was put together under short notice. If people from the industry have any comments they would like to share, they are welcome to do so.”

Covid-19 Prevention at Events Strategy

An event COVID-19 prevention strategy should cover the protocols needed to host an event successfully without spreading the COVID-19 virus between attendees. The strategy should include:

  • Risk assessment based on the hazard COVID-19 poses;
  • Provide an understanding the different types of exposure risk along the event chain;
  • Who may be exposed and how this exposure could happen;
  • Outlining plans for high risk individuals;
  • Hierarchy of controls required in line with the Department of Employment and Labour (DoEL)
  • and Department of Health (DOH) requirements for COVID-19;
  • Providing key control measures based on nationally legislation and global best practices;
  • Information and communication strategy;
  • Training and awareness protocols;
  • Staff management protocols;
  • Attendee management protocols;
  • Cleaning and hygiene protocols;
  • Venue management protocols;
  • Safe operating procedures and practices around issues such as load-in and load-out, transport, food service, waste, etc.;
  • Roles and responsibilities;
  • Stakeholder & role-player engagement;
  • Provide health and safety documentation included in the event safety plan (section 4, SASREA)
  • in respect to COVID-19 preventative measures for the event.

New Risk Assessment For Events

An employer is required to review and update their risk assessment to cover any changes to the workplace environment. With the identified hazard COVID 19, it is a requirement to re-assess and re-evaluate the impact this virus will have on the workplace.

An event organiser is required to carry out a risk assessment outlining the hazards and associated risks to COVID-19 will have at an event. The risk assessment must cover the people that may be exposed and infected and how this exposure may happen.

Included in the assessment is the control measures that will be implemented, the persons responsible in the implementation of the control measures and any additional steps required to minimise the impact COVID-19 will have on the health of staff, workers and attendees to the event.

Guidelines recommend that before an event is approved or is presented to the appropriate authorities, that a risk assessment is drawn up detailing the risk profile specific to the event based on:

  • Very low-risk exposure events: When an event has a low or minimal chance of transmitting the COVID-19 virus and basic principles applied to minimise exposure. Ideally for events with under 300 attendees.
  • Low-risk exposure events: When an event has limited exposure and unlikely to expose attendees to risk and can be easily controlled with adequate and approved planning processes in place as part of the Event Safety Plan. Ideally below 1000 attendees.
  • Moderate risk exposure events: When there is more than likely the probability of exposure to COVID-19 virus at the event, detailed plans and processes are needed to minimise and manage the exposure risk. These detailed COVID-19 plans should be planned with all role-players making up the event safety and security planning committee (ESSPC) in approving the health protocols for the event. Ideally below 2000 attendees.
  • High-risk exposure events: When there is greater potential of exposure and detailed and rigorous planning is needed in order to host the event. Planning with the ESSPC role-players is critical in determining the risks and the measures needed to mitigate these risks and outlining the roles and responsibilities in curbing potential spread. Ideally between 2000 – 5000 attendees.
  • Very high-risk exposure events: When the likelihood of transmission to many people is probable and requires careful consideration and planning by all role-players making up the ESSPC in determining the required measures needed in protecting those working or attending the event. Full approvals processes will need to be in place managing health concerns before the event can go ahead. For events with more than 5000 attendees.

Covid-19 Risk Level Framework to Re-opening Events

Using a framework which takes into account capacity and capacity density, ability to social distance and the level of compliance with these guidelines, it will be reasonably practicable for event organisers to host events based on the different levels of risk criteria.

key determination overall risk Re-opening guidelines for event industry in South Africa released
World Health Organisation risk level assessment for an event

By allowing organised events with very low exposure risks to happen first based on available
control measures that protect staff, workers and attendees alike, this framework provides
mechanisms to re-open the events industry.

By applying a step by step process in determining risk, mirroring the risk adjusted strategy
employed by government, allows for a structured approach to re-opening.

Please click here to download the full Version 1 guidelines.

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